Current edition

The ISUSW 2024

Social Work and Work: Forms, Value(s), and Alternatives

The 2024 ISUSW will be held at the HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, from July 1st (Monday) to July 12th (Friday). The school will be hosted by the Faculty of Social Work, HES-SO Master, Lausanne.

The world is facing an increasing number of unprecedented social and environmental crises: climate change, forced migrations, pandemics, rising inequalities, geopolitical tensions, and an escalation of conflicts. Interconnected, these crises have had repercussions on individuals and their communities due to a significant rise in economic, social, emotional, and ecological challenges (International Federation of Social Work, 2022).  

In this context, which is experienced and manifested differently around the world, social work unfolds with the aim of promoting « social change and development, social cohesion, as well as the empowerment and liberation of individuals » (International Federation of Social Work, 2014). 

The 2024 edition of the ISUSW will focus on the challenges linked to the question of work, in societies where work, and especially paid employment, are still a dominant value. More specifically, the ISUSW 2024 edition will address various aspects of social work and work, exploring their forms, value(s), and (possible) alternatives.   

By examining the issues linked to the 'value of work' in social integration/inclusion processes and policies and, more broadly, by questioning the definitions of “social participation” that is at stake in these processes/policies, this edition of the ISUSW aims to update our understanding of social work and its current practices in these societies, as well as its role and functions. This issue is all the more crucial in a context where all-digital technology and “artificial intelligence” (AI) are developing. 

In particular, the aim of this edition is to explore these issues in three main directions: 

  • The value of work in society: the aim of this theme is to explore in greater depth, from an anthropological and sociological point of view, the social definitions and values of work in various social and cultural contexts. 

  • The value of work for social workers and its value within society: the aim of this theme is to deepen understanding of the work of social work professionals, from the point of view of the status of the people who perform it and their conditions of employment/engagement, as well as from the point of view of the value produced and (ill-)recognised in society.  

  • The value of the work of (social work) recipients: this theme investigates the nature of the work and activities undertaken by recipients integrated into activation or socio-institutional programs. As these (alternative) forms of "work" or "activities" are more and more a counterpart to the (financial) support received, this theme will explore how these activities are valued and recognized in societies, by recipients, social workers and social institutions. 

The organizing University

The Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) landscape includes 9 universities of applied sciences under public law and 1 private university of applied sciences. With almost 84 000 people studied at a university of applied sciences in 2022/23, the HES provides a skills-oriented university-level education tailored to meet the demands of the professional world.  

UAS studies are practice-orientated and are distinguished by their direct connections to the professional realm. Admission to UAS programs requires students to possess professional experience, which can be obtained through a vocational or specialized Swiss school-leaving diploma, or a Swiss high-school diploma coupled with one year of practical experience. UAS offers Bachelor's and Master's degree programs, along with continuing education and collaborative doctoral programs with universities.  

There is only one UAS in Western Switzerland: the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO). With 21,000 students (2022-203), the HES-SO offering 68 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, along with over 255 continuing education courses in six fields—Design and Visual Arts, Business and Services, Engineering and Architecture, Health, Music and Performing Arts, and Social Work — HES emphasizes the strengths of the dual training system. Its applied research, conducted in collaboration with non-academic partners, addresses major contemporary challenges through the transfer of knowledge and technology. 

Remaining attuned to the needs of the professional world and society, HES-SO operates as a multidisciplinary institution, distinguishing itself through a marked orientation towards innovation and creativity. The integration of research and artistic creation projects into teaching ensures tangible benefits for students and the community. HES actively contributes to sustainable development across economic, social, ecological, environmental, and cultural dimensions. 

In the teaching strategy, centered around practice-oriented teaching to anticipate changes and prepare students for tomorrow’s world, the aim is to ensure the quality of education aligns with societal needs, maintaining a high employability rate. This involves adapting foundational courses and content based on labor market requirements, addressing challenges posed by digital transformation and societal changes. This approach includes aspects such as Lifelong Learning, certifying and non-certifying training, and fostering flexibility and individualization in training courses. The validation of prior experience is emphasized, and the commitment extends to strengthening guidance services and fostering educational innovation. 

HES-SO places research at the heart of society, addressing current needs and challenges through top-priority missions characterized by a pragmatic approach and a strong grounding in practical application. Applied research at HES-SO is distinguished by over 750 projects within its 78 institutes and units, reflecting dynamic and diversified research activity. The research is decidedly practice-oriented, combining efforts in scientific and artistic research deeply rooted in everyday reality. Intensive collaboration with regional stakeholders enhances this connection with the field. 

HES-SO Master, as a second-cycle professional training entity, is deeply rooted in practical experience and closely aligned with research and innovative projects in HES-SO schools. Characterized by a strong interdisciplinary dimension, it offers Master's programs in Engineering and Architecture, Economics and Services, Health, and Social Work, along with an interdisciplinary Master's program in Innovation. 

Certificate of participation

A certificate of participation is provided for each student by the host university. Academic credits may be obtained for participation, according to the rules set by each member university.