Institute for Social Justice
We take a multi-disciplinary approach to our social justice research, bringing together work and expertise from across our university.
The Institute for Social Justice at York St John University was launched in July 2020.
It draws on our history of work and research that identifies, exposes, and addresses systemic and interpersonal inequalities, injustices, and power relationships across society. It makes clear our ambition to enhance this work and its impact in the future, to help tackle some of the most significant challenges facing society today.
The Institute brings together expertise from right across our academic community and beyond, working alongside our students, external partners and the wider community.
What we do
The Institute facilitates research, projects and partnerships that help us to pursue and promote a fairer society. At its core the Institute seeks to work with people, with partners, with communities, with participants, in a manner that sees action, implementation and change as vital parts of its mission.
The Institute brings together several longstanding initiatives we lead or contribute to, alongside new areas of research.
You can read about some of the latest research funded through the Institute on the Our funded projects page.
The Institute also supports collaborative external research bids that draw on the range of academic expertise across our university and our partnerships with other universities and organisations.
How we do it
The Institute has been established partly to enhance our focus on multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and partnership-based research and projects.
We already have deep roots in our community and a strong history of working with a wide range of partners. Current collaborations include work with the Office for Students and Research England, the NHS, HM Prisons, North Yorkshire Police and City of York Council.
The Institute will expand the depth and breadth of our partnership work to build ‘teams around the issue’, bringing the best expertise from our own academic community, other institutions and external organisations to carry out impactful work that improves people’s lives.
An underpinning ethos of the Institute is the potential of turning the university 'inside out.' That is to challenge the traditional conceptualisation of the academy as place of socialised knowledge at a remove from the wider world, and instead make active connections with external communities. In this model the Institute is orientated towards participatory practice and research, working with people in a manner that values their expertise and live experiences in a non-hierarchical manner.
This approach is seen as a crucial recognition of our ambition to work in a manner that itself adheres to our objectives for social justice.
The Institute’s work is guided by the University’s 2026 Strategy.
Why we do it
York St John University was founded by the Church of England in 1841, with the express purpose of giving people from a wider range of families and backgrounds the opportunity to transform their lives through education. Originally a teacher training college, before becoming a thriving and diverse university, we have shared this ethos of opportunity and inclusion with thousands of graduates over the years.
That spirit of using education to create better opportunities for everyone remains integral to our mission and focus today. Much of our work already reflects this, by partnering directly with people and organisations that can benefit from our support or share our values. We are also located in York, a designated City of Sanctuary with a rich history of progressiveness and social justice engagement.
The Institute for Social Justice is a natural progression of those efforts. It brings together a variety of work and expertise dispersed across our University and our wider partnerships, under a single banner and with a shared focus. We recognise that injustice across society is a cause or consequence of many of the most significant challenges facing the world today. Our 2026 University Strategy makes rising to these challenges a collective priority. The Institute for Social Justice will help us make a step change, so that social justice is at the heart of our research, partnerships, and impact.