About GADE - Group for Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work

History of GADE

Founded in 1977, the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) has a vibrant history with a long record of supporting social work program directors and programs. 

The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE) is the social work organization committed to promoting rigor in North American social work and social welfare doctoral programs. GADE plays a vital role in supporting social work doctoral programs in training future social work researchers, scholars, and educators. GADE develops and updates the aspirational guidelines for quality in PhD programs, provides support to doctoral programs and doctoral program directors in program administration, collaborates with other national and international social work organizations, and serves as the leading voice for doctoral education in the field (Lightfoot & Beltran, 2018, p. 1).

Read more in-depth about our history by reading the entry in the Encyclopedia of Social Work. Lightfoot, E., & Beltran, R. (2018). The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work. In Encyclopedia of Social Work. NASW Press and Oxford University Press.


Brief History of Doctoral Education in Social Work and GADE

From the CSWE-GADE Report on Current Landscape of Doctoral Education in Social Work (2021):

In 1915, Bryn Mawr College established the first PhD program in social work in the United States. Since then, various forms of post-MSW education have been promoted, such as the research-oriented PhD programs championed by Edith Abbot and Sophonisba Breckenridge in the 1920s and 1930s, the “third year” programs in psychiatric social work funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the practitioner-based doctoral programs (DSWs) that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s (Lightfoot & Beltran, 2018). NIMH also funded various committees and task forces including the American Association of Schools of Social Work, and later the Committee on Advanced Curriculum of the CSWE, to study, monitor, and guide doctoral education in social work from the 1940s through the 1960s. These task forces and committees developed three sets of guidelines for doctoral education in social work in 1946, 1953, and 1964, which were the precursors to the modern GADE PhD Program Quality Guidelines first published in 1992 (Lightfoot & Beltran, 2018).

One important milestone in the development of doctoral education was the establishment of GADE in 1981. The formal establishment of GADE was a response to a recommendation in the CSWE-sponsored “Ripple Report” (i.e., the Bisno Report) in the 1970s to eliminate the MSW and replace it with a new 3-year practice-based doctorate, the Social Work Doctorate, and therefore to restructure social work education. Concerned that the recommendations did not consider the importance of research training in doctoral education, a group of deans and doctoral program directors began meeting in 1977 (Lightfoot & Beltran, 2018). This led to the formation of GADE in 1981, with the initial goals of promoting the interests of doctoral programs, developing a structure for information exchange, stimulating effective educational and research efforts, and collaborating with other national organizations.

GADE continues to evolve and is currently a firmly established organization, playing a key role in promoting doctoral education and supporting its constituents with the mission of “promoting rigor in doctoral education in social work, focusing on preparing scholars, researchers, and educators who function as stewards of the discipline” (GADE, 2016). GADE also became a leading player in promoting doctoral research training in the field of social work and was involved in the formation of both the Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research in 1993 and the Action Network for Social Work Education and Research.

The GADE membership consists of directors of established social work and social welfare doctoral programs. In the first GADE membership guide, published in 1985, there were 49 doctoral programs, including 30 research doctorate programs and 19 practice doctorate programs. Currently, GADE membership includes 87 research doctorate programs (77 in the United States, 9 in Canada, and 1 in Israel), and 17 practice doctorate programs.

One of GADE’s main activities is improving the quality of current doctoral programs, with particular concern about the uneven quality of research training, especially in the early years. GADE published “Quality Guidelines for PhD Programs in Social Work” in 1992, 2003, and 2013, with a new edition under way. Informed by national surveys from multiple constituencies, these guidelines provide an important roadmap for the development, review, and improvement of research doctorate programs. The document specifies skills and knowledge expected for doctoral students in the areas of knowledge of social work as a profession and discipline, research and scholarship, and teaching. In addition, the document recommends guidelines regarding core supports to students, structure and resources for program administration, and recommended aspirational outcomes for research doctorate students.


Social Welfare History Archives

In the spring of 2023 GADE acquired scanned copies of our records and historical files housed at the University of Minnesota Social Welfare History Archives. The files have been made available for member institutions.

Access Files