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Professor Zoë Irving

MA (Hons) Social Policy; PhD Social Policy

  • Professor of Comparative and Global Social Policy

Visit Professor Zoe Irving's profile on the York Research Database to see a full list of publications and browse her research related activities.


I have previously worked as a researcher at the Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University and lectured at Leeds Metropolitan (now Beckett) University (1994 to 2001), and the University of Sheffield (2002 to 2014). I have also been a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta. I have published on the subjects of social policy pedagogy; gender and employment; small island states, the effects of economic crisis on welfare states and the impact of austerity.

I co-founded the International and Comparative Social Policy Group (ICSP) of the UK Social Policy Association with Nicola Yeates (Open University) which we convened 2004 to 2011, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Social Policy Association (2014 to 2019). I am founding co-editor, with Kevin Farnsworth, of the Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy and have previously co-edited the annual publication of the Social Policy Association, Social Policy Review. I am Director of Teaching and Chair the Department Teaching Committee.

Areas of expertise

  • International, Global and comparative analyses of social policy
  • Social policy in small states and small island states
  • Economic crisis, austerity and social policy
  • Gender, work and social policy
  • Non-standard employment and social policy


My early research explored the relationship between social policy and the gendered dimensions of non-standard work, including comparative study of women’s self-employment and male part-time employment. My current interests are located around the question of size within welfare state analysis and the ways in which approaches from political economy, sociology and anthropology can inform a better understanding of differences in social policy development in small and large states. I have a particular interest in Iceland and in the social policy of small island states more generally.

With Kevin Farnsworth, I am also engaged in research which problematises social policy responses to the global economic and political crises experienced since 2007 including impact of austerity on welfare state change.

Selected publications include

Irving, Z. (2021) ‘The Legacy of Austerity’, Social Policy and Society, 20 (1), 97-110

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2021) ‘What is austerity?’, in B. Greve (ed), Handbook on Austerity, Populism and the Welfare State, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, pp24-37

Hill, M. and Irving, Z. (2020) Exploring the world of social policy: An international approach, Bristol: Policy Press

Irving, Z. (2020) 'Gender, work and employment' in V. Robinson and D. Richardson (eds) Introducing Gender and Women’s Studies, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 5th Edition

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2018) ‘Deciphering the International Monetary Fund’s (IMFs) position on austerity: Incapacity, incoherence and instrumentality’, Global Social Policy, 18 (2) 119-142

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2018) ‘Austerity: Neoliberal dreams come true?’, Critical Social Policy, 38 (3) 453-460

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2016) 'The Limits of Neoliberalism? Austerity V Social Policy in Comparative Perspective' in B. Jones, M. O’Donnell and T. Papadopoulos (eds), Alternatives to Neoliberalism, Progressive Politics and Policies, Bristol: Policy Press

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (2015) 'A new era for social policy: Welfare States and the Financial Crisis', in S. McBride, G. Boychuk, and R. Mahon (eds) Global Financial Crisis and Welfare States, Vancouver: UBC Press

Farnsworth K. and Irving, Z. (eds) (2015) Social Policy in Times of Austerity: Global Economic Crisis and the New Politics of Welfare, Bristol: Policy Press

Farnsworth, K. and Irving, Z. (eds) (2011)Social Policy in Challenging Times: Economic Crisis and Welfare Systems, Bristol: Policy Press


I am the Department's Director of Teaching and convene and teach on the undergraduate Level 1 core module Introducing Social Policy. I also co-convene and teach on several modules and supervise dissertations on the various MA courses including the MA in Global Social Policy.

My research in the learning and teaching of social policy leads to an approach combining thematic understanding of core concerns such as social divisions and redistribution, with a focus on the analysis of particular social problems and their solutions, within the UK and beyond. In this way students are able to stretch their existing knowledge of recognisable topics to help make sense of theoretical perspectives and to develop independent thinking. My approach is also informed by the view that students read for a degree but that this is an active process, and that social policy study is enriched through an understanding of the contributions drawn from other social science disciplines.

Zoe Irving

Contact details

Professor Zoë Irving
School for Business and Society

Tel: 01904 321247

 Hill, M. and Irving, Z. (2020) Exploring the world of social policy: An international approach, Bristol: Policy Press


Kevin Farnsworth and Zoë Irving (Editors), Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy


Social Policy in times of austerity, policy press, September 2015, Zoe Irving Kevin Farnsworth

Farnsworth, K & Irving, Z. (eds.) (2015) Social Policy in Times of Austerity, Policy Press


social policy review 27 edited by zoe irving and john Hudson Menno Fenger. 30 June 2015

Irving, Z., Fenger, M. & Hudson, J. (eds.) (2015) Social Policy Review 27, Policy Press