The PSSRU’s mission is to conduct high quality research on social and health care to inform and influence policy, practice and theory.

PSSRU aims

  • To conduct research to help shape the development of social and health care systems, in the UK and internationally.
  • To develop and employ rigorous research methods from a multidisciplinary base.
  • To examine the performance and functioning of social and health care finance, organisation and delivery, with a particular emphasis on promoting efficiency and equity.
  • To conduct research that meets the best standards of research ethics and governance.
  • To involve service users, carers, commissioners, managers, practitioners and policy-makers in the research process as far as possible.
  • To keep people informed about the work we do through a variety of media.
  • To develop the research and related skills of PSSRU staff, students and visitors.

The PSSRU was established at the University of Kent at Canterbury in October 1974 by Professor Bleddyn Davies. In 1996, two additional branches of the PSSRU were established at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Manchester. Although all three PSSRU sites continue to use the same name, as a result of funding changes PSSRU at Manchester is in effect now a separate entity from PSSRU at LSE and PSSRU at Kent, which continue to have very strong links as well as a shared web presence.

The PSSRU carries out policy analysis, research and consultancy in the UK and abroad. The Unit’s current research programme focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in social and health care, with particular emphasis on economic aspects of community care, residential and nursing home provision, social care markets and commissioning, long-term care finance, and mental health policy. The PSSRU has long had close and productive links with policy-makers in the UK and elsewhere.


Directed by Professor Martin Knapp, the LSE branch is a research centre affiliated to the Department of Health Policy. LSE has established a reputation for depth, breadth and excellence in British social science, with a long history of policy impact. LSE is among the largest providers of postgraduate health policy and health economics education, and a leader in health policy and health economics research.

Since January 2008, PSSRU at LSE has been awarded just over 80 new research grants, totalling £19 million, and has been involved in a number of key policy and practice discussions, such as the Dilnot Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, building community capacity, making the economic case for mental health promotion and prevention, direct payments in residential care, costs of autism, and the impact of dementia. The School for Social Care Research (SSCR) was set up in 2009 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Martin Knapp was its founding director. In February 2014 he was reappointed its director for a second, five-year term with a further £15 million of NIHR funding.

PSSRU at Kent

The PSSRU at the University of Kent, directed (for a fixed term) by Dr Karen Jones, is based in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research in Canterbury. Over the last ten years, PSSRU at Kent has been awarded almost 100 new research grants, totalling about £15 million, and has been involved in a number of key policy and practice discussions. PSSRU at Kent was a founding member of the School for Social Care Research (SSCR) when it was set up in 2009, along with the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent. In early 2014 the University of Kent was awarded continued membership of SSCR. PSSRU at Kent produces the annual volumes of Unit Costs of Health and Social Care, which are widely used by policy-makers, providers and the research community.

Research excellence

The PSSRU is one of the leading social care research groups, not just in the UK, but internationally. Since its establishment, PSSRU has had considerable impact on national social care policy in the UK and in a number of other countries. PSSRU at LSE has also established itself as the leading European group on mental health economics and policy, and has an excellent worldwide reputation for its work in this field.

PSSRU’s achievements have been recognised in a number of ways, such as:

  • All three branches of PSSRU have been assessed as ‘outstanding by international criteria’ by the Higher Education Funding Council.
  • In REF2014, PSSRU at LSE submitted two impact case studies focusing on financing long-term care and mental health, both of which were rated 4* by the assessment panel. LSE Social Policy was ranked first in the UK for the percentage of its research rated world leading or internationally excellent.
  • The School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at Kent is recognised worldwide for producing excellent research and was ranked 2nd for research power, 3rd for research intensity and 5th for both research impact and research quality (GPA) by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.
  • In 2009 LSE Health and Social Care (of which PSSRU at LSE was a substantial part) was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for ‘applying research to the advancement of global health and social care policy’. This award recognised its substantial impact on policy and practice. In the words of the Royal Anniversary Trust: ‘The work is widely seen as unique in its continuing ability to bridge the gap between research and policy. It is widely and frequently referenced by policy-makers and has contributed to raising the quality of evidence-based policy-making within government.’
  • The Departments in which PSSRU sit at LSE and Kent were top-rated (5*) in the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008.

Research funding

PSSRU at LSE and Kent continue to be successful in bidding for competitive funds. Funding for PSSRU’s research programmes comes from a variety of sources, including public bodies, charitable trusts and private corporations. Current funding organisations include the Department of Health for England, the Department for Education, the European Union and the Nuffield Trust.

Following a very competitive national tendering exercise open to all universities and other research bodies, in 2010 the Department of Health established new nine Units, spanning the whole of health and social care, funded between 2011 and 2018. PSSRU was successful in securing, in collaboration with other institutions, three of these Units:

  • Quality and outcomes of person-centred care (now known as QORU), led by the PSSRU at Kent in collaboration with PSSRU at LSE and researchers at the University of Oxford (total £9.9 million)
  • Economics of health and social care research unit (ESHCRU), led by the University of York and involving PSSRU at both Kent and LSE (£10.2 million)
  • Policy innovation research unit (PIRU), led by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and involving PSSRU at LSE and Imperial College, London (£4.5 million)

In each case PSSRU is building excellent partnerships with other leaders in the field.

Commitment to staff development

Both branches have been accredited with Investors in People status (LSE since 2009; Kent since 2000).

Partnerships and collaborative working

The PSSRU has a substantial number of links with other universities, policy-makers, research funding bodies, international groups and organisations, and academics. Many of these links have been developed through specific research projects and initiatives, as well as through the three Department of Health-funded Research Units.

The PSSRU is a partner in the NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR). SSCR, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), formally began work in May 2009. Led by Professor Martin Knapp (LSE) and with a budget of £15 million over the five years from 2014, the second phase of SSCR is a partnership between six leading academic centres of social care research in England (including both PSSRU at LSE and at Kent). SSCR’s mission is to develop the evidence base for adult social care practice by commissioning and conducting world-class research. See