This article discusses the development of a strategy for securing a step change in social work research in higher education in the UK. This project, undertaken by the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (SWEC), aimed to give direction to the constituency, address complex and potentially conflictual issues across the four countries of the UK and promote social work research both internally and to external stakeholders. The obstacles and opportunities for advancing social work research are discussed, as are the processes by which consensus was secured across higher education institutions. Key issues debated at length included how to define social work research, whether to set priorities for research themes, whether research should be promoted in all academic departments or concentrated on centres of excellence and how to identify and begin to challenge the gross funding shortfall. Lessons from the process are identified, including the need for social work to develop stronger international collaborations.