My mum

My mum and dad married in 1965. Soon after they bought a small cottage just outside the town of Ballymoney. My dad has often recalled the time my mum first saw their new home – she cried. It was, by all accounts, a complete ramshackle with lots of damp and wallpaper peeling off the walls. They had bought two cottages that sat side by side with the goal of putting them together into one modern bungalow. In the meantime they lived in a cold and damp 1960’s caravan in the garden.

My mum worked in the NHS. She attended training in Belfast. She was respected and liked by all staff in the Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ballymoney. By all accounts she was on the fast track to a senior administration post in the health service. During the day she would work in the hospital and at night would help my dad, uncles and friends to convert the two old cottages into a modern 1970’s bungalow.

In 1973 my brother came along. There was no maternity leave entitlement back then – which meant she had to leave her job in the NHS. Instead she took up a part-time position in the nearby rural sub-post office.

My brother started primary school and then I came along. My mum was by now sub-post mistress and looked after us during the day alongside running a very busy sub-post office and shop.

I remember people queuing outside the post office early in the mornings. It would often be opened before 8am and seemed to never shut. When it was shut people would ring the doorbell. Day and night mum would always answer – always putting her customers and the community before all else, fuelled by a bottomless tea cup.

Holidays were restricted by the needs of the post office. So Bank Holidays would be used in order to get a long weekend. Every now and again there would be a trip to Scotland or to different parts of Northern Ireland. But we’d always have to be back in time for opening the post office. Sick days were even rarer. The post office really never shut.

Any money that was saved went to furthering mine and my brothers education. Piano lessons, singing lessons, private tuition, Encyclopedia Britannia (Google it). Anything that would help us succeed in life.

As if all of this wasn’t enough public service my mum also gave blood. She donated blood for many years and received a Gold Badge for donating over 50 times.

In the late 1990’s the post office was robbed. Masked men entered the house. My mum was tied up with cables pulled from the back of our old TV set. A gun held at her head. But she wouldn’t give away the keys to the safe and instead tricked the masked gunmen into sounding the alarm. They were caught. The gang leader was son of a lottery winner. He got five years in prison – out in three.

My mum continued to serve the community. A new alarm system and safe were installed at personal expense. We got a dog.

My mum continued to run the post office for many years while both me and my brother moved out, went to university, got jobs, families. Over time her memory started to fade. Then her mood changed. Then things that she’d always done, like washing the kitchen floor every night, stopped being done. I didn’t notice at first. Then it became hard to ignore. Running the post office eventually became impossible. After forty years of continuous service it closed.

Later, even living at home became impossible. Too dangerous, and too onerous on my dad, who had his own health problems to manage. She now lives happily in an amazing care home (paid for by her pension and life savings). It’s not a life she choose. It’s a life dictated by Alzheimer’s Disease.

My mum doesn’t have the retirement she deserves after more than 50 years of working life. She hasn’t got to know the grandchildren she always wanted. She doesn’t get to play and look after them as she would like. The crippling nature of dementia has stripped all that away. She is happy, happiest in the company of visitors, and there are still wonderful moments of clarity and lucidity. But so much has been lost.

Looking back now I can’t help think of the endless sacrifices she made but at the same time I know that to her it wasn’t sacrifice – it was love. This is why I am raising money for Alzheimer’s Research. For every £1 donated 84p goes towards research to fight dementia. It may be too late for my mum but hopefully the work of Alzheimer’s Research UK will help millions of people in the future.

Please donate to my fundraising page listed below. Every pound helps. Thank you.

https://runningdowndementia2018.everydayhero.com/uk/ian-4

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Save Scottish Public Administration

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Interview with Steven McCabe, Master of Public Administration (MPA) student.

This post first appeared on the QMU website: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/study-here/student-stories/steven-mccabe-master-of-public-adminstration-20180518/

I was looking for a course that would build on my previous qualifications and work experience, as well as increase my understanding of the issues facing public sector professionals and how to best overcome these and deliver high quality public services. This was part of my continuing personal development through my job, but I also wanted to study a course that would allow me to progress in my career as well. Initially I considered studying an MBA, but the direct relevance of the MPA to my work, along with the course focus on social justice and equality really attracted me to study at QMU instead. The fact that the MPA was a taught course, with weekly classes where students could learn from each other’s experiences and engage with each other was a major factor in me choosing to study the MPA at QMU. The programme leader’s knowledge and understanding of the issues facing the public sector was another reason for making this course selection.

There is a level of commitment required to study the MPA, and the workload at times has been quite high, especially as I’ve been working full-time as well as studying. It has been stressful at times, especially when I’ve had really busy periods at work and there’s been assignments due for the course, however, it’s never been completely overwhelming and the level of support, from both tutors and other students, has been fantastic. There’s a real togetherness and camaraderie between students on the course, with the part-time students especially understanding the pressures we’re all facing whilst juggling full time work with study. Through the course we’ve all supported each other, ensuring that we’re all coping with the demands of the course. We regularly chat outside of university if we have anything we’re unsure of. The course really has been a great way to network and make new friends!

The tutors on the course are all extremely knowledgeable and happy to spend time with you if you have any additional questions or need help or support.

This will be my third university degree and the overall learning environment on the MPA at QMU has by far been the most supportive, engaging and inclusive that I’ve experienced.

The course is constantly evolving and improving, with the tutors and the course director especially taking a real interest in the thoughts and needs of students. There have been numerous changes to the course in the two years that I’ve studied the MPA that have been made after suggestions or comments from students. There are regular tutor/student meetings to discuss what could be improved upon or what’s working well, and feedback is always well received and fully considered. Students on the MPA have a strong voice and can directly influence how the course is delivered.

There is also the opportunity for students to go on a fully-funded (well, apart from beer money!) field-trip to Brussels, as part of the MPA. This really brought students and course tutors together as a group, and had a real positive impact on how we supported each other and learnt from each other. There was an important practical element to the trip as well, with it being a great opportunity to see how the things that we’ve been taught in class were being applied in the European Parliament. The field-trip definitely enhanced the engagement and understanding I had of the concepts that we learnt about during classes.

The course has absolutely equipped me with additional skills and knowledge which have been directly applicable in my job. The course also has a focus on improving students’ leadership skills, with students undertaking a leadership exchange through ACOSVO as part of this. I feel, quite strongly, that my performance at work was improved by studying on the course, and becoming aware of wider issues in public administration that I perhaps might not have been aware of prior to studying the MPA. I’ve also been lucky enough to have progressed to a new job while studying on the course, and have just started a job as a Policy Manager with the Scottish Government. I can honestly say that the MPA definitely helped me develop my career and played a part in me getting the job.

 

You can find out more about the MPA on our course page here: www.edinburghmpa.co.uk

 

Make sure to LIKE our Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/EdinburghMPA

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Academic Posts Available at QMU

Queen Margaret University are currently recruiting to the following posts:

  • Senior Lecturer in Marketing
  • Senior Lecturer in Finance and Accounting
  • Lecturer in Business Management
  • Lecturer in Finance and Accounting

We are one of only two universities in Scotland to run an MPA programme. We also have a professional doctorate in public administration (the DPA). These are very successful and growing parts of our activity within the Division of Business, Enterprise and Management. As such we really need people who can work across our core business management programmes as well as the MPA and supervise both PhD and DPA students. Please circulate this message to anyone you think might be interested in applying.

I am also happy to discuss these opportunities with anyone who may be interested in applying. The closing date for all applications is 19 February.
Full information including how to apply can be found here: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/footer/vacancies/vacancies/

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The Scottish Approach to Public Services

I currently have a PhD bursary available on the topic of ‘The Scottish Approach to Public Services’. The Scottish Approach has been defined as encompassing three principles in the design and delivery of public services:

  • Coproduction
  • Assets-based approaches
  • Improvement methodology

Lots has been written on the topic (for example, Cairney 2014, Cairney et al. 2016, Coutts and Brotchie, 2017; Elvidge, 2011; Ferguson, 2015; Housden, 2014) but previous research is often based on explorations of the general principles of the Scottish Approach and understandings of how they influence the policy making process. Less has been written about how the Scottish Approach influences practice in localised contexts such as, for example, local government, higher education or social work.

As such I thought it would be interesting to investigate how the Scottish Approach may influence practice. I didn’t want to be prescriptive about which practice setting the research should focus on but I have provided a few examples which will hopefully spark some thoughts. Previously I have written about why do a PhD (click here to go to the blog post) but ultimately if you are passionate about education then doing a PhD is a fantastic opportunity to study a topic in great depth over a three year period.

The QMU PhD Bursary covers:

  • a full waiver of tuition fees;
  • an annual stipend of £14,553 lasting 3 years for full-time study; and
  • a research budget of £2,000 to cover project expenses and travel.

For more information on the bursary see here: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/study-here/postgraduate-research-study/graduate-school-and-doctoral-research/phd-bursary-competition/ 

For more information on the research topic see here:  https://www.qmu.ac.uk/media/4209/cass-phd-bursary-topics-2018.pdf 

 

References:

Cairney, P. (2014) “The Territorialisation of Interest Representation in Scotland: Did Devolution Produce a New Form of Group-Government Relations?”, Territory, Politics, Governance, DOI: 10.1080/21622671.2014.952326

Cairney, P., Russell, S. and St Denny, E. (2016) “The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking: what issues are territorial and what are universal?”, Policy & Politics, Vol. 44 (3), 333–50.

Coutts, P. and Brotchie, J. 2017. The Scottish Approach to evidence. A discussion paper.
Alliance for Useful Evidence. Carnegie UK Trust.

Elvidge, J. (2011) Northern Exposure. Lessons from the first twelve years of devolved
government in Scotland. Institute for Government. London.

Ferguson, Z. (2015) What is the ‘Scottish Approach’?, Alliance for Useful Evidence, London. Available online at: https://www.alliance4usefulevidence.org/what-is-the-scottish-approach/

Housden, P. (2014) “This is us: A perspective on public services in Scotland”, Public Policy
and Administration, Vol. 29 (1), 64-74.

 

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MPA Research Seminar Series 2018

We are hosting a research seminar series at Queen Margaret University over this semester. The topic of the seminars is ‘Public Leadership in Turbulent Times’. The seminars will bring some of the top scholars of public policy and administration to Edinburgh to discuss their latest research.

 

Each of the speakers is listed below. Click on the links to reserve your FREE place:

Megan Mathias, Cardiff University, “Senior Civil Servants as Leaders – evidence from Wales and New Zealand’”, 22 February 2018 10-12pm

Lucy Hunter Blackburn, University of Edinburgh, “The pros and cons of a powerful narrative: the case of free tuition”, 1 March 2018 10-12pm

Russ Glennon, Nottingham Trent University, “Unpacking and Negotiating Accountabilities in UK Local Government” 8 March 2018 10-12pm

Sarah Cooper, University of Exeter, “Gender in Healthcare: The Politics of Fertility” 15 March 2018 10-12pm

Muiris MacCarthaigh, Queen’s University Belfast, “Never waste a crisis: Public sector reform and policy entrepreneurship in Ireland“, 22 March 2018 10-12pm

Bert George, Erasmus University Rotterdam, “Too much of a good thing? Nonlinearity in public management” 29 March 2018 10-12pm

Peter Matthews, Stirling University, “Queer(y)ing policy studies: understanding the experience of public service delivery for LGBT+ people“, 29 March 2018 3:30pm-5:30pm

 

You may also download this pdf which lists all seven research seminars here: Seminar Series – Schedule of Speakers.

 

The MPA Research Seminar Series has been sponsored by the JUC Public Administration Committee (PAC) – the UK’s Learned Society for Public Administration. All research seminars in this series are free to the public and will be of interest to anyone motivated by public service.

 

You can reserve a FREE place here: MPA Research Seminar Series – Eventbrite Link. Please note that you must reserve a place at each individual research seminar in order to be guaranteed a space. All seminars are taking place at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Information on how to get to our campus is available here: https://www.qmu.ac.uk/location-and-getting-here/

 

The call for proposals is now open for the next funding round for both the PAC Research Seminar Series and PAC Small Research Grant. Details are available here.

 

NB: Tea and coffee will be provided.

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Would you like £2,000?

Would you like some money to support a small piece of research or to deliver a research seminar series? Are you an Early Career Researcher or Doctoral Student wanting to differentiate your CV? Would £2,000 help you develop a small piece of research – potentially as a launch pad to a larger scale grant application?

 

Increasingly academics are being encouraged to apply for external funding – consequently many of these funds are becoming more and more competitive. At the JUC Public Administration Committee our role is to support the future of public administration research and teaching. As such we have developed these two new funding competitions:

 

If you are an early career researcher, doctoral student or even established academic within public administration we would love to hear your ideas. You should be within an institutional member of PAC or have attended the PAC Annual Conference in order to be eligible to apply. To find out about joining PAC please email our secretary: sandraodelljuc @ yahoo.co.uk

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Guest Blog: Postgraduate Students Face Funding Pressures

By Woody Whittick, MPA student at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

The Scottish Government have made many strong commitments to education – not least of which is the commitment to ‘free’ education for undergraduates. It has also expressed a commitment to increasing postgraduate student numbers (see here) (particularly for people sharing protected characteristics such as disability). As part of this support for postgraduates there are loans available to support both the payment of fees and living expenses: http://www.saas.gov.uk/full_time/pg/index.htm

I applied to do the Master of Public Administration (MPA) at Queen Margaret University in order to enhance my future career prospects, which have been set back by incurable health problems. However, I was shocked to discover that although postgraduate students elsewhere in Britain can access living costs (maintenance) loans whether they study full- or part-time, in Scotland only full-time postgraduates can receive maintenance loans.

This rule has put me in a catch-22 situation. Multi-systemic symptoms worsen with extended or cumulative sitting, so I can’t manage full-time work or study, or both part-time work and study. Years of limited earnings have prevented me accumulating savings. I need to study part-time, but can’t afford to without a maintenance loan.

This seems deeply unfair as the decision to only allow full-time students to receive a maintenance loan is disproportionately detrimental to disabled people and to women. We still live in a society where women are statistically more likely than men to have responsibilities for childcare or adult dependants, and therefore may be less able to study full-time or save in advance for living expenses. They may, like me, have to give up part-time work in order to study.

I have received some support from Queen Margaret University which has helped. But this doesn’t solve my living expenses problem. I have searched widely but unsuccessfully for alternative maintenance funding.

In the end I have started the MPA as a full-time student – facing no other feasible option. Unfortunately however, within a few short weeks my neurological symptoms worsened. I feel this proves my point – the current rules are discriminatory towards those with disabilities. This seems to run counter to both the Equalities Act and Human Rights legislation. However, a ‘statutory authority exemption’ applies, meaning I cannot take legal action to redress discrimination using the Equality Act. The only legal recourse is via Judicial Review, at a likely cost of c£30K+. Again, I face a seemingly insurmountable hurdle.

The current status of my case is that I am awaiting the outcome of an appeal to SAAS. I hope that the concerns I have raised, as summarised above, will be taken into account and I will be given the support I need to continue my studies. In the meantime have established that the rule originates from a 2015 statutory amendment. I discovered that the regulations have been successfully challenged at Judicial Review on the grounds of age discrimination, resulting in the upper age limit for loans being raised. I seem to be the first person to have highlighted that these regulations are also discriminatory in other ways. I also now understand that although the government has committed to undertaking Equality Impact Assessments before implementing new legislation, it seems they failed to do so in this case.

Unless my appeal to SAAS is successful and the rule is overturned (at least for me individually) I will probably have to withdraw from my studies completely. Even if SAAS find a way to apply discretion and uphold my appeal, that will not change the rules for other people. It is an incredibly frustrating situation – and one of the ironies if this is that I am not even asking for grant funding – I am only asking for a loan which I would then be required to pay back.

Thankfully there does seem to be a lot of political support for this issue. My local MSP and I have both raised concerns with the Cabinet Ministers for Education and Equality, with cross-party support from the shadow Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative MSPs with portfolios for Education or Equalities, who have all raised concerns to John Swinney through the appropriate channels. We await his response and hope that others will not face the same challenges and frustrations that I have encountered in seeking to complete postgraduate study.

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Could you inspire a future business leader?

I’ve fairly recently taken over coordination of one of our first year modules on ‘Introduction to Business’. It’s been a few years since I last worked with first year students so I’m really looking forward to it.

‘Introduction to Business’ is as it sounds. The module will introduce students to the global economic, political and social forces that shape business. We’ll be discussing how businesses compete internationally and contemporary challenges such as climate change, ethical supply chains and, of course, Brexit.

But in order to enrich the learning with real life examples I need help. I’m looking for guest speakers who have been involved in business and have a story to tell. Maybe you have started your own business? Maybe you’ve been involved in international expansion? Or has your business been affected by Brexit?

Sessions run on Friday morning from 1015-1315 from 22 September to 8 December. Please get in touch if you would like to contribute.

The core text is Janet Morrison, 2016, Global Business Environment: Challenges and Responsibilities. Available here: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/bookshop/product/The-Global-Business-Environment-by-Janet-Morrison/9781137483744. Other information about the course including lecture slides will be uploaded to the university Virtual Learning Environment – The Hub.

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Electioneering versus Governing

The next UK General Election will be held on 8 June 2017 – just over 2 years since the last one despite the establishment of 5 year parliamentary terms under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The argument made by Prime Minister Theresa May was that this was,

“…the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead”.

Yet will this guarantee certainty? Well, one certainty seems to be the ever increasing popularity, by politicians, of elections and referendums. A quick search shows how many elections have been held across the UK since 2010 with a particular peak of elections and significant referendums since 2014.

Elections since 2010:
2010 UK General Election
2010 English Local Elections (32 London boroughs, 36 metropolitan boroughs, 76 second-tier district authorities, 20 unitary authorities and various Mayoral posts)
2011 UK Voting System Referendum
2011 Welsh Devolution Referendum
2011 Northern Ireland Local Elections
2011 English Local Elections (36 Metropolitan boroughs, 194 Second-tier district authorities, 49 unitary authorities and various mayoral post)
2012 Scottish Local Elections
2012 Welsh Local Elections
2012 English Local Elections (28 English local authorities, three mayoral elections including the London mayoralty)
2012 London Assembly Elections
2013 English Local Elections (27 non-metropolitan county councils, eight unitary authorities and 2 mayoral elections)
2014 European Parliament Election
2014 Scottish Independence Referendum
2014 Northern Ireland Local Elections
2014 English Local Elections (32 London boroughs, 36 metropolitan boroughs, 74 district/borough councils, 20 unitary authorities and a number of mayoral elections)
2015 UK Parliament Election
2015 English Local Elections (36 metropolitan boroughs, 194 second-tier districts, 49 unitary authorities and 6 mayoral elections)
2016 English Local Elections (124 local councils and 4 mayoral elections)
2016 Scottish Parliament Election
2016 Welsh Parliament Election
2016 Northern Ireland Assembly Election
2016 London Assembly Election
2016 EU Referendum
2017 Scottish Local Elections
2017 Welsh Local Elections
2017 English Local Elections (27 county councils, 7 unitary authorities, 1 metropolitan borough, 8 mayoral elections)
2017 UK Parliament Election
NB: Also 31 by-elections between 2010-2017 and many community council elections.

It could be argued that this is a good thing. It shows the vibrancy of our democracy and the increasing voice of citizens in influencing government policy. However, it poses many significant challenges for those who work in public policy and administration: the cost of electoral administration; the opportunity cost of elections and the risk of voter fatigue.

Not only do elections involve a lot of political planning and campaigning but they also require significant administration including the training and management of polling staff and count staff. An election is not something that can easily happen on a whim. It requires a lot of planning, coordination and, importantly, investment.

A second issue with elections is that they divert attention away from the development of public policy and the delivery of public services. Since 2014 in particular there have been significant votes involving all UK Political Parties including the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, the 2015 UK General Election, the 2016 EU Referendum and now the 2017 General Election. There is a huge opportunity cost involved in these major election campaigns – whilst campaigning and voting takes place our political representative, public officials and public service professionals are subject to purdah rules and must divert their energies from public service delivery to the major operational challenges of an election.

The other significant cost of this is that it risks leading to voter fatigue and apathy. The immediate reaction from many to the UK General Election announcement was fairly muted. It isn’t currently clear how the public will respond to the announcement and what the resultant turnout will be. But what is clear is that at some point the votes must be counted – and the government(s) must govern.

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