Monthly Archives: February 2016

Academics in the Real World

I’m often asked if I have any real world experience. Sometimes I’m even told ‘what would you know about the real world’. There are so many flaws in both those standpoints (and much has been written about this previously) but I think there is another important point to consider. What is happening here, is that there is a perception that universities, and by extension those who work in them, are somehow different from everyone else. That we are not ‘real’.

The fact that, in Scotland over 56% of the population attend university has seemed to have been ignored. University education is for all – all ages, all backgrounds, anyone with a thirst for learning. It’s not some distant or exclusive ivory tower. We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns – even academics.

But more than that, I believe that everything we do in universities, has some form of practical focus and thus some basis in ‘reality’. One of my favourite quotes is by Kurt Lewin (1951):

“There is nothing so practical as a good theory”.

To develop any theory we may conduct experiments, collect surveys or observe communities. Then, when we then want our research to have an impact, again we are drawn to working with external organisations and professionals. Whatever the methodology, whatever the subject matter and whatever the impact there is always an external motivation and focus to our work.

For me this is absolutely critical – and the idea that ‘practical’ and ‘theory’ are diametrically opposed is utter nonsense. Yes, theory may not always work out the way we had hoped or anticipated, but that is not to say that it doesn’t matter. One of our students, who is Head of Policy, Performance and Development at Anytown Council, summed it up by saying about our postgraduate programme that,

“[This course] covers very contemporary and relevant issues – which aids the application of learning into the practical work environment. A good level of engagement with academic literature and research enhances this further. In a very time-constrained work life there is value in this course and I have not regretted my investment of time (which isn’t always the case!!)”.

In other words, theory enhances practice! In my own work I have been fortunate to work with many external organisations. I have delivered a PgCert to public servants on behalf of Academi Wales and I’m currently supporting delivery of an MSc Public Services Leadership to City of Edinburgh Council, Dundee City Council and Orkney Islands Council.

Recently, I have been involved in developing a new MPA programme. Again we wanted to make sure there were strong links with appropriate external organisations. As a result we have set up a partnership with the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO) to enable all students on our MPA to take part in some form of work experience while studying. This is a fantastic opportunity for students to see the links between theory and practice first hand.

We are offering this MPA to individuals and to organisations. And we are always keen to work with external organisations to support employees and to inform the delivery of excellent public services. What’s more, we have arranged a special discounted fee level for this programme for it’s first year. But does the ‘real world’ want to work with us? Well, assuming that’s where you are right now – let me know!

 

This post is also listed on LinkedIn where there have been a number of very interesting comments posted about the extent to which those working in universities can support those in other public services. This can be viewed here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/academics-real-world-ian-c-elliott

Tagged , , ,

Call for Abstracts – Leading Change in Public Services

As reported last week someone has finally claimed the second outstanding Lotto prize of £33m. That’s a lot of money! Certainly more than I can imagine. But what about £107m, £100m or £46m?

These are the amounts of money that Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Highland Councils respectively have to save over the next five years, two years and three years. That’s like winning the Lotto multiple times. Or you might say, it’s like waiting for a miracle to happen.

But in this case there is no waiting. Change must happen now. But how do we lead change in public service organisations? That is the topic of a research colloquium being held at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh on Friday 13 May 2016.

More than ever before, our public service organisations need evidence on how best to deliver sustainable change. Therefore we would like to invite abstracts from interested participants for presentation at this colloquium.

To contribute, please submit your abstract to events@qmu.ac.uk. Abstracts should be no more than 500 words (excluding references), written in English, single spaced, plain text and with no tables or figures.
All reasonable travel and accommodation costs will be covered for confirmed speakers. You should contact events@qmu.ac.uk prior to any booking in order to confirm costs.

The full Call for Abstracts is available here.

 

Tagged , ,