Tag Archives: research

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 



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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Why do a PhD?

I have supervised three PhD students to completion and am currently supervising three others at various stages. Many people have spoken to me in the past about thinking about doing a PhD. Here I want to consolidate some of my thoughts on why anyone would do a PhD.

Being a PhD researcher is a great opportunity. But it’s also a significant burden. It’s important that anyone considering applying for a PhD gives it some serious thought. As a minimum it is a three year, full time, commitment. Much more so than undergraduate or other postgraduate study it is all consuming. So it can feel, though doesn’t have to be the case, that you’re life is put on hold for at least three years. At the end you may graduate with a PhD or indeed you may not. It may lead to an academic career or it may not. OK – but it’s not all bad! DON’T STOP READING YET!

So why would anyone choose to do a PhD? I think there are three things to consider: the PhD as an academic apprenticeship; choosing a research topic; and choosing a supervisor.

An academic apprenticeship

The PhD, along with the Professional Doctorate, is the highest award of degree. Unlike the Professional Doctorate (such as the DPA) the PhD is seen to a significant degree as a route towards an academic career.

Alongside your research you may also have the opportunity, or even be required, to teach. You may also have a dedicated desk or office alongside academic staff, you may be invited to take part in other aspects of university administration, you will be expected to present at academic conferences and even publish research papers. It is, typically, more than the individual dedicated study of a research topic as a lone researcher.

The end result of a PhD is that you are recognised as a peer amongst fellow academics. You are “one of us”. As such it is seen as a way to developing an academic career. At the same time you may be perceived by others as over qualified or “too academic” for other jobs. So you have to enjoy academic life and want to develop a career in academia in order to consider applying.

A research topic

The next stage in choosing to do a PhD is to consider the research topic. It has to be something that grabs your interest and sparks your intellectual curiosity. This is a topic that you will be immersed in for at least three years so you have to be really interested in the topic.

Other things to consider here are the nature of the topic. Is it located within a clearly defined subject area or discipline. Is it multi- or inter-disciplinary? Do you see yourself developing a career in that area (back to my first point). Also what links are there between the university / Director of Studies and the discipline? For example, out university is an institutional member of the UK society for public administration – the JUC Public Administration Committee. This brings with it many networking and development opportunities (again back to point one).

It’s also worth considering how any topic has been framed. Naturally most PhD students want to make a topic their own so you may want to ensure that it is not too narrowly defined and that there is scope to put your own mark on it. That is really important as again you may want to consider the type of career you want to have and ensure that the PhD topic will take you in that direction. For example my own PhD included some economics, some strategy and some public administration (and I have taught all three since). In the PhD topic I currently have advertised (see here for details) I have deliberately crafted the topic (on Leading Change in a Public Service Context) fairly broad so that any prospective student can make it their own.

A supervisor

Not only are you choosing a research topic but also a supervisor. It’s vitally important that students and supervisors have a positive relationship. So, as a student, it’s important to do your research!

I remember on my first day as a PhD student all the other students (who were already at least one year through their research) saying how lucky I was to have Prof Stephen J. Bailey as my supervisor.

In many respects the choice of supervisor is much more significant than the institution within which you conduct your research. Just because someone is based in a so-called ‘good’ university does not make them a ‘good’ supervisor! You should find out a little bit about their approach to teaching and research. Their views on students. Their perspective on the nature of the PhD. How many non-completions they have had – and why. Their links to industry and throughout academia. Ultimately upon meeting a prospective supervisor you’ll be able to make a judgement as to whether this is someone you want to work with for the next three years or not! All of these factors may have an impact on both your progress and even your potential career prospects.


I can only speak from my own experience – every PhD is different. I never expected to do a PhD (or even go to university for that matter). But I was fortunate to be given the opportunity of a bursary at Glasgow Caledonian. I was given a desk in a PhD office with some really amazing PhD students who I learned a huge amount from and many of whom are still close friends. I had a fantastic, challenging and yet supportive, supervisor. The PhD was really tough – and got tougher as time went on – but I learnt a huge amount from it that has underpinned my approach to teaching and research ever since. Since completing the PhD I’ve been fortunate to establish an academic career and I love what I do.

So, if you’re thinking of doing a PhD – and you’ve managed to get to the end of this blog post – GO FOR IT!

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Why You Should Tweet!

  1. Share
    I will #livetweet on use of twitter in research next Wed at 1215. Using #phdtweet. Please join in. More info to follow. #highered #loveHE
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 05:03:39
  2. Share

    Fri, Apr 27 2012 08:24:29
  3. My initial tweet on the subject attracted a lot of interest and was RT’d several times including by Guardian Higher Education.
  4. Share
    RT @ian_c_elliott: I will #livetweet on use of twitter in research next Wed at 1215. Using #phdtweet. Please join in. More info to follow. #highered #loveHE
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 05:25:18
  5. Share
    Thanks to everyone for your interest in the #livetweet #phdtweet event and for your RTs. More to follow next week. #LoveHE #highered
    Fri, Apr 20 2012 07:58:43
  6. In advance of the presentation I posed a few questions so that others could participate in the discussion. Tweets using the #phdtweet were displayed live on screen during my presentation. The questions and a few interesting responses are listed below.
  7. Share
    #phdtweet Q1. How has twitter helped you with literature searching?
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 06:51:11
  8. Share
    @ian_c_elliott Continually distracted me. Occasionally led to something useful. Allowed me to stalk favoured writers.
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 07:55:28
  9. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I’d say it’s helped me make contacts that have led me to new literatures #phdtweets e.g. @DrDaveOBrien & @Localopolis
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:26:57
  10. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I search for and collect tweets relevant to my case studies – many politicians and all public agencies tweet #phdtweet
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:39:33
  11. Share
    #phdtweet Q2. Has anyone used twitter to help with data collection? #highered #LoveHE
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 09:56:51
  12. Share
    @ian_c_elliott I’ve sourced many participants from twitter – general (members of the public etc.) & specific (certain professions etc.).
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:00:50
  13. Share
    #phdtweet Q3. How can twitter help with dissemination of research findings? #highered #LoveHE
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:39:00
  14. Share
    @ian_c_elliott absolutely brilliant for dissemination. Got twice as many hits as avg. for: http://bit.ly/II0iiS thanks to @amcunningham
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 10:54:41
  15. Share
    @ian_c_elliott re Q3 #phdtweet @QMUeResearch tweets automatically when new papers are put into it. A small thing, but hopefully helpful.
    Mon, Apr 23 2012 11:32:02
  16. Share
    #phdtweet Q4. How can twitter help with career development for early career academics?
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 03:38:32
  17. Share
    @ian_c_elliott Q4 opens up so many opportunities to work w/ those outside your uni, good way to learn about how unis “work” too #phdtweet
    Tue, Apr 24 2012 10:22:36
  18. Share
    @ian_c_elliott gave confidence to even consider doing PhD, &in response to other q, you can see beyond yr immediate surrounding #phdtweet
    Tue, Apr 24 2012 10:26:21
  19. Share
    #phdtweet Tweeting can help find co-authors & perhaps lead to an award-winning paper: http://bit.ly/f6FFI6
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 07:15:00
  20. The presentation was to be recorded for iTunesU but unfortunately technical problems meant that the recording did not work. However my slides are available here: http://storify.com/ian_c_elliott/why-you-should-tweet
  21. During the presentation lots more suggestions were made as to how Twitter can help with the development and dissemination of research such as this tweet from Brian Kelly:
  22. Share
    #phdtweet A tweet can take you to Catalonia! http://bit.ly/dNQlmW
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 07:30:03
  23. As well as the fairly instrumentalist rationale set out in the main body of my presentation I also highlighted what I believe to be the moral case for use of social media by academic researchers.Queen Margaret University was founded with the aim of extending educational opportunities – specifically to women who in Victorian Britain were excluded from Higher Education. Today social justice remains a key part of what we do. In addition, the creation and sharing of knowledge is ultimately what academia is all about.

    Twitter, and social media in general, provides new ways to both create and share knowledge. As such we should all consider how these new tools can help. I really like the following blog post from Brian Kelly on this subject:

  24. Share
    #phdtweet Do you want to observe the world or change it? If the latter, Twitter can help: http://bit.ly/IkDp6J
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 09:00:11
  25. Following my presentation there were a number of questions including how to reference a Tweet and the discussion continued through the afternoon.
  26. Share
    hears question on referencing tweets. Yes it can be done – just another source of information #phdtweet
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:01:22
  27. Share
    @ian_c_elliott @QMULRC Doesn’t a reference need to provide info that allows validation (e.g. a link)? or doesn’t this matter with tweets?
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:48:03
  28. Share
    @Localopolis @QMULRC useful guide available here: http://www.mla.org/style/handbook_faq/cite_a_tweet
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 08:39:04
  29. I believe there are great benefits to PhD students in engaging with Twitter. I would recommend that you get an account and, as a starting point, search for the #PhDchat. You will find it easy to make contact with other PhD students and academics.
  30. Share
    @qui_oui yes, #PhDchat is a really good resource. I would highly recommend it to all PhD students. #phdtweet
    Fri, Apr 27 2012 09:41:55
  31. A lot of people have asked if there will be another #livetweet event – perhaps one focused on use of Twitter for learning and teaching activities. This is something I would certainly be interested in facilitating if there is sufficient interest.Watch this space!

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