Interview with QMU graduate, Stuart Duncan: Executive Masters in Public Services Management
Stuart Duncan is from Bo’ness and is married with two children. He graduated with Executive Masters in Public Services Management (now Master of Public Administration - MPA ) from QMU in 2010.
Stuart was working full-time when studying at QMU and was fortunate to have his studies funded by his employer. He has over 15 years senior management and leadership experience and has a strong track record for leading change and delivering policy by building and maintaining collaborative relationships within and outside the Scottish Government.
Before enrolling on the Executive Masters in Public Services Management at QMU, Stuart was leading the creation and establishment of one of Scotland’s largest public service partnerships.
In 2009, Stuart moved to Scottish Government to work in the Justice department and led a number of major summary justice reform programmes.
In 2014, Stuart was appointed a Programme Director at the Scottish Government and authored the Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland. He has since been leading an implementation programme to deliver the objectives set-out in the strategy; transforming administrative, civil and criminal Justice in Scotland.
In January 2017, Stuart joined the Leading Improvement Team in the Scottish Government to help departments and organisations across the public sector shape their change and improvement work.
Why did you choose to study Executive Masters in Public Services Management at QMU?
“Despite having two degrees already, I knew I wanted to continue my learning and reading in the area of public services management. I was lucky enough to have a supportive employer who was keen to support me. Scottish Court Service was offering a place on the first cohort. I applied for the opportunity and was fortunate enough to secure a place, studying part-time.
“My professional career is grounded in a technical background and I wanted to develop and grow in the area of general management, with a focus on leading change and improvement.”
How did you find the workload?
“I did my undergraduate and first postgraduate courses part-time, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I was fortunate to have a support network in place that made studying part-time easier, but it was equally important for me to have a structure in place to manage the workload.”
What obstacles did you encounter during your studies and how did you overcome them?
“I had a full time job when I did my postgrad and also had a young family. The biggest challenge for me was to create the time and space to study. For me, it was important to put a proper structure in place and give myself the best environment to learn and reflect.”
How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills and knowledge to development your career?
“The Executive Masters in Public Services Management helped me better understand the evolution of government in the UK and devolved administration here in Scotland. The knowledge which I acquired certainly made me more inquisitive. Even now, I constantly question policy and look for evidence to verify decisions.”
Top tips for future students?
“Always be prepared to question and challenge convention. As Henry Ford said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”, so be prepared to critically evaluate why things are done a certain way.”
Life after graduation?
“At the time of completing my postgrad, I was creating one of the largest public sector partnerships in Scotland. Once this was established, I moved to Scottish Government to lead policy implementation of major reforms to summary criminal justice.”
Where are you now? Do you have any further future plans?
“I authored The Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland which was published in August 2014. Since then, I’ve been directing a programme of work across public services with the purpose to use digital technology to deliver simple, fast and effective justice at best cost. In 2017, I’m joining the Leading Improvement Team in Scottish Government to help implement continuous improvement across the public sector.”
Anything that you might have done differently?
“Reflecting on my professional career to date, I’ve always looked for the perfect time to move jobs and found that there really isn’t one. I’ve stayed in posts for too long. Going forward, I want to find a better balance between fulfilling responsibilities and developing my career.”
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