Bryan Beattie, the founder of a cultural consultancy firm, decided to undertake a Professional Doctorate for personal and professional development. Bryan explains how he balances a busy business with the demands of academia at Queen Margaret University (QMU).
Tell us a little about yourself.
After school (five Highers, eight O-levels) I did a one-year Higher National Certificate in Accounting as I thought that was the area I wanted to go into. I started an undergraduate degree in accounts at the University of Stirling, but at the end of the first semester I changed to English and Philosophy, which was what I ended up graduating in as a BA.
I stayed in the Stirling area and started a theatre company with friends from uni, then became director of the local festival and gradually started moving into administration and arts development type roles. That led me to a couple of jobs in a national charity and local government before striking out on my own and setting up a cultural consultancy, which has kept me occupied in a variety of different roles ever since.
Why did you decide to undertake a Professional Doctorate?
[There were] a couple of reasons – both personal and professional. Personally, I wanted to challenge myself and put myself in a position where I was out of my comfort zone. It’s been a long time since I was involved directly in academic life and you forget there’s a whole different way of looking at and discussing things - and a different language, too! It’s taking a little time to get back into it.
Professionally, I felt I had some unfinished business. I was involved with the Scottish Government about 12 years ago, developing an outline approach to a national system of cultural rights and entitlements. For various reasons, that didn’t materialise, but I feel there’s still something around this area that Scotland could lead the way on. So my doctorate is focussed on cultural rights.
Why did you choose QMU to undertake your Professional Doctorate?
I’ve had an association with QMU for several years as an occasional guest lecturer on the cultural management course, and when I heard about the professional doctorate it was a relatively easy decision to make. I like the fact that some of the work I do, day-to-day, would count towards the doctoral assessment. I’ve always felt that there should be a strong link between the philosophical and the practical.
Are you studying full-time or part-time, and what is the commitment?
My family is still fairly young and the eldest has just started her own university career as an undergraduate, so I need to keep working to pay the bills, which means I’m doing the course part-time.
During the first week at QMU, the part-time doctoral students were told to set aside around 20 hours per week for studies. That’s a big chunk of time, and I’m still learning how to manage it.
How have you managed to balance your professional role with your studies? Have you had to make any adjustments to either area to allow you to carry out both roles?
No and yes - but I’m trying!
I think it will take some time for me to find the right balance between work and study. I don’t have regular working hours or commitments - running my own company means that you’re always bidding for new work as well as undertaking the work you have, and you’re never sure how much you’ll have on the go at any one time.
If you are still working, do you feel the course is helping you with your current role?
It certainly helps to bring new analytic skills to bear on an issue, to question things, and to learn how to research more thoroughly. I’d like to be quite creative about how I undertake the doctorate and use some of the experience I’ve had in my career to date (which has included a bit of broadcasting, journalism, and writing for stage, TV and radio).
I’ve started a podcast with my daughter - sharing our student experiences from very different perspectives - and I’m hoping to write some material for performance, inspired by my subject area. Grand plans, but we’ll see how it develops...
What kind of support have you had from QMU staff? Are there any particular university services or individuals that you’ve called on to support you?
I’ve had a great experience so far - and terrific support from everybody, from the librarians to my course supervisor, from IT to the doctorate ‘guardian angels’ that have kept me on track in terms of what needs to be done to contribute to the ‘professional’ element of a Professional Doctorate.
I think having a supervisor that challenges as well as supports is a terrific bonus, and I’ve certainly been very fortunate in that respect.
To any senior professionals reading this who are considering undertaking a Professional Doctorate, what advice would you offer them?
Don’t underestimate the amount of time required for reading/researching. If you can manage that, then go for it. In the day-to-day grind of work it’s easy to forget how valuable real-life experience can be, and when you combine that with the skills and robustness of academic research, it could create an opportunity to contribute something to your area of work that is possibly much deeper and more lasting than you could otherwise do.
Also, on a personal basis, it’s a chance to enhance your skillset and perhaps even strike out in a new professional direction as a consequence.
What do you plan to do following graduation?
"I’ve had a great experience so far - and terrific support from everybody, from the librarians to my course supervisor, from IT to the doctorate ‘guardian angels’ that have kept me on track in terms of what needs to be done to contribute to the ‘professional’ element of a Professional Doctorate."
[Published January 2019]
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