Fraser Anderson, an arts management professional from Glasgow, has worked in a range of management positions for organisations including Universal Music Group, the Donmar Warehouse theatre, the London Symphony Orchestra, and was Chief Executive of the internationally-renowned chamber ensemble Scottish Ensemble until 2018.

Fraser's decision to undertake a Professional Doctorate - or 'Prof Doc' - was born out of a frustration at not having enough time to explore new ideas, structures or approaches. Here, he explains more about why he took the plunge to return to higher education, the difference his studies are having on his profession, and what others considering a 'Prof Doc' can expect at QMU.

 

Full name: Fraser Anderson

What sector do you work in? Arts Management.

Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland.

Year of course at QMU: Year one.

                                                  

Tell us a little about yourself.

It took me a few years to alight on the idea of a career in arts management. I went to a music school in the latter half of my secondary school years, and I loved playing the cello. As is common with many arts managers, the penny dropped at some point and I realised I was never going to be the cellist I had hoped. After a couple of years of travelling, working and an aborted experiment at university in a non-arts subject, quite by chance I found out about the possibility of a career in arts management.

I studied arts management in London and then worked in a range of management positions for organisations including Universal Music Group, the Donmar Warehouse theatre and the London Symphony Orchestra. I learnt a huge amount during those years.

My degree was a practice-based course that gave me great links into the arts industry in London, one of the most vibrant cultural metropolises on the planet. However, I had always thought that one day I would like to stretch my academic muscle a little more.

After working for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I became Chief Executive of the internationally-renowned chamber ensemble Scottish Ensemble, a position I left in 2018, though I still remain involved as a consultant.

I have quite a large extended family and many of them also moved to London for their career; however, I am the only one to have returned to Scotland! I currently live in the West End of Glasgow, and despite having had the good fortune to travel the world for work and leisure, I still get real pleasure from returning home and going for a long walk through the parks and handsome Victorian streets.  

 

Why did you decide to undertake a Professional Doctorate?

I spent about 12 months researching different course options and was given some great advice by several academics. One of these conversations led to me finding out about the Professional Doctorate programme at QMU and to a subsequent meeting with staff member Dr David Stevenson. David is now my supervisor.

I had originally thought about working towards a PhD, but the Prof Doc programme seemed to align better to my professional practice. I had always hoped that my academic and professional work could become quite closely connected, and this seemed a great programme through which to try and achieve this.

The arts sector is staffed by brilliant, clever and passionate people, but I’ve always thought its connections to the academic world could be stronger. Hopefully I’ll be able to play a small part in helping to make this change: I am a serious supporter of life-long learning.

 

Why did you choose Queen Margaret University (QMU) to undertake your Professional Doctorate?

It was a mixture between the smaller and more flexible structure of the institution and the flexibility this afforded me, and an immediate professional connection with my supervisor.

 

Are you studying full-time or part-time, and what is the commitment?

I currently study part-time, and this works out at somewhere between one and two days per week. I’m also beginning to contribute to the Masters programme as a teacher.

 

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?

Yes, in my case this took quite a bit of careful planning and significant change. In addition to my studying and teaching work at QMU, I now work about two days per week as a consultant at Scottish Ensemble, my previous full-time employer. I also work for some other organisations in the same capacity, some on a weekly basis, some on a monthly basis, and some on a project basis. It can be quite a juggling act, particularly during crunch deadline periods, but I do enjoy the variety!

 

Do you feel the course is helping you with your current role? If so, please expand on how it is helping you.

It’s quite early on in the process for me, but yes, I have noticed that the course is influencing my approach to work. The job of CEO in a very busy touring arts organisation is a demanding one, and I became very good at spinning numerous plates. At times, I grew a little frustrated at not having enough time to explore new ideas, structures or approaches that might develop the business, which is why, in part, I wanted to take some time out and embark on my Prof Doc. And I have found that even over this relatively short period, my ability to analyse complex information in a critical way has improved quite markedly. The course has also reignited a passion for and a belief in learning.

 

What kind of support have you had from QMU staff? Are there any particular university services or individuals that you’ve called for support?

My first supervisor is the member of staff I’m most regularly in touch with and his guidance has been invaluable. I’m now starting to engage more with my second supervisor, and so I’m looking forward to receiving a different academic perspective on my research. I’ve also benefitted from support from our small seminar group which is made up of students working towards the Cultural Leadership Prof Doc outcome. There are only three of us and the conversation is lively but focused!

I’ve also had several interesting discussions with staff teaching on the related masters and undergraduate programmes – being part of a community of teachers and learners engaged with ideas you find interesting is a great aspect of this type of study.

The wider QMU doctoral team has also been great, particularly during the study week sessions.

 

To any senior professionals reading this who are considering undertaking a Professional Doctorate, what advice would you offer them?

If you’re currently working in a demanding full-time role and have significant commitments outside of work, I would suggest thinking seriously about how you will fit this programme into your life. It’s a demanding course of study and you will need to create clear space in your diary to ensure you can progress through the work and benefit from it.

QMU feels to me like a flexible and people-centred institution. They are willing to work with you to craft a programme of study that works with your life and reflects your interests. Some other, larger institutions find that kind of approach more difficult. If you are already working at a senior level, having the ability to direct your research towards a highly relevant area is a valuable benefit.  

 

What do you plan to do following completion of your Professional Doctorate?

Working towards my Professional Doctorate will take a significant amount of time – somewhere between four and six years, most likely. A lot can change during that time, but at the moment I can see two likely paths: the continuation of a portfolio career, encompassing consultancy work, teaching, writing and researching, or returning to the workplace full-time as a CEO, but perhaps in an organisation with a broader remit where I can make the most of my new academic skills, as well as my professional ability.

 

[Published January 2019]

"QMU feels to me like a flexible and people-centred institution. They are willing to work with you to craft a programme of study that works with your life and reflects your interests. Some other, larger institutions find that kind of approach more difficult. If you are already working at a senior level, having the ability to direct your research towards a highly relevant area is a valuable benefit"
Fraser Anderson, Professional Doctorate

Professional Doctorate

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