Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Glasgow University invite candidates to submit for an Applied Research Collaborative Studentship (ARCS) in partnership with The Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities and Alchemy Film & Arts.

Award: A fully-funded* PhD studentships, along with a stipend of approx. £15,000 per annum at UKRI rate (specific rate TBC). *Fees are at Home/EU rates. Interested international students should contact the supervisor listed below to discuss their eligibility.

Start Date: Sept 2020 (Note: this date can be negotiated, but must be within this academic year) 

Title: The Challenges of Professionalisation: The Case of Alchemy Film & Arts

Context: This study will examine a rural arts organisation during a key period of development and transformation. The successful candidate will have exceptional access to the partner organisation, Alchemy Film & Arts, which over the past four years has undergone a period of significant growth, curating the Scotland + Venice exhibition at the 2017 Venice Biennale and gaining Creative Scotland Regular Funded Organisation (RFO) status in 2018, which has allowed it to develop a longer-term vision and a more integrated year-round programme to complement its annual film festival. Now, Alchemy commissions and curates experimental film at the highest international levels and also works with local partners to deliver adventurous community filmmaking programmes in the Borders throughout the year. In order to satisfy multiple funders and stakeholders, attract wider audiences and ensure it has continued relevance in a precarious economic landscape, while keeping its artistic mission central, Alchemy Film & Arts needs to negotiate the challenges and opportunities of professionalisation with care.

The successful candidate might expect to draw on theories of cultural management, placemaking and community engagement in order to explore how an arts organisation operates within insecure contexts, and how new structures of cultural management might be imagined to support such organisations better. The impact of the project should be twofold. It should offer the chance for organisational reflection for Alchemy to critically challenge their current position, as well as allow them to re-imagine how they are currently operating. The study should also make an original contribution to wider academic knowledge about precariously sited organisations within the rural context, the pressures they face, and the ways this can be managed for the benefit of the organisation, and the local community and its cultural life. In addition, the project is expected to provide insight to policy makers and bodies, specifically Creative Scotland, who have themselves in their April 2019 Sector Review document identified a need to find better ways of supporting rural arts organisations (2019). Methodologically, the supervisory team welcome and can support traditional social-sciences and humanities research (including, but not limited to, Document Analysis, Interviews, Surveys, Focus Groups, Case Studies and Ethnography) as well as those which are Practice led/based and/or Creative Practice approaches, depending on student’s project and interest.


Please submit your application by 4pm June 26th, 2020. Shortlist Candidates will be notified by July 10th 2020, and interviews will take place (online) on July 17th 2020.


Who can apply?

Applicants should meet the standard entry criteria for the QMU PhD Programme as follows:

  • A degree in an appropriate subject, or have a qualification or experience accepted as equivalent.
  • A Bachelors degree with an excellent or very good classification (first or upper second class honours in the UK (or international equivalent) or a good Masters degree.
  • A strong research proposal (1000 words max) detailing their, background, initial research design as well as any future skills they can bring to the project.
  • International students must also evidence competence in written and spoken English by submitting a valid IELTS certificate (valid for 2 years from date of test) with an average score of 6.5 (with no element scoring below 6.0); or evidence of successful completion of a Masters degree in the UK; or evidence of successful completion of a non-UK Masters degree taught and assessed in English.
  • Two supportive references (at least one academic reference)

How to apply

 An overview of the PhD course is provided via the PhD course page. Guidance on applying for the PhD is provided here.

You can apply for the Applied Research Collaborative Studentship online using the Admissions Portal (accessed via the 'Apply Now' button at the bottom of this section). The application process includes completion of an application form and submission of supporting documentation, including a research proposal.

The online application form allows you to save your progress, and you will be able to complete your PhD application in multiple stages, if required.

Following submission of your completed application, you will receive a QMU applicant ID number. Please quote this in any correspondence you have with QMU.

Application form

Please pay close attention to the spelling of your email address within the online form, as this is how we will contact you about your application.

Please ensure you select the appropriate course to indicate you are applying for the studentship.

Supporting information and documents

As part of your application, you will need to write a personal statement that sets out your experience, suitability for doctoral study, and motivation for applying to study on the QMU PhD programme.

As part of your application, you will need to provide:

  • your PhD research proposal;
  • copies of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s);
  • confirmation of your English language ability (if required); and
  • copies of two letters of reference.

You will be able to upload these supporting documents as part of the application process. This is an important part of the admissions process, and without seeing supporting documents tutors will not have enough information to make a decision on your application. 

PhD Research Proposal

All applicants to the QMU PhD programme must provide a proposal for research that has academic merit and is capable of generating new knowledge. We will use your research proposal to check how well you understand the research process

Your PhD research proposal should:

  • be around 1000 words long;
  • summarise what the research is about;
  • summarise your background and the skills you will bring to the project;
  • set out why the research is important, making reference to current literature;
  • identify provisional research questions; and
  • suggest how the research questions can be investigated.

Please note that the research proposal must be written in your own words and should NOT include text that has been copied from books or articles. This is considered plagiarism and will lead to the automatic rejection of your application. In some cases, academic reviewers may submit research proposals to Turnitin in order to verify the legitimacy of the proposed research.

Qualifications (certificates and transcripts)

Please upload copies of your degree certificates and transcripts for any undergraduate or Masters degrees that you have completed or are about to complete.

Evidencing English language ability

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an IELTS certificate or have completed a degree which was delivered and assessed in English.

Only valid IELTS certificates are accepted as evidence of English language capability.  You need a score of 6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in each element).  IELTS certificates are valid for two years after the test date.

If you completed a degree, at a non-UK institution, that was delivered and assessed in English, then you will need to provide a formal letter from the institution, on headed paper, stating that your degree was delivered and assessed in English. 

If your documents are in any language other than English then they will need to be accompanied by a formal certified translation into English, by either the awarding institution or a sworn translator.

References Two academic references are required.

Referees must provide your reference in the form of a formal letter on headed paper. The reference must be dated and signed (and ideally stamped). Please note that we may contact your referee to verify the reference letter prior to it being accepted.

Referee contact details should include a professional email account. Please do not provide personal email addresses for referees (such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo), as these will not be accepted.  


The deadline for applying to the Applied Research Collaborative Studentship is 4pm 26 June 2020.

Apply Now




Please contact the lead supervisor Dr Anthony Schrag on aschrag@qmu.ac.uk if you have any questions or wish to have further information about the topic or studentship.


Please contact Admissions@qmu.ac.uk if you have any queries about the application process.


Please contact GraduateSchool@qmu.ac.uk if you have any queries about studying for a PhD at QMU.

Further Information

ARCS Studentships: ARCS provide opportunities for doctoral students to gain first hand professional experience outside the university environment. The support provided by both an HEI and non-HEI supervisor enhances the employment-related skills and training a research student gains during the course of their award. The Applied Research Collaborative Studentships (ARCS) funds doctoral research projects that are developed in collaboration with external organisations across creative, heritage, third and business sectors in Scotland. The student will therefore work closely with the industry partner - Alchemy Film & Arts in Hawick - and be based the Centre for Communication, Cultural and Media Studies at Queen Margaret University and affiliated with the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at Glasgow University. Support, training and development opportunities will be offered by both the HEIs as well as the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities.    

Supervisors & Partners:
Dr. Anthony Schrag
(Senior Lecturer in Arts Management and Cultural Policy - Media, Communications and Performing Art, Queen Margaret University): Dr Schrag is the Programme Leader of the MA Arts Festivals and Cultural Management and Co-programme leader of the MA Applied Arts and Social Practice. He is a practising artist and researcher who has worked nationally and internationally, including residencies in Iceland, USA, Canada, Pakistan, Finland, The Netherlands and South Africa, among others. He works in a participatory manner, and central to his practice is a `discussion about the place of art in a social context. His general research overview explores art within a social realm, and examines how ‘art’ and ‘culture’ is supported in wider institutional frameworks. He is specifically interested in exploring the relationship between artists, institutions and the public, looking at the productive nature of ‘conflict’. Other research interests include the history of participatory practices (Socially Engaged Art/Community Art/Dialogic practices, etc) as well as how this type of practice is ‘professionalised’. His current research has includes the development of the Rural Art Network (Scotland) supported by Creative Scotland and 12 rural art organisations within the UK. 

Dr. Melanie Selfe
(Lecturer in Cultural Policy – Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow): Dr Selfe is the Programme Leader of the Centre’s MSc in Creative Industries and Cultural Policy. Her research centres on the organisations, infrastructure, policies and information networks that enable access to and participation within the cultural and creative sphere. Key areas of interest include geographic variations in creative sector policy and practice; film policy and art cinema history, with a particular focus on specialist film exhibition; and the role of amateur and professional status in the production, consumption and criticism of the arts. She conducts research on both historical and contemporary topics and has expertise in archival work, reception analysis, audience research and organisational ethnography. She has previously been Co-Investigator on an AHRC supported study examining another Creative Scotland funded RFO – Cultural Enterprise Office.

Alchemy Film & Arts:
Alchemy Film & Arts is a cultural organisation invested in film as a means of generating discussion, strengthening community, and stimulating creative thought. It brings the highest quality experimental film to Hawick and the Scottish Borders, celebrating artistic excellence through a diverse range of year-round events – including exhibitions, commissions, workshops, residencies and an internationally renowned annual film festival. Founded in 2010 by Dr Richard Ashrowan, Alchemy has grown to be an enduring fixture in the Hawick landscape. It is one of 121 organisations to receive regular funding from Creative Scotland and the only organisation to receive such funding in the Borders. In summer 2019, the organisation launched Film Town – a community filmmaking initiative working with local partners to deliver training and development in the form of workshops, screenings, and an open-access common room. It currently employs two full-time staff (which significantly expands during the film festival) and has the capacity to support a PhD researcher, both within the town and organisation in general, but also to provide space within their offices.