Professor McCutcheon completed his Bachelors degree with first class honours at Massey University in 1976, and was then appointed to the position of lecturer while undertaking a PhD in metabolic physiology. From 1982 to 1984, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, New York, while the recipient of a Harkness Fellowship.
In 1990 Professor McCutcheon was appointed Head of the Department of Animal Science at Massey University. He served as Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Massey from 1994, becoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1999.
Prior to his appointment to The University of Auckland, Professor McCutcheon had served for four years as Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington. There he oversaw the strategic development of the university, including a 25 percent increase in student numbers, marked financial recovery, large-scale campus development, establishment of new research centres and the merger with Wellington College of Education.
Professor McCutcheon has published extensively in the fields of endocrinology and metabolic physiology, particularly as they apply to the regulation of growth and development in the foetus and newborn and to metabolic expression of genetic merit.
He has served in an advisory capacity to a number of government agencies and producer boards, and was a director or board member of: the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute; the Wellington Regional Economic Development Trust; the Wellington College of Education; the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research; Universitas 21 and U21 Global; the University of Auckland Foundation and the UK and US Friends of The University of Auckland. In 2004-5 he was Chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellor's Committee. He is presently Chair of the Universities New Zealand Research Committee.