A new Urban Big Data Research Centre (UBDRC) at the University of Glasgow


The UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, announced the release of £14 million to fund the second phase of the ESRC's investment in Big Data. At a speech at the High Performance Computing and Big Data Conference, Mr Willetts outlined what steps are being taken to strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in Big Data.

Some £14m has been given to three Big Data centres (at University of Glasgow, at University College London and the University of Leeds, and at the University of Essex) and an additional £14m has been provided to these centres in capital funding from various ESRC sources to a total value of approximately £28m.

At the University of Glasgow the effort has been led by Professor Piyushimita Thakuriah supported by many colleagues.

Within this work there are a number of Urban Research Projects (URPs) once of which concerns PASCAL directly. This is the following project with Mike Osborne, Co-Director of PASCAL and Keith Kintrea from Urban Studies in Glasgow as PIs. Much other work within the new centre will of course be of interest too.

URP3: Educational Disadvantage and Place - Unequal educational outcomes are a key policy concern, reflecting vital national questions about the competitiveness of the UK and Scottish economies, and about social mobility and social justice. Educational inequalities exhibit strong spatial dimensions, even within the Scottish comprehensive education system which has been less subject than elsewhere in the UK to neoliberal reform on grounds of ‘choice’. In its 2013-16 Corporate Plan, Education Scotland has highlighted place-based differences in educational outcomes as a key factor ‘holding Scotland back’. At urban level these themes are frequently wrapped together in the concept of the Learning City or Region. The project aims to develop new understandings of the drivers of spatial educational inequalities, including neighbourhood factors, to inform educational and urban policy. The UBDRC provides a powerful means to explore these drivers by offering access to linked data on the learning trajectories of individual young people, their post-school destinations, the households and neighbourhoods they live in, and the educational institutions they attend. It will provide the means to consider how educational disadvantage is influenced by residential segregation processes (including the divisions created by resurgent private renting – see URP5), by ‘neighbourhood effects’ across the spectrum of urban areas, and by spatial planning and urban policy. The project will require the integration of: local authority, Scottish Government, and Education Scotland data on the learners and their schools; DWP and SFC data on the educational and labour market destinations of school leavers; HE data from UCAS and HESA on courses, qualifications and post-HE destinations; neighbourhood data from Census and other sources; housing data from Registers of Scotland, social landlords and others. Links will be made also to the UNESCO International Platform for Learning Cities, for which Osborne is Expert Adviser. The platform provides a range of metrics but this project would aim to go beyond these, feeding into the Urban Indicators project (Methods Research Project (MRP)3) in the process.

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