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Winners of the UK Data Service Dissertation Award 2022

Open to students at UK universities, the UK Data Service Dissertation Award celebrates undergraduate dissertations based on the use of archived data available through the UK Data Service.

This year, Sarah Smith, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol, and Dr Paula Devine, from ARK, Northern Ireland’s Social Policy Hub, were joined Nigel de Noronha as judges. The judging panel reviewed the full dissertations of shortlisted entries before deciding on the three winning entries.

Each of the winners has been awarded a prize of £300.

The winners

Jacqui Evans, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews

Title: The Transition to Adulthood: Investigating changes in experiences of the transition from 1980 to 2015, using a temporal cohort comparison and an analysis of contextual precursors.

Jacqui’s dissertation focuses on the transition to adulthood among millennials, and how their experience differs from older generations. For millennials, marrying, buying a house, having a child, leaving education, and settling into a career – the big five – tend to follow a more complex and convoluted sequence compared to previous generations. Using data from a longitudinal study of adults born in 1989, Next Steps: Sweeps 1-8, 2004-2016, Jacqui examined how these transitions are shaped by individual and social factors, such as gender, socio-economic background and geographical context.

Compared to previous generations, the analysis found a growth in “emerging adults”, who have a delayed transition to adult roles. The delaying in adult commitments is not directly related to socio-economic background, but the group is diverse in terms of some preferring to delay adult roles while others experience individual or structural constraints.

Jan van Heese, School of Education and Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland

Title: An Investigation into Labour’s electoral performance in Scotland and Wales using constitutional issues and valence voting.

Jan’s dissertation investigated Labour’s different electoral performance in Scotland and Wales between 2013 and 2016. Labour has seen a heavy decline in electoral performance in Scotland since 2007, but has remained dominant in Wales. To examine reasons for Labour’s differing electoral performance in these two contexts, the dissertation focused on the varying role of constitutional issues, valence voting, and identity on electoral behaviour.

Analysis of data from Scottish Election Study, 2016 and the Welsh Election Study 2016 showed that both constitutional issues and valence voting were important for explaining Labour’s performance. For instance, the Scottish independence question has led many Scottish voters to vote for the SNP instead of Labour, while Labour in Wales is seen as a party that supported constitutional change.

In Wales, Labour receives positive valence perceptions compared to its competitors. However, in Scotland, Labour is considered incapable of providing a strong Scottish Government. Together, the findings suggest that Labour will continue to suffer electoral failure in Scotland if the independence question is highly salient and it is unable to repair its negative valence reputation.


Christian Wessels, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge 

Title: Who ate my lunch? A statistical investigation of national income inequality and the social work environment in Europe.

Christian’s dissertation explored the impact of income inequality on workplace environments. At the national level, income inequality is correlated with an increase in societal problems such as deteriorating public health, economic slowdown, and an undermining of social cohesion. Increased income inequality within workplaces also seems to undermine cooperation, social support, and perceived fairness among colleagues.

However, the link between national income inequality and the social environment in the workplace has been underexplored. Christian was able to explore the connection using the European Working Conditions Survey from 2015 (EWCS). The analysis indicated that on average, greater income inequality at the national level is associated with increased social support, cooperation, and perceived fairness in the workplace.

In response to this surprising finding, Christian concluded by reviewing potential reason for the relationship, such as whether unequal societies incentivise people to invest in mutually  beneficial social environments at work, or perhaps the increased visibility of rank in more unequal countries spurs cooperation or reduces conflicts of authority.

UK Data Service Dissertation Award 2023

The UK Data Service dissertation award celebrates undergraduate dissertations based on the use of archived data available through the UK Data Service. The award for 2022-2023, will be launched in October 2022.

Be sure to have a look at our previous Dissertation Award winners, as well as some of our past requirements and resources.