A student's guide to the UK Data Service

The UK Data Service hold over 8,000 data collections, including both qualitative and quantitative data. Most of this data can be accessed by students as part of their studies and students at a UK institution of higher or further education (UK HE/FE) can register easily using their university or college login.

On this page, students can learn more about some of the data in our collection, where to go find out more and how they can access and download data.

What data are available?

Our data collections include the following types of data.


Our wide range of high quality survey data can be used for varied research projects. Topics covered vary from health and finance to employment and crime. These surveys use representative samples and are repeated regularly. This makes them useful for making estimates at a national level and trends (many are used to inform policy decisions). We can also use individual or household level data to examine patterns within a population such as how people’s circumstances, attitudes and behaviours relate to gender, social class and age.

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Qualitative data

Qualitative data gives you an in-depth description of people’s everyday lives, including their behaviour, beliefs, and emotions. It comes in many forms including interviews, diaries, focus groups, online sources, and images. This data can be coded, then analysed using techniques like thematic analysis or discourse analysis.

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UK census data

The UK census is conducted every 10 years. It is a vital resource for social scientific research and policy development, providing a snapshot of demographic and social life in the UK that helps inform government policy at local and central level. Through the UK Data Service, you can access:

  • Census data aggregated for areas e.g. counts of individuals in certain occupations by local authority.
  • Samples of individual records from the census (similar to data collected directly from a questionnaire).
  • Flow data, which include data on the migration and commuting details of individuals.
  • Boundary datasets and geographic look-up tables that can be used to create maps and geography-based analyse.

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International data

International data series contain socio-economic time series data aggregated to a country or regional level for a range of countries over a substantial time period. Most are annual level, but some are quarterly and monthly. They are updated regularly, giving up-to-date data. These data can be used to compare countries or track progress through time.

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Finding data

To explore our data collections:

  • Visit our find data section to explore popular data collections by data type or to explore data collections by theme.
  • Search our Data Catalogue using keywords and topics.

Accessing data

Our open data collections can be accessed without the need to register. For many data collections, you need to register online before downloading the data. The registration is quick and easy and if you are a student or member of staff at a UK institution of higher or further education (UK HE/FE), you can register your institutional username and password.

Our most sensitive and confidential data are not available to students. These collections can only be accessed through our SecureLab by Approved Researchers.