Urban Big Data Centre

UBDC was established in 2014. In its first phase - up to January 2019 - it was funded by the ESRC as part of the UK’s national data infrastructure, focusing on developing big data resources and urban analytics methods for a wide range of potential applications and users, including place-based approaches in Education.

UBDC aims in this phase were to promote the use of big data and innovative methods to improve social, economic and environmental well-being in cities.

It has delivered analyses which have had demonstrable impacts on public policy, society and industry, by undertaking world-leading inter-disciplinary research in the social sciences and other disciplines, and also by working closely with partners from government, industry and the third sector. UBDC has also worked to enhance the quality of urban big data and methods for urban analytics to support the work of others, and provides critical analysis of the value of these for understanding urban conditions

In the field of Education, its focus is upon place-based approaches to exploring educational disadvantage. The most significant research project in this phase of UBDC was the Integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD), a multi-strand data infrastructure involving detailed person-level self-reported and sensed information, with additional Internet, remote sensing, crowdsourced and environmental data sources that measure the social, economic and physical context of the wider metro area. This included a multi-topic household and person-level survey; travel and activity diaries; a privacy and personal device sensitivity survey; a rich set of GPS trajectory data; accelerometer, light intensity and other personal environment sensor data from wearable devices; an image data collection at approximately 7-second resolution of participants daily lives; multiple forms of text-based and multimedia Internet data; Very High Resolution satellite and LiDAR data, and data from transport, weather and air quality sensors

In a second phase from 2019-2024 UBDC is supported via transition centre funding from the ESRC.  Our Education & Skills research in this phase examines how urban educational systems and environments - including home environments - shape attainment, skills development and productivity into employment.

It extends UBDC’s existing work on educational disadvantage and place, examining more broadly how urban educational systems shape attainment, skills development and productivity into employment, as well as how the home and educational environments combine within an urban setting to shape educational attainment.

We are producing new knowledge on attainment gaps and key transitions in school, FE and HE student attainment and skilled employment with a place-based (neighbourhood and deprivation) emphasis, using data for widespread applications within educational policy at national and local levels. For instance, we are casting new light on the relatively neglected area of educational trajectories within FE, and the extent to which these contribute to filling regional skills gaps in key sectors such as engineering and construction. We are also developing more robust indicators for Learning Cities, enabling more rigorous comparisons of cities.

We are capitalising on the extensive data collections compiled on educational attainment and trajectories, linked to spatially referenced administrative datasets to examine policy-relevant questions. Our data will not only yield more nuanced findings about current, active research aspects of educational disadvantage and place (e.g., the influence of neighbourhood deprivation on educational attainment), but will also enable us to carry out analyses that can only be effectively achieved with our big datasets (e.g., exploring causality and accounting for endogeneity, the habitual problem in the interpretation of neighbourhood-based research). Our work also benefits from the networks of connections we have built with key stakeholders.

Our work builds on the team’s expertise in theories and methodologies. It seeks to develop an interdisciplinary collaboration with education policy actors in Scotland. addressing research questions within four priority Thematic Areas:

The Education team also plays a role in UBDC’s extensive data service activities. The centre has collected over 1,000 open data sets on urban areas in the UK, and offers a free web-based service for researchers to access open and safeguarded data. A catalogue of these datasets is found at this link. In Education this includes the Pupils in Scotland Census, Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data on admissions to HE, and various components of the iMCD. Overall as of September 2020, UBDC has 904 data service users from 33 countries with 2636 dataset requests. Of these 527 requests have been for iMCD data, which comprises, survey, travel diary, GPS, Lifelogging and Twitter data.

PI and Co-Is - International Collaborators

Director of UBDC and PI: Professor Nick Watson
Education Co-Is: Professor Catherine Lido (Associate Director), Professor Keith Kintrea, Dr Muir Houston, Dr Phil Mason and Professor Michael Osborne

PhD Students: Barry Black, Colin Mack

Start and End Date

1 February 2014 to 31 January 2024

Related Publications

The following are publications from our Education researchers


Hong, J. , Thakuriah, P. (V.)Mason, P. and Lido, C. (2020) The role of numeracy and financial literacy skills in the relationship between information and communication technology use and travel behaviour. Travel Behaviour and Society, 21, pp. 257-264.

Lido, C. , Mason, P. , Hong, J. , Gorash, N.Anejionu, O. C.D. and Osborne, M. (2020) Integrated multimedia city data: exploring learning engagement and green space in Glasgow. Built Environment (in press)

Thakuriah, P. (V.)Sila-Nowicka, K.Hong, J. , Boididou, C.Osborne, M. , Lido, C. and McHugh, A. (2020) Integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD): a composite survey and sensing approach to understanding urban living and mobility. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 80, 101427.

Lido, C. , Reid, K. and Osborne, M. (2019) Lifewide Learning in the City: Novel big data approaches to exploring learning with large-scale surveys, GPS & social media. Oxford Review of Education, 45(2), pp. 279-295.

Anejionu, O. C.D.Thakuriah, P. (V.)McHugh, A.Sun, Y. , Mcarthur, D. , Mason, P. and Walpole, R. (2019) Spatial urban data system: a cloud-enabled big data infrastructure for social and economic urban analytics. Future Generation Computer Systems, 98, pp. 456-473.

Anejionu, O. C.D.Sun, Y. , Thakuriah, P. (V.)McHugh, A. and Mason, P. (2019) Great Britain transport, housing, and employment access datasets for small-area urban area analytics. Data In Brief, 27, 104616. 

Borkowska, K. and Osborne, M.(2018) Locating the fourth helix: rethinking the role of civil society in developing smart learning cities. International Review of Education, 64(3), pp. 355-372

Lido, C. , Osborne, M. , Livingston, M.Thakuriah, P. and Sila-Nowicka, K. (2016) Older learning engagement in the modern city. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 35(5), pp. 490-508.(doi:10.1080/02601370.2016.1224037)

Osborne, M. (2014) Learning cities 2020. Hungarian Educational Research Journal, 4(3),

Osborne, M. (2014) Why lifelong learning and why learning cities? Pedagogy, 86(7), pp. 1067-1077.



Madgin, R. & Kintrea, K. (Eds) (2019) Transforming Glasgow. London: Policy Press (in press)


Book Sections

Lido, C. , Reid, K. and Osborne, M.(2020) Blurring boundaries: exploring the potential for ‘Big Data’ to address inequalities in lifewide learning engagement. In: Slowey, M., Schuetze, H. G. and Zubrzycki, T. (eds.) Inequality, Innovation and Reform in Higher Education: Challenges of Migration and Ageing Populations. Series: Lifelong learning book series (25). Springer: Cham, pp. 265-283

Rowell, C. and Osborne, M. (2020)Beyond schooling: learning cities and adult education in the Global South. In: London, M. (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Second Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford

Osborne, M. , Houston, M. and Lido, C.(2018) The role of big data in elucidating learning cities ancient, present and future. In: Stenger, J. R. (ed.) Learning Cities in Late Antiquity: the Local Dimension of Education. Routledge: London ; New York, pp. 24-46. ISBN 9781138299870

Osborne, M. and Lido, C. (2015) Lifelong learning and big data. In: Gartenschlaeger, U. and Hirsch, E. (eds.) Adult Education in an Interconnected World: Cooperation in Lifelong Learning for Sustainable Development. Series: International perspectives in adult education (71). DVV International: Bonn, pp. 116-125. ISBN 9783942755238


Other Papers

Osborne, M. and Hernandez, S. (2020) Sustainable Learning Cities: Inclusion, Equity and Lifelong Learning. Project Report. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, Hamburg.

Lido, C., Hirsu, L. and Wessels, B. (2019) Learning Cities and Digital Inclusion. Project Report. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, Hamburg.

Lido, C., Reid, K and Osborne, M. (2018) PASCAL Briefing Paper 11 - Big Data, Lifelong Learning and Learning Cities: Promoting city-discourse on social inequalities in learning. http://pobs.cc/1iwpa (Available in English, Korean and Mandarin)

Kintrea, K. (2018) Disadvantage and Place in Scottish Secondary Education. CRADALL Working Paper CR&DALL WP301/2018, CR&DALL, Glasgow (UK). Available at this link.



Black, B. (2020) Unleashing the ‘new normal’ in Scottish schools. Available at



Mason, P. (2018) Educational Trajectories and Place-Based Disadvantage: Looking Deeper and Wider. Available at https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/news-media/2018/february/educational-trajectories-and-place-based-disadvantage-looking-deeper-and-wider/


Reid, K and Lido, C. (2017) Adventures in design and data - how good design took big data to IKEA. Available at https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/news-media/2017/november/adventures-in-design-and-data-how-good-design-took-big-data-to-ikea/

Lido, C. (2017) Lifewide Literacies and Big, Novel Data. Available at https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/news-media/2017/november/lifewide-literacies-and-big-novel-data/

Hirsu, L. (2017) Students’ digital practices in post-digital environments. Available at https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/news-media/2017/october/students-digital-practices-in-post-digital-environments/

Law, R. (2017) UBDC intern provides UCAS application insights. Available at



Thakuriah, P. et al. (2014) Urban life captured through survey, sensors and multimedia.

Available at https://www.ubdc.ac.uk/news-media/2014/september/urban-life-captured-through-survey-sensors-and-multimedia/


Conference Papers and Keynote Presentations

Osborne, M. (2014) Why Lifelong Learning? Why Learning Cities? PASCAL workshop on Cities learning together - Public administration as domain for smart solutions, University of Tampere, 12-13 June 2014.

Osborne, M.  and Lido, C. (2015) The role of big data in exploring and informing lifelong learning, ASEM Forum on LLL, Bali, March 2015. http://pobs.cc/16o4h

Lido, C. (2015) The Urban Big Data Centre’s Research into Literacies Scottish Economic Society Annual Conference, Perth, 15 April 2015, http://pobs.cc/16kcs

Osborne, M. and Lido, C. (2016) Big Data Techniques to Improve Learning Access and Citizen Engagement for Adults in Urban Environments. In: International Conference of Taipei Learning City, Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 2016.

Osborne, M. (2017) ‘The role of Big Data In Learning Cities’, Learning City and Cultural Diversity,  Univerista degli Studi Roma Tre, 16 February 2017

Osborne, M. (2018) Are Smart Cities Learning?, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) Roundtable, Delhi, 6 December 2018

Project News

In 2017, a team of psychologists in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow have used Urban Big Data Centre data from the integrated Multimedia City Data Project (iMCD) to analyse and visualise literacy inequalities in Glasgow. Dr Kate Reid - working with fellow Psychologist, Professor Catherine Lido (UDC Associate Director), and student interns Michaella Drummond and Stefi Hahn – undertook research in the area of ‘Lifewide Literacies’ (e.g. health, environmental, financial and digital literacies). In the blog, Adventures in design and data - how good design took big data to IKEA, they explain the process of using art and design to make research with big data accessible to new audiences…and fun!

Mike Osborne and Catherine Lido, on the basis of their work in the development of learning city indicators and the measurement of learning at urban level have shaped UNESCO’s approach through invited inputs to each of its biennial learning cities conferences (Beijing (2013), Mexico City (2015), Cork (2017) and Medellin (2019)).

Mike Osborne, with Research Assistant, Sergio Hernandez, produced the overarching background paper for the 2019 conference on social inclusion and learning cities. Catherine Lido with Lavinia Hirsu and Bridgette Wessels produced a specific background paper on digital inclusion for the Medellin conference. This work is being used in capacity strengthening of cities in UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC).

In 2019, Catherine Lido was an expert adviser to UNESCO, has offered alternative methods for data collection (GPS and lifelogging) in pursuit of the development of indicators to monitor and evaluate lifelong learning implementation.

In 2020, the work of UBDC concerning measurement and the operationalizing of indicators was incorporated into the second of the series of UNESCO/PASCAL Observatory webinars, Learning Cities’ COVID-19 recovery: from research to practice with the focus. ‘The challenge of measurement, planning and evaluation in learning cities’.

Mike Osborne by virtue of his research into, and mapping of the contribution of universities to lifelong learning was appointed in 2020 as an advisor to a major international UNESCO/International Association of Universities project in this field.

Associated Websites