Urban Big Data Centre

The Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) is jointly funded by the ESRC and the University of Glasgow (UKRI ES/L011921/1), and is currently in its second phase (UKRI) of activity. As an ESRC investment, it promotes the accessibility, use and upskilling around data to tackle social inequalities. UBDC launched in 2014 with workpackages focussing on Transport, Sustainability, Housing and Education, with Urban Governance and Urban Sensing & Analytics being added at the beginning of the second phase, and as a necessary response to circumstances, Urban Impacts of COVID-19 in early 2020.  Work in each domain promotes the use of big  and novel data, for innovative research, with the aim of improving social, economic and environmental well-being in our cities. The first phase of UBDC yielded 176 publications, 79 partnerships, 416 engagement activities, 55 policy related outputs, 19 databases/ models and 22 software/ technical products (see Research Fish for further details).

The Education & Skills Workpackage has always centred on educational disadvantage, or marginalisation, embedded within place, its separate strands exploring Secondary Schools, Further Education, Higher Education and wider Learning City frameworks for educational inclusion in regional contexts.

The workpackage team consists of Prof Catherine Lido, alongside Prof Mike Osborne, Prof Keith KintreaDr Muir Houston and our Research Fellow Dr Phil Mason. We are complemented by three funded studentships for Colin Mack, Brittney Murphy and Barry Black.

We have two affiliated projects which featured in recent UBDC news blogs: VisNET, which evaluates virtual networking to support early-career women in engineering and technology in academic, and Gendered Journeys in STEM, which explores gendered inequalities in India, Rwanda and the UK using diverse data strands.

A large accomplishment of Phase 1 was the creation of the integrated Multimedia City Data Project, UBDC’s first ‘open data product’, which is accessible via ubdc.ac.uk and was featured in our recent Data Dives webinar series (to be launched as an educational resource in early 2021). This work included a survey of over 1500 households, supplemented by a one-day travel diary, a subset of GPS data collected over one week, and Lifelogging Camera images, collected over a 48-hour period. These components were contextualised with a year’s worth of social media capture, as may be accessed from the UBDC searchable Twitter Dashboard.

Following a large-scale review of existing measures we created the Understanding Glasgow Survey, which assessed attitudes, literacies and behaviours in the following areas: Education & skills, Sustainability, Transport, Cultural & civic participation, and ICT & technology. The survey was collected via stratified random postcode sampling (by Ipsos Mori), and yielded 2,095 useable survey responses from adults aged from 16 to 102 years (average age, 49.42 years), 45.7% of whom were female. Part of this work included operationalising UNESCO Learning City indicators as far as possible using survey and administrative measures, and has led to the academic outputs listed below (e.g., Lido et al., 2016; Lido et al., 2018), as well as extensive community engagement and impact (notably the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences held at IKEA, and MossFest in Mugdock Country Park). Finally, team members have made expert contributions at international conferences in Bali (Indonesia), St Petersburg (Russia) and Izmir (Turkey), and, most notably, have sat on UNESCO’s expert panel on Learning City Metrics (held in Singapore in 2019), and contributed to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Big Data conference in collaboration with Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018. Lifelong Learning.

However, the Educational Disadvantage and Place Workpackage within UBDC extends far beyond iMCD-related data, as the team continues to work on data acquisition and producing impactful outputs using datasets that are securely held in the eDRIS National Safe Haven, namely secondary school (provided by ScotXed), Further Education (Scottish Funding Council) and Higher Education (Higher Education Statistics Agency) datasets, some of which are linked to other data sources, such as area deprivation (SIMD) and public access to greenspace.

In terms of educational inequalities in schools, we have produced some initial findings using Greater Glasgow schools data, including the British Council Impact project. In addition, Barry Black’s PhD-related work has featured heavily in the recent policy debate about SQA exam results. Barry’s research on the algorithm used to moderate exam results this year featured heavily in the press and in policy. His research featured as part of the Scottish Parliament’s evidence into the issue. He has continued to offer expertise and commentary regarding the 2021 exam diet. This has included articles targeted at a range of audiences in publication such as The Daily Record, The Scotland on Sunday and TES Scotland.

Our team’s final strand of research extends beyond formal educational administrative datasets, and their potential linkages, to the UNESCO framework of transforming Learning Cities.  Some of our aforementioned iMCD publications illustrate learning city inclusion by triangulating novel data strands, for instance to explore learning engagement of older learners in Glasgow in Lido et al. (2016), in particular in the context of greenspace (Lido et al., 2020). However, more recently our Learning Cities work has led to the publication of several policy briefing papers in the area of Digital Inclusion (Lido, Hirsu & Wessels, In Press), and Sustainable Learning Cities (Osborne & Hernandez, 2020), which provided the background for the 2019 Fourth International Conference on Learning Cities (Medellin, Colombia).

More recently the strand has been producing open source blogs and webinars on the COVID-19 crisis and potential post-COVID-19 recovery in learning cities. For example, we considered the potentially widening digital inequalities in our piece “New ways of engaging during lockdown: turning to the digital at different costs” (Lido & Hirsu, 2020), and, through our partnership with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and the PASCAL International Observatory, our ongoing work in the area of health and wellbeing in cities gave rise to our article “Promoting mental health and well-being in EccoWell2 Communities” (Kearns & Lido, 2020).  UBDC’s fruitful collaboration with UNESCO and PASCAL is best illustrated by the recorded Webinar series on Learning City challenges for COVID-19 recovery, each of which attracted approximately 500 global participants, and gave rise to an accompanying summary paper. for instance, “The challenge of measurement, planning and evaluation in learning cities”, moderated by Prof Catherine Lido and with closing remarks by Prof Mike Osborne.

Our workpackage continues to build upon our strong work advocating #LearningInclusion in all forms of learning throughout the lifecourse, including #LifewideLearning, as well as linking with our workpages in UBDC in the area of housing and transport. We continue to create partnerships such as that in Data Literacy with our #LifeinData project partners. Our work calls for a ‘blurring of the lines’ between the qualitative and quantitative realms, the adoption of big and novel approaches, reaching across disciplinary boundaries, and tapping underused data, to triangulate diverse data strands and explore new stories of place-embedded educational inequalities, contextualised with linked and often naturally occurring data. In this way, we continue to complement our existing administrative data with other data from social media, social networks and lived experiences, particularly in the areas of digital inclusion, intersectional, particularly gendered, inequalities and place-based inequalities in education.

For more information on our workpackage within UBDC, and the wider work of the School of Education at the University of Glasgow, please email Catherine.Lido@glasgow.ac.uk or Phil.Mason@glasgow.ac.uk

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 HoustonDr 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.


Edited Books

Kintrea, K. and Madgin, R. (Eds.) (2019) Transforming Glasgow: Beyond the Post-Industrial City. Policy Press: Bristol. ISBN 9781447349778


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. ISBN 9780197506707 (doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197506707.013.25)

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.

Mason, P. (2018) 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.

Lido, C. (2017) Lifewide Literacies and Big, Novel Data.

Hirsu, L. (2017) Students’ digital practices in post-digital environments.

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

Thakuriah, P. et al. (2014) 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, staff in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow  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 and  Prof 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.

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