Department for Education: Data Access and Engagement Programme

Status: Active

Streamlining data access

The DfE is committed to making more research-ready data assets available for accredited researchers to access for approved public-good research. Currently, more than half of all new applications to access DfE administrative data are approved by the DfE for access through the ONS Secure Research Service using DfE legislation. This programme will facilitate the DfE to share more data with the ONS Secure Research Service using the legal gateway provided by the Digital Economy Act.

Using the Digital Economy Act will mean research project approval will be managed through the Research Accreditation Service (rather than DfE) which will help to streamline access for accredited researchers. Where data cannot be shared through the ONS Secure Research Service under the Digital Economy Act, project approval will be governed by the DfE Data Sharing Service under existing DfE legislation.

The DfE will develop and deliver transparent processes to support this that are compliant with data access and protection legislation.

Maximising impact through engagement

The DfE will engage and share information with research bodies and academia around data opportunities and policy needs. This will fill gaps in the wider research ecosystem and connect data, researchers and policy needs. Using tools such as the departmental Areas of Research Interest the team will hold roundtable meetings for academics, policy teams and other interested parties to share and learn from each other. These activities aim to clarify research priorities and avoid duplication of activity thereby maximising the value of linked education data and making research more policy relevant and impactful.

The programme also expects to include a strand of public engagement to build and maintain the public’s trust in those using the data. The DfE want to enable a public voice to be reflected in the research process. This may include introducing insight and research questions that reflect the services and opportunities people would like to see arising from data and research activity.


This programme is not specifically funding the linkage of any new data. However, the DfE is continuing to make data available to accredited researchers via the ONS Secure Research Service. Accredited researchers will need to submit a successful application to access data.

Datasets already made available by the DfE include:

  • Growing Up in England
  • Longitudinal Education Outcomes
  • Grading and Admissions Data England.


Project details

Project leads: Alaster Smith and Gary Connell  

Funded value: £1,080,000 (full economic cost)

Duration: January 2023 – December 2025

This project is funded via the ADR UK research-ready data and access fund, a dedicated fund for commissioning research using newly linked administrative data, in consultation with the former Research Commissioning Board (RCB). This project is part of the ADR England portfolio. Details of the funding grant awarded for this project can also be found on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Gateway to Research platform.

Categories: Data linkage programmes, ADR England, Office for National Statistics, Children & young people, Crime & justice, Health & wellbeing, Housing & communities, Inequality & social inclusion, World of work

Share this: