Students Staff

26 May 2016

New funds for world-leading study of UK society

Understanding Society

ESRC awards £27.5 million to the Institute for Social and Economic Research to continue the huge panel survey of 100,000 people in the UK, Understanding Society

The Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has been awarded £27.5 million by the Economic and Social Research Council to conduct waves 9-11 of Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS).

Understanding Society is an innovative world-leading study about 21st century UK life and how it is changing. It captures important information about social and economic circumstances, and behaviours and the health of people living in thousands of households. Established in 2009 as a successor to the British Household Panel Survey which began in 1991, Understanding Society data is used by policy makers, by public sector support services, charities and academic researchers to analyse change in society over time.

The new funding will cover three main waves of data collection from over 100,000 people across over 5,000 postcodes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The funding also includes two Innovation Panel studies where researchers will test new ideas in surveying with a smaller selection of the households.

Michaela Benzeval, Professor of Longitudinal Research at the University of Essex and Director of Understanding Society welcomed the new funding:

“This is a really exciting time for Understanding Society. Now, with 10 years of data on changing aspects of people's lives, researchers can unpack how changes in society affect individuals' lives, and help to design better social policies to address long standing social problems. We are also investigating innovative ways of collecting new and different kinds of data to increase our ability to track changes in the lives of individuals and households.”

Heather Laurie, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Essex said:
“The University of Essex is delighted to have been awarded funding for this most prestigious and scientifically important survey tracking how people’s lives are changing over time and helping us understand how social change affects our daily lives. Working in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council, Understanding Society is a unique study providing critical evidence to inform social policies that can improve our life chances, health, and social and economic well-being. The University of Essex looks forward to supporting the work of this ground-breaking study over the coming years”.

For more information on Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study see our website

About the Economic and Social Research Council: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.

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