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External Funding Opportunities


Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) Department for Education (DfE) Highlight Notice


DEADLINE: 10 March 2017

Link to call information:


Background and scope

The UK has world-leading data resources for social and economic research, and this provides a huge opportunity to address some of the most pressing challenges facing society. This highlight notice is funded by the Department for Education to provide funding for grants of up to 18 months duration to conduct research through the secondary analysis of such data on themes of interest to the Department (which includes the Government Equalities Office). Proposals have an overall limit of up to £200,000 (100 per cent fEC) and this funding will be allocated through a ring-fenced pot. Up to two projects will be funded and will be considered at the meetings of the ESRC Grant Assessment Panel (GAP) July 2017.


Proposals submitted to this highlight notice must address at least one of the themes outlined below. Proposals fit to one of these themes must be clearly evident within the body of the proposal otherwise it will not be possible to consider it against the highlight notice. In these instances proposals which meet the remit of the main scheme will still be considered, in competition with others, as part of that scheme. An indication of the type of research of interest under each theme is also outlined below. However, applicants can propose other research topics that fall within the broader theme.



  • Teacher quality/subject specialism and the link to social mobility; what works in recruitment and retention of teachers and leaders
  • Social mobility: regional differences in early years, school choice and Higher Education attainment
  • The gender pay gap - using household level data to understand the within household GPG
    • How does time from birth to return to work vary across the income distribution?
    • Within households that have a child and a parent returns to work is gender or pay level the biggest determinant of which parent returns? For example: is it always the men who return, irrespective of pay?
    • Further education - choice and quality, what works?


Differences in the highlight notice

This highlight notice relates to the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) and no other ESRC scheme. Applicants should make clear whether they are applying to this highlight call and which theme(s) their proposal is addressing within the case for support and should prefix their project title with ‘DfE’.


Due to this highlight notice requiring research on specific thematic areas related to education, as well as DfE’s aim to promote their own data resources, there is no requirement to use ESRC-funded data resources or infrastructure. Some resources which are likely to be particularly useful in investigating these areas include:

  • National Pupil Database (NPD)
  • Longitudinal Surveys: including the first and second cohorts of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England; the Millennium Cohort Study and Understanding Society
  • Labour Force Survey
  • Family Resources Survey.

However, the use of any secondary data resource is acceptable provided applicants are able to access it (proof of this right should be included in proposals where access is difficult). Proposals which make use of the ESRC-funded resources detailed in Appendix 1 of the main specification which are required as part of the main call will be considered more generally against this call should they not be funded as part of the highlight notice. However, should proposals be submitted which only utilise resources outside of those listed in Appendix 1 of the main specification, these proposals can only be considered against the highlight notice and not against the main call, regardless of quality level.


As with the main call, proposals which seek to utilise resources through the Administrative Data Research Network or Business and Local Government Data Research Centres should outline the case for accessing these data through these infrastructures regardless of if a proposal is being submitted against the highlight notice. Please see the guidance detailed as part of the call specification and Je-S guidance in the main call. 


All other SDAI scheme requirements, such as the inclusion of an early career researcher, detailed in the specification (PDF, 188Kb) and Je-S guidance (PDF, 182Kb) of the SDAI Open Call are also required for the highlight notice. Please refer to this documentation for further information.



This highlight notice applies to the Grant Assessment Panel (GAP) meeting in July 2017. Around two projects will be funded from this meeting. Due to the requirement for proposals for this highlight to go these specific GAP meetings, there is a deadline for the receipt of proposals under the highlight of 16.00 on 10 March 2017. Therefore the submission period will run from 20 December 2016-10 March 2017 for the 2017 highlight competition). Proposals submitted for the highlight notice received after these dates will not be considered for the funding available as part of the highlight but may still be considered (in open competition) for SDAI funding as part of the main call if its remit is met (see information above and in the SDAI open call specification). Proposals funded through the highlight notice should start in September 2017 (for a period of up to 18 months).  

About Us

We aim to support public policy research across Cambridge University, working with colleagues in science, social science, the arts and humanities, to apply new thinking to public policy problems and promote research and analysis into the public policy process. We hope to connect and raise the profile of existing public policy related work across the University and support collaborative research that includes policy development in a range of subject areas. 

Contact us if you are interested in joining the initiative or would like to know more. 

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Nov 09, 2017

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Nov 24, 2017

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