Public Release: 

Technology boost for math skills

Economic & Social Research Council

The demand from employers for employees with skills and confidence in using quantitative methods (QM) is high and growing. The internet, advances in computing power and the growing 'data deluge' have made it more important than ever to ensure that all social science undergraduates receive the best teaching possible to develop these skills. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), in partnership with Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the British Academy, are delighted to announce twenty new and innovative projects that aim to develop skills in this area.

The twenty projects include a range of activities including the development of online and interactive teaching resources, videos, and podcasts using the best available technology in innovative ways. The use of technology, the web and computing power have not only revolutionised the amount and quality of data available, but have made analysis simpler and faster. By exploring how to use these tools with students and sharing experiences of best practice through a programme of seminars and workshops student understanding of the value and need for QM should increase. As well as raising student interests, undergraduate skills in this area will improve, resulting in more post graduate students developing more advanced methods. As graduates with quantitative skills are increasingly sought by employers across all sectors - academia, government, charities and business - this will also help fill that gap.

The aims of the projects are to facilitate QM curriculum development, to further embed QM into the undergraduate timetable, and to expand the number and quality of QM teachers in universities. The awards form part of a wider initiative to build capacity in quantitative methods in the social sciences at undergraduate level, and contribute to the development of science, technology, engineering and maths skills across the social sciences. These projects involve sixty-seven people across twenty-seven universities and learned societies:

  • Dr Ailsa Henderson, University of Edinburgh, A blended learning course in quantitative methods for UK sociology, social policy and political science undergraduates

  • Dr Andrew Channon, University of Southampton, Enhancing Undergraduate Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences through Curriculum Change and Increasing Researcher Use of Large Scale Social Surveys in the Social Sciences through Teaching and Support

  • Dr Emily Clough, Newcastle University, Integrating Quantitative Methods into the Politics Curriculum: a seminar-based approach

  • Dr John Chamberlain, Loughborough University, An investigation into the impact of mapping technology on undergraduate student's self-reported experience of quantitative research methods teaching

  • Dr Julie Scott-Jones, Manchester Metropolitan, 'No More Pointy-Clicking, Numbers Stuff: Building Staff Quantitative Skills.'

  • Dr Kandy Woodfield, NatCen, Building capacity in quantitative methods for social science - Survey Skills Quantitative Methods Lecturer Programme (SSQMLP)

  • Dr Karen Bullock, University of Surrey, Curriculum Innovation: Integrating Quantitative Methods and Substantive Teaching for HE Level One Sociology Students

  • Dr Mark Brown, University of Manchester, Teaching quantitative methods in disciplinary context: integrating quantitative method and evidence into the Social Science undergraduate curriculum.

  • Dr Richard Harris, University of Bristol, Supporting undergraduate teaching in quantitative geography: making the connections between schools, universities and the workplace and Understanding data, understanding society: using quantitative narratives to embed evidence, argument and data within the undergraduate curriculum

  • Dr Sin Yi Cheung, Cardiff University, Training Quantitative Social Science Teachers in the UK: Developing an International Pedagogic Collaborative Network for Quantitative Methods

  • Dr Stephen Fisher, University of Oxford, Workshops for Teachers of Quantitative Methods for Social Science Undergraduates

  • Dr Timothy Grant, Aston University, Curriculum Innovation: Integrating QM into undergraduate programmes in Linguistics in the School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University

  • Dr Wendy Olsen, University of Manchester, Patterns in Politics & Society: Promoting the Enrichment of Undergraduate Teaching with Quantitative Methods

  • Professor Donald Forrester, University of Bedfordshire, Increasing the Capacity for Quantitative Teaching in Social Work Undergraduate Courses; and Making Social Work Count: A National Curriculum Development Programme Pioneered in Three Universities

  • Professor Malcolm Williams, Cardiff University, Embedding QM in Social Science Teaching

  • Professor Stephen Gorard, University of Birmingham, The Research Design Basis for Undergraduate Quantitative Methods (QM) Teaching

  • Professor Stephen McKay, University of Birmingham, Understanding Society Through Secondary Data Analysis: Quantitative Methods over the Undergraduate Life Course


Notes for editors:

1. Quantitative methods categorise and measure phenomena. Early achievements of social scientists using QM included understanding the causes of poverty better through a new technique - the social survey - and determining how accurate. Social Science by Numbers: Careers with quantitative methods descriptions and analyses of populations that were far too big to measure could be obtained through taking smaller, manageable random samples.

2. The Quantitative Methods Initiative aims to:

  • create a comprehensive and co-ordinated training framework in quantitative methods at each level of the educational lifecourse
  • Integrate training to create a national training infrastructure which builds quantitative skills development at each stage of the educational lifecourse
  • create a framework which is flexible enough to meet the particular skill requirements of individual researchers.
  • Final Report: Strategic Adviser for Quantitative Methods: Proposals to support and improve the teaching of quantitative research methods at undergraduate level in the UK (PDF, 330Kb)

3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

4. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research to meet the diverse needs of students, the economy and society. Our responsibilities are to develop policies, distribute funds, safeguard quality and assure the proper stewardship of public money. We work closely with universities, colleges and other partners to achieve excellence and impact in education and research, and to provide opportunities for all those who have the ability to benefit from higher education. For the academic year 2011-12, HEFCE will distribute £6,507 million of public money to 130 universities and higher education colleges, and 124 directly funded further education colleges.

5. The British Academy, established by Royal Charter in 1902, is the national body that champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It aims to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement across the UK and internationally. Through its new Languages and Quantitative Skills Programme, the Academy is seeking to build capacity and strengthen skills in languages and quantitative skills. For more information, please visit

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