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Leveraging Big Data for Impact: Harnessing data analytics for the VCSE sector

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


Project Description:

Are you interested in data analytics/data architecture and want to do a PhD that is fully funded and will make a direct impact on society? If so this PhD in data analytics/data architecture could be for you.

The Problem

Data is widely seen as a core weakness for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector. In contrast to the private sector, which has well established data collection practices, the VCSE sector struggles to produce accurate, reliable, and timely data. This makes it difficult for government to develop long-term strategies that enable the sector to maximise its potential. Consequently the sector is unable to articulate its capacity and needs to policy-makers and funders, who in turn lack data to decide where to place limited resources. This need is recognised by Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS ) National Data Strategy, which has identified improving sector data as a key strategic priority.

The Solution

The National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory seeks to become a trusted, independent and reliable data source, with associated analytical capability, on sector health and emerging trends. The fundamental aim is to support data collection and analysis within the VCSE sector to aid decision-making. The Observatory has developed strong partnerships with many key bodies in the sector who are working with it to improve the data about the sector. The work we have been doing has already featured on the national news (BBC 1) and is directly feeding into key government bodies, such as the DCMS. We are looking to further develop this work through two PhDs that will conduct in-depth research on the theoretical insights and practical outcomes that will impact the sector.

The Observatory is offering two funded PhD studentships to develop its work. The proposed PhD projects will focus on in-depth investigation into the use of data within the VCSE sector, focusing on two core strands:

(a) the analysis of data that will drive insights into the sector and will serve as the foundation for evidence-based decision-making for the organisations including the use of relevant descriptive and predictive tools and processes; and

(b) the development of the technical data architecture that would involve big data technologies such as data warehouses/data lakes, APIs for storage technologies, and APIs for third-party analytical tools.

The two strands will, combined, form the underlying framework for the collection, storage, and analysis of data.

The Observatory is keen to receive PhD applications that address either one of the two strands, or that overlap both areas. The successful applicants would join the Observatory that aims to drive forward-looking, collaborative, and interdisciplinary research in the VCSE sector.  You will develop research that intersect ideas from the disciplinary areas of technology and business, and will therefore be supervised by an interdisciplinary team comprised of faculty from the Nottingham Business School and the Department of Computer Science, School of Science and Technology.  You will also have the opportunity to have a placement with one of our partner organisations such as DCMS, the Bank of England, Pro Bono Economics, NCVO, the Directory of Social Change working on joint projects, developing unique insights into how this form of interdisciplinary academic research can impact practice.

If you are interested, please contact Professor Daniel King ( for an informal conversation about the project.

Entry qualifications

To be awarded a PhD, candidates will need to complete a complex and advanced research project that focuses on the development of novel methodologies to facilitate utilisation and analysis of data. Specific background skills of candidates include:

  • Transferable skills e.g. communication skills, past experience in working within teams, etc.
  • Technical and/or management background – a postgraduate degree in computer science/maths/statistics or business/management (with a specific focus on business intelligence and analytics)
  • An interest in the VCSE sector would be an advantage but is not essential

Through the PhD you will have the opportunities to develop skills and research in areas such as: applied big data analytics; data-driven decision-making; statistical modelling; machine learning.

The successful candidate must have knowledge and experience of the Voluntary, Community and Enterprise Sector gained through professional or volunteering roles in charities, community organisations or social enterprises. Having a masters would be an advantage.

How to apply

Please visit our how to apply page for a step-by-step guide and make an application.

Application deadline: Monday 3 July 2023

Fees and funding

This is a fully-funded PhD opportunity. It is funded through the Observatory.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

Still need help?

Prof Daniel King
+44 (0)115 84 82694