Consumer Data Research Centre

Information for Businesses

Following another successful year of the CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme, we are now seeking proposals from businesses for new projects due to commence next spring (2020).  Project proposal forms can be submitted here.

We are aiming to open the application process for Masters students in January 2020 and to encourage applicants from a wide breadth of disciplines and institutions across the UK (including computer science, data science, economics, geography and business analytics). The application process will be facilitated on the CDRC website and you will be encouraged to select successful applicants in early 2020.

This presents a great opportunity to get a Masters student to help you to make progress with:

  • Major current issues, such as multi-channel marketing, customer insight, store networks, transport, surveys, social media, brand insight, predictive modelling and many others.
  • Projects that you’ve long had in mind, but not had the resource to carry out.
  • Working with data – both your own customer data and also maximising the value to be obtained from open data or academic sector data.
  • Trialling new and novel data analysis techniques which Masters students may have the expertise to explore

It also publicises your company’s interest in students with data skills.

Our previous experience illustrates the main features of the initiative:

Typically business supervisors and their student liaise once every two weeks during the research phase (either through meetings, telephone conversations or email exchanges), although contact hours vary by case to case. Some partners have preferred their student to work from their office throughout the Summer for example. We ask each supervisor to provide a small £500 sponsorship for the student, plus necessary travel subsidies, to be paid upon project completion. In addition, the CDRC will fund three student prizes – these will be presented at an academic conference in October which all participants in the scheme are invited to.

Previous sponsors have included representatives from the following companies; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, The Co-operative, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Boots, E.ON, Centrica, Whitbread, Camelot, Barclays, Virgin Media, Dixons Retail, Experian, EasyJet, AXA PPP Healthcare, Argos, Local Data Company, Shop Direct, Knight Frank…

If you have a project in mind please submit a project proposal form by 24th January 2020. There will be a chance to update them later this year and all enquiries are welcome. Please note that all proposals will need to be approved before they can be publicised to ensure that the students can maximise the academic potential from their dissertations. In addition, feel free to get in contact if you are keen to have a student project in 2020 but cannot think of a specific topic. All queries can be directed to

To participate, one person from your department should:

  • Submit a project proposal form (November-January)
  • Review selected applications forwarded by the CDRC and select an appropriate candidate (February – March)
  • Be available for occasional supervisory meetings over the Summer – the contact hours and work schedule can be agreed with the student prior to the research process (May – September )
  • Be able to provide the student with £500 (and reasonable travel expenses) following successful project completion.

Please also see the Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of this page.


The CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme is organised by George Intzesiloglou (UCL), Paul Longley (UCL) and Keith Dugmore (Data Analysts User Group) and has been supported by over 25 companies and the Demographics User Group (now the Data Analysts User Group) since it was introduced in 2012.

The scheme supports the ESRC’s aim of developing its engagement between academia and the private sector, particularly in the field of large data sets. For businesses, it is an invaluable opportunity to take advantage of the data science skills offered by Masters students and a possible bridge toward collaborations with academia. For students, the scheme provides a unique and invaluable opportunity for Masters students to work on large commercial datasets which would otherwise be unobtainable or extremely costly. It also provides opportunities to conduct research on real-world problems faced by large businesses. Consequently, the scheme has had positive implications for graduate recruitment. Most of the students from previous years of the scheme immediately went on to work in the data industry (some at their sponsor companies). In addition, a number of them have joined the CDRC to undertake postgraduate research – some of which are pursuing PhDs with the support of their original sponsors from the dissertation scheme.

Below are some slides which give broad details about the scheme.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any fees?

We only ask each participating organisation to pay their student £500 upon successful project completion. We also ask each organisation to pay reasonable travel expenses to the student if applicable.

When does the research take place?

The specific course timelines vary by institution, but the student usually work on their dissertations from May until September. Students will be invited to submit a PDF copy of their dissertation to the CDRC and to their industry partner in early December.

Where does the research take place?

Students usually carry out the research at their own institutions but will also attend occasional steering meetings with their industry partner. However, it is also possible to invite the student to work from the industry partners office. Either options are fine as long as the work plan during the application process.

Are there guidelines for appropriate research topics?

Topics should consider consumers (or the population) or data generated by B2C transactions. Project proposals are usually problem focused and relatively open ended to allow the student to devise their own research questions at the start of the research phase. All topics should be sufficiently critical to enable to the student to produce original academic research. The project proposals will be checked by the CDRC first and the students also have the support of their dissertation supervisors at their institutions. Examples of previous research undertaken by CDRC students can be found on the following link:

The application process is open to students of all disciplines. However, it is generally popular with students with geography (GIS), computer science, economics, data science or business analytics backgrounds. The scheme is an invaluable opportunity for students to apply their data skills to real-world problems.

If you cannot think of a topic but would like to discuss opportunities please do not hesitate to contact us at

Do the projects need to use our data?

The CDRC Masters Dissertation Scheme is an invaluable opportunity for Masters students to gain experience working with commercial datasets. If you are providing data for the student(s) please ensure steps have been made to ensure the data can be accessed by the end of April. If your data can only be accessed from your offices, please ensure this is made clear in your project proposal form. Alternatively, your data can be held within one of the CDRC secure laboratory facilities (London, Leeds, Liverpool) under a bespoke licence through which only the student(s) working on your project are granted access.

Your projects may consider open data or academic sector data instead if data access is feasible. However, it is possible that the student may not be able to share safeguarded data with external partners beyond the findings described in their paper. If you would be interested in having a project which uses CDRC or ONS data, please contact us prior to submitting a proposal form so we can ensure data access is feasible.

These links may be useful:

Are the students from CDRC universities only?

No, students from all UK based institutions are eligible to apply. Since 2012, students from 17 different universities have participated.

Can we promote our projects ourselves?

Yes, if you have existing relationships with universities, you are welcome to use them to promote your summer projects. The CDRC will also be promoting the scheme to students from academic institutions from 28th January until early March.

What skills do the students have?

Students will apply from various different disciplines including Geography (GIS), Computer Science, Business and Economics. Their applications should inform you what software packages or relevant methodological techniques they are familiar with. Your project proposal is an opportunity to advertise what soft/hard skills you are looking for in a candidate.

Will support be offered?

The student will have an academic supervisor from their own institution. They will provide the student with guidance on research direction and methods. However, you are also welcome to provide support in-house but do be considerate of the requirements set by their institutions.

Can public institutions sponsor a student?

Yes, we also welcome projects from the public sector. A handful of CDRC students have been sponsored by local authorities in previous years of the scheme.