ESCoE Master's Dissertation Programme


ESCoE Master’s Dissertation Programme


The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE) at King’s Business School is a hub of world-leading expertise built around the analysis of emerging and future issues in measuring the economy. Funded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), our mission is to deliver improved economic and environmental-economic measurement that meets user needs, through high quality research, exploitation of new and innovative data sources, education and convening of the wider economic statistics community.

Historical Data UK is a joint project between the ESCoE, ONS and the Bank of England that aims to make historical economic statistics more readily available to academics, students and the public. The repository’s focus is on macroeconomic and financial market data, but it includes a range of economic data disaggregated at a sector, industry and regional level and now contains around 4,000 digitised statistical publications.

Master’s Dissertation Programme

The programme is open to all UK master’s students undertaking dissertations in economic measurement. Students are able to apply for one of the project ideas proposed by ESCoE (see Project Areas below) or suggest a project of their own, with the proviso that this utilises data/information held in Historical Data UK.  Both will be treated equally in the assessment of submission of projects.  Students will undertake their dissertation at their host institution in the usual way but will also be able to draw upon the expertise of the Historical Data UK curators and partner organisations.  A number of these projects would require the student to first transcribe information held within Historical Data UK and in some cases may require filling in some gaps in the existing collection of digitised publications. Transcribed excel/csv files along with metadata would then be uploaded to the repository for other users to download.   We would also encourage students to explore original ways of using and visualising the data that might also be used to help make the repository pages more interesting and engaging for visitors to the site.

Following submission of their dissertations the student would submit a blog, a research poster and where applicable, transcribed data. Submission dates will be dependent on student’s host institute timelines. The blog and poster would be judged by a panel including representation from the scheme partners. Prizes would be awarded to the top three submissions (first prize £500, two runners up £250) and an awards event with poster exhibition would be held early October 2024 in London.

How to Apply

Students should submit an application here giving an outline of their dissertation proposal. Due to varying university timelines there is no fixed deadline for applications.  Applications will be considered upon receipt with decisions made within two weeks. Projects may be closed once allocated to a student. 


For any queries, please contact Sarah Woodcock at

Project Areas

1. Industry and the Supply Side

A key source of data that is still to be transcribed in the repository are the historical input-output tables going back to 1954.  These data  could be used to look at the indirect effect of energy and food prices on inflation via supply chains in addition to their direct effects on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket over time. Questions such as, ‘how big are the indirect/supply chain effects of key imported commodities relative to the past?’, could be explored. The input-output tables might also reveal something about substitutability of energy/food in consumption and production if we can look at how production/consumption shares move in response to relative price changes.

2. Capital and Productivity

These datasets provide a historical series that measure net and gross capital stocks in the UK going back to 1760 and measures of UK productivity  since 1950. Productivity growth in the UK has recently been much slower than in previous eras and at the same time investment in capital assets (plant, machinery, equipment) may have reinforced low productivity growth observed in the UK, since UK businesses are not investing in new capital equipment at the same rate as other countries. This issue could be explored by comparing historical relationships between the stock of capital, new investment in capital and productivity. These data sets could also be used to explore whether the UK has an unusual profile compared to other advanced economies.

3. Population, Employment and Unemployment

One important source of labour statistics that has not been transcribed fully into excel in the repository is the British Labour Statistics Historical abstract 1886-1968 (and the subsequent Labour Statistics Year books which extended the data to 1976).  Similarly, ONS have published some pdfs and spreadsheets on the New Earnings Survey (predecessor of ASHE) as user defined statistics from 1968/70 onwards.  There’s a wealth of information in these that could be used to look at things like trends in average hours by industry and the link between public and private sector earnings.  A project using these data could talk to current issues about labour supply and wage spillovers between the public and private sector.   ‘A Portrait of Pay, 1970-82: Analysis of the New Earnings Survey’ by Mary B Gregory could provide inspiration for questions to follow up or study further (

4. Costs, Prices and Inflation

Due to the current cost of living crisis as a result of increases in food and energy prices, there is a great deal of interest in the passthrough from producer input and output prices to CPI goods prices since the 1950s.  ONS have recently published the historical CPI components back to 1950  and some of the headline producer price data from the Monthly Digest has been transcribed (see repository). More could be done here, transcribing the disaggregated prices in the Board of Trade Journal and successor publications.  These data could be used to look at passthrough in the early 1950s and 1970s when there were similar commodity price increases as well as double digit inflation. 

5. Households and Housing

The low rate of housebuilding is a key policy issue.  Various editions of Housing and Construction statistics have been digitised and are held in the repository, which could be used with Holmans’ Compendium of Housing Statistics and the Building Societies/CML Compendia (links to which are listed in the repository) to look at housing construction over time, and the housing stock by tenure/region.  The Building Societies’ data may also include regional house price and mortgage data.  

The Family Expenditure Surveys Reports and The incidence of taxes and social service benefits are available in the repository, digitised back to the 1950s and 1960s. These could be used to examine how household spending has changed over time. The following paper by the IFS from 2004 looked at this and could be updated and extended (Blow, L., Leicester, A. and Oldfield, Z. ‘Consumption trends in the UK, 1975-99’ IFS Report, 1 Feb 2004)

6. Fiscal Data

One new acquisition in the repository is the Heriot-Watt Government Securities database, which until now has been curated by David Wilkie and hosted by Andrew Cairns on the Heriot Watt website. The Historical UK repository will be curating and updating this from 2024.   This is a database of monthly individual gilt quantities and prices going back to the 1960s.  The dataset could be used to look at questions on the maturity and duration structure of public debt over time (alongside other data on public sector debt in the repository), which is very topical.

7. Overseas Trade and the Balance of Payments

Using the Annual Statement of Trade and other sources in this section of the repository there are a number of possibilities to look at the country and product composition of trade back to the 19th Century, for example what are the drivers for the UK in terms of trade compared to 50 years ago?

Some of the data that could be used has been transcribed in the Millennium dataset but a lot more could be done which might be used to provide insights on various structural trade issues.

8. Agriculture, Energy and Climate Change

There is a wealth of digitised data in this section of the repository on energy trends, such as the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES). These could be used to look into a range of questions, such as is it time for economic de-growth in some industries (or even economies) to help the climate survive? The DUKES data together with data on intermediate consumption and the breakdown in relation to output, could be explored to look at which industries environmental footprint has declined in relation to its output given the changing input structures, technological change and product substation. Likewise, which industries have increased their environmental footprint? Can these be related to consumer demand for specific products driving the changes? Here policy change(s) could drive meaningful change.

9. Regional Data

There is, understandably, a great deal of focus on economic performance across the UK ‘now’, but outcomes today are partly explained by the outcomes realised over past decades. Therefore, understanding the way in which the economy has changed over time can yield important insights into its performance now. This project would seem to make use of these detailed historic data to review and analyse the performance and changes in the different UK economies over time along a number of dimensions, including issues of regional convergence and divergence and structural economic change within regions.