This site uses cookies to provide a better user experience. For further information click here. To remove this message click here.
Top banner


This section should help you to find the answer to your question about administrative data. If your query can not be answered please contact us and we will do our best to help.

Click below to jump to a help topic:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the ADLS?

The Administrative Data Liaison Service (ADLS) is funded by the ESRC to support administrative data based research in the UK. It will act as an intermediary between academic researchers and data holding organisations providing information, aiding with communication and more generally promoting the use of administrative data.

What is administrative data?

Administrative data is information that is routinely collected by organisations as part of their normal business or operational activities. It has enormous potential to inform social science research and covers a wide variety of fields.

Administrative data is not gathered specifically for research purposes, but gathered in the normal course of business or organisational activities. This means that surveys are not normally considered administrative data. Health records and patient information gathered by hospitals or tax records held by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are examples of administrative data.

Administrative data tends to be underutilized for academic research. Its use in research is dependent upon the support of data providers and the understanding of researchers to work within legal and ethical frameworks in a controlled, safe and non-disclosive manner. 

Administrative data has the major advantages of being inexpensive to collect (as it is already routinely collected for operational purposes) and is reliable at small area level. Additionally, most administrative databases are updated several times a year, if not constantly, and can come close to covering 100% of the target population.

Does the ADLS hold administrative data?

No. The ADLS provides advice and information on administrative data, including current access arrangements and application procedures.

Can the ADLS help with accessing administrative data?

Decisions about what data may be used for any given research project ultimately rest with the department or organisation holding that data. Some departments have a history of working positively with academic researchers, with clearly ‘signposted’ routes to accessing data and as such their datasets have been widely used in research projects. Other departments have made their data available on a ‘one off’ basis after specific and often lengthy negotiation, whilst other departments have never shared their data for research.

ADLS can provide information on previous use of specific datasets, give some indication of whether the data you seek is likely to be released, and how, if appropriate, to apply for permission to use a given dataset.

How is the ADLS able to provide their information?

The ADLS has established links with most of the major data holding government departments as well as the Higher Education Statistics Agency. By providing information about datasets held on this website, we aim to reduce the information provision burden on government departments and increase the amount of research using these datasets. You can find out more about these organisations and their datasets by going to the ‘Data Providers’ page.

The ADLS also employs independent legal staff, a data security and disclosure expert, and hosts workshops and meetings on data use, sharing, and disclosure, ADLS hopes to facilitate greater understanding and agreement of disclosure control practices, ‘safe’ research uses of data and relevant privacy legislation over time.

We would also like you to contact us with any information and experiences that you have had of either using administrative datasets or applying for access to them.

How does the ADLS decide which administrative datasets to cover?

At present the ADLS covers the major administrative datasets held by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Work and Pensions, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the National Health Service Information Centre and the Office for National Statistics. These organisations were chosen by the ADLS at the start because of their relevance to social science academic research.

The ADLS is a UK wide project. Over time, the ADLS will provide more information and advice on all the other major administrative datasets in the UK. You can find out more about these by visiting our ‘Research Themes’ page.

What if I can’t find the information I need on the ADLS website?

You can contact us online, by email or telephone us on 01334 463901 with your enquiry. We will aim to acknowledge receipt of your query the same day and let you know what we will do to provide a response if we are not able to provide an answer straight away. The time it takes to provide a final response will depend upon the nature of your enquiry.

Return to top

Using the website

The website has been designed to be as easy as possible for you to navigate around and find the information you need.  Please find below information on each section.

  • Research Themes - this page provides summary information on the major administrative datasets in the UK, grouped under nine different themes. From this page you can also link to more detailed information about the dataset, if they are available on the ADLS website. If you are not quite sure of exactly what you’re looking for or don’t know which department holds the data you need, this is the easiest way to explore what’s available.
  • Data Providers Page –  this page provides detailed information on the data holding organisations and the administrative datasets they hold, including if the dataset can be accessed for research and the application procedure, if applicable. From this section you can also download PDF packs for each organisation, which provide additional information and also conduct quick searches via our Publication Hub (see below for more information). If you know that the data you are interested in is held by a certain organisation, this is the easiest way to find it.
  • Publication Hub - this page provides you with two searches. The first allows you to search for publications that have used a particular dataset.  This will allow you to see what research has already been carried out using a particular dataset. We have searched the web to find this information and in most cases you will be able to use the link in your search results to go directly to the publication or journal. Work on this database was completed in October 2009 and we intend to do an update each year. 

    The second search allows you to search for published data. The search is provided by the Data4NR database and will return all published data in England and Wales at a neighbourhood level. You can either link directly to the published data or the Data4NR page from the search results. This database is updated fortnightly. Over time our intention is to include results from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the search results.

  • Downloads – this page provides additional resources available to download in the form of PDF packs. Downloads are grouped under ADLS, Data Provider and Publications and are very useful reference material. Some of the Data Provider downloads also contain application forms for administrative data, where we have been given permission to do this. You will need Adobe Reader 9 to view these PDFS. This piece of software can be downloaded for free from the Adobe website.
  • Relevant Organisations – this page provides information and links to other organisations that are involved with administrative data.
  • Important Guidance – please read this page before starting any administrative data application or research. It provides a general overview of the legislative framework, as well as guidance on disclosure control and data security.
  • About us – this page tells you a little bit more about the ADLS and it’s objectives.
  • Contact - this page provides information on the different ways that you can get in touch with us.
  • News – provides latest news items from the ADLS team.
  • Register – Complete this page to register with us and choose the administrative data updates you would like to receive.
  • Help - Provides a FAQ and information on how to use and update the website. We will add to this section over time.


Return to top

Updating information on the ADLS website

The ADLS website is a resource for all stakeholders involved in administrative data research. We welcome amendments and updates in order to provide the most upto date and relevant information. Specifically, we would welcome your comments on the application procedure and use of administrative datasets which we would share on the ADLS website in the Data Providers page.

Any information updates, amendments or suggestions to the ADLS website should be either submitted online or emailed to us but please feel free to phone and discuss these with us first. Our telephone number is 01334 463901.

Content image