Lancaster University is launching a new masters programme to train the experts needed to manage and interpret the huge quantities of information that are now being routinely collected by environmental businesses and organisations.

The new Big Data Education Catalyst programme is offering three masters from October 2014, including an MSC in Data Science for the Environment which aims to deliver a cohort of professionals equipped with high quality technical skills in the field of Environmental “big data” analytics.

The masters is being delivered by the Lancaster Environment Centre in conjunction with two other high performing departments: the School of Computing and Communications and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Forty-five scholarship are being offered to students who sign up for the three new masters, thanks to £500,000 funding from the Higher Education Council for England (HEFCE).

Filling a skills gap

Dr Chris Edwards, of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications, said: “As technology has enabled businesses and organisations to collect ever growing amounts of information, there is an expanding skills gap emerging with a lack of people able to interpret and make commercial use of the data. The scholarships provide excellent opportunities to outstanding aspiring data scientists.”

Dr Ian Hartley, from the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “The information hidden within large and diverse data sets needs to be made more accessible to people working on environmental, ecological or geographical issues, if they are to help manage the world’s natural resources effectively. 

“The MSc in Data Science for the Environment will develop the next generation of analysts who will specialise in data handling and analysis in the environmental sciences, and help to plug an important skills gap in the UK and elsewhere.”

A recent report by PWC revealed that 62 per cent of business leaders believe that big data has the significant potential to create business advantage, while a recent McKinsey report highlighted that it is an effective way for business to outperform their competitors. However, a new generation of skills are needed to enable UK business to extract this value, according to a recent government report. 

The programmes involve a mixture of taught modules and research dissertations as well as a placement in industry, or with a research organisation

A thriving industry with good salary prospects

Data analytics is a thriving industry under the banner of business intelligence. According to a recent search on jobs, positions advertised as ‘Business Intelligence’ had an average salary of £47,500 and jobs associated with big data carried an average salary of £55,000.

The other masters in the Big Data Science programme are: MSc Data Science: Statistical Inference Specialism and MSc Data Science: Computing Specialism.

Details of the programme offerings can be found at For more information about the MSc Data Science for the Environment contact Dr Ian Hartley.

Businesses and organisations interested in finding out more about sponsoring a student should contact Dr Daniel Prince by emailing or by calling 01524 510788.