Mapping the UK thesis landscape

Phase one of Unlocking Thesis Data is complete. You can read about the work of the project in the past three months in our report

Grace, Stephen and Whitton, Michael and Gould, Sara and Kotarski, Rachael Mapping the UK thesis landscape: Phase 1 project report for Unlocking Thesis Data. Project Report. University of East London, London. (10.15123/PUB.4307).

The report covers the background of community interest which led to the project, and analyses the survey responses from EThOS contacts we previously mentioned in the blog. It then summarises the six institutional case studies looking at thesis-related processes in detail at a range of universities (East London, Southampton, LSE, UAL, Bristol and Leicester). The case studies showed a wide variety of approaches in processing and making available theses, and this insight will help us ensure that we consider solutions that work for the widest possible range of universities. Each of the case studies required interviews with staff involved in processing theses, by a combination of Michael Whitton (University of Southampton), Sara Gould (The British LIbrary), Rachael Kotarski (The British Library) and me. Many thanks to Michael, Sara and Rachael for working with me on the project.

Subject to further Jisc funding, we hope in the next phase of Unlocking Thesis Data to address the following five recommendations from the report:

  1. Hold at least three thesis clinics to investigate opportunities and barriers to assigning DOI and ORCiD identifiers in UK universities
  2. Engage with system suppliers/vendors to identify opportunities for enhancing software with required PIDs
  3. Consult with EThOS formally to understand what needs to change in EThOS systems and processes to harvest and display PIDs and related metadata for theses and their data
  4. Evaluate approaches to updating UKETD profile, initially in EPrints, before planning software enhancements
  5. Investigate requirements and solutions for those institutions that use EThOS as their first-point repository

You can find links to all the case studies, the survey and the phase one report at


Our survey said

The UTD survey carried out in April-May 2015 has been analysed by Sara Gould (The British Library) as part of the UTD project. You can read the details of the results and what they mean for the administration of theses in UK universities in the report available at this DOI: 10.15123/PUB.4274. There are six key findings:

    1. 49 institutions (35.5%) responded to the survey, indicating that Unlocking Thesis Data is of interest to a significant proportion of HE institutions. A list of respondents is provided in Appendix A.
    2. At the time of the survey, no institution assigned DOI identifiers for their theses, although DataCite DOIs were used by 33% of institutions for their research data.
    3. Around 59% of institutions require students to submit both print and e-copies of their final thesis, and this often results in double-handling, for example in creating separate records for the catalogue and repository. This may have implications for UTD.
    4. The most ‘typical’ scenario is an institution which uses an EPrints repository for its e-theses and supporting files, students must submit both print and electronic versions of their thesis, the thesis is uploaded and the metadata created by the repository staff (though students are a close second), and the institution assigns DOIs for its datasets but not theses. This suggests such a scenario might form the first case study or the core focus for UTD.
    5. In response to the question How ready are you to begin assigning DOI identifiers to your theses? institutions varied from ‘Completely ready’ to ‘DOIs are not on our radar at all’. You can see the results in this pie chart, and our intention is to ask this question again at the end of the full UTD project; this will form a key indicator as to the success of the project.

      Q16: How ready are you to begin assigning DOI identifiers to your theses?

      Q16: How ready are you to begin assigning DOI identifiers to your theses?

    6. Twenty-four respondents (49%) volunteered their institution to be a case study for UTD. The aim is to deliver just six case studies under Phase 1, and we hope those institutions not selected will be willing to host UTD clinics, become early adopters or have other opportunities to be closely involved.

If you are interested in looking at the survey data in more detail, you will find it in XLSX and CSV formats at We will soon be releasing case studies, looking at procedures in more detail in six different universities. These will complement the survey findings with a range of different practices, so that we can ensure subsequent work in the project will take account of real-world situations. And we hope to repeat the survey later in the project to see if there have been any actual or planned changes in procedures.


Survey results are in

We had a great response to the baseline survey to gather data on thesis workflows, levels of DOI planning and interest in UTD – 51 responses or nearly 40% of all institutions. A full report will follow, but for now:

  • Most institutions currently require both print and e- deposit, but lots are in transition

Submission requirement

  • Handling print and e- often means creating two sets of metadata, one in the repository and one for the catalogue: “Cataloguing staff create record for print copy; repository staff create record for e-copy”
  • 67% of institutions store supplementary data files in same repository as the thesis. But typical responses included “This is a work in progress”, “Decision yet to be made” and “At the moment we don’t know”.
  • A range of identifiers are used for data:

Current identifiers

  • And finally we asked how ready you are to begin assigning DOIs for theses:

DOI Readiness

Lots of work for UTD to do then. Next task, case studies starting with University of East London.

Survey now available

UTD is underway! Every EThOS contact in the UK has just been invited to complete a short survey of their current practice with regards to theses. The answers will help us understand the current landscape, and form a baseline to compare with in a year’s time at the end of the project. At the end of the survey, there is an invitation to email the project any workflows or other details of how your institution handles theses.

And don’t forget to vote for Unlocking Thesis Data in Jisc’s Research  at Risk campaign at