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The last census

On 14 December, the Office for National Statistics published its long-awaited proposals for how it intends to carry out the 2021 census in the age of big data.

In a 127-page document, the Office for National Statistics has carefully set out what will change in the next census. The overwhelming majority of households will for the first time be required to complete the census online. What it neglects to mention explicitly, however, is that the census on 21 March 2021—the 22nd census since the exercise began in 1801—is likely to be the last.

The census is a rich data source for the UK’s social scientists, healthcare researchers and policymakers. Higher education has a big stake in its success and efficiency.

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