About the study

A major new youth cohort study that will provide vital new evidence on socio-economic inequalities in life chances for a generation of young people impacted by the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.

COSMO is a major national youth cohort study which is examining the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing cost-of-living crisis on educational inequality, wellbeing and social mobility.

The study is the largest of its kind into the effects of these crises on the life chances of a generation of young people. This is a generation-defining challenge, and the impact on young people’s lives has been unprecedented. School years are a crucial stage of development, and the disruption to learning that we have seen is likely to have profound long-term effects on the life chances of this generation. 

The first 'wave’ of the study, which started in autumn 2021, recruited a representative sample of over 13,000 young people across England who were due to take their GCSEs in 2021, asking them about their experiences of the pandemic, as well as their future hopes and plans. Wave two took place when the cohort was in Year 13 or equivalent starting in autumn 2022. The study plans to follow them through the rest of their education and into the workplace.

COSMO Wave 1 particularly focused on experiences of the pandemic, financial impacts in the home, disruption to schooling, access to home learning and school provision, attitudes to education, mental health and wellbeing, as well as GCSE assessment in 2021, the crucial post-16 transition, as well as the ongoing cost of living crisis, and aspirations for the future.

Wave 2 focused on post-16 education and training pathways, higher education aspirations and career plans, while also looking at change in many of the factors looked at in Wave 1.

COSMO is a collaboration between the UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), the Sutton Trust, and the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, with fieldwork in the first two waves led by Kantar Public.

The first wave was funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) (Ref ES/W001756/1) as part of its COVID-19 rapid response fund, and the second wave is funded by the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council. 

The study team is led by Dr Jake Anders, with Professors Lindsey Macmillan, Gill Wyness and Dr Claire Crawford (UCL CEPEO), Professors Lisa Calderwood, Alissa Goodman and  Praveetha Patalay (UCL CLS), along with Carl Cullinane (Sutton Trust).

Data from wave 1 and 2 is now available to academic researchers through the UK Data Service.

Read more about the study design and data here.

The study is aided by the expertise of its advisory board:

Sandra McNally (University of Surrey) - Chair

Gordon Harold (University of Cambridge)

Eliza Kozman (TASO)

Victoria Petrie (Department for Education)

Tom McBride (Behavioural Insights Team)

Donna Phillips (Office of the Children's Commissioner)

Kim Bohling (Education Endowment Foundation)

Emma Gordon (ADR UK)

Simon Burgess (University of Bristol)

Simon Murphy (Cardiff University)

Paul Bradshaw (ScotCen)

Beth Isaac (Office for Students)

John Jerrim (UCL and Ofsted)

Beccy Shipman (ESRC) - Observer

Rob Wilson (ESRC) - Observer