The 2011 rural-urban classification (RUC2011) allows for a consistent rural/urban view of datasets. A suite of classifications has been produced for use at a variety of geographic levels. RUC2011 is a revised version of the classification produced after the 2001 Census. It was created by the Department of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield on behalf of a government working group.

Output areas (OAs) and other small area geographies

RUC2011 of OAs, the most detailed classification, is the base from which all other classifications are produced.

OAs are treated as ‘urban’ if they were allocated to a 2011 built-up area with a population of 10,000 people or more, while all remaining OAs are classed as ‘rural’. The urban and rural domains are then subdivided into six broad settlement types. The classification also categorises OAs based on context, that is whether the wider surrounding area of a given OA is sparsely populated or less sparsely populated. RUC2011 of OAs contains 10 classes - for more details see the user guide.

RUC2011 of lower layer super output areas (LSOAs), middle layer super output areas (MSOAs) and wards is built up from the OA level classification, with assignment to urban or rural made by reference to the category to which the majority of their constituent OAs is assigned. At the SOA/ward scale, settlement form is less homogenous than at OA level and so there are only five settlement categories.

Local authority districts and other higher level geographies

Data are not always available for small area geographies and so RUC2011 for higher level geographies is also required. RUC2011 of local authorities (England only) is created first, with the methodology then applied to other higher level geographies (for example, parliamentary constituencies).

The local authority level classification is primarily based on aggregating RUC2011 of OAs but it also includes the identification of small hub towns (population 10,000 to 30,000 people), which are treated as rural as they are an integral part of the wider rural area and provide a hub for services. RUC2011 of local authorities contains six classes - for more details see the user guide.


Small area geographies: RUC2011 for OAs, LSOAs, MSOAs and wards, together with a user guide and a methodology report, can be downloaded from the Open Geography Portal.

Higher area geographies: RUC2011 for local authorities in England, together with a user guide and a methodology report, can be downloaded from the Open Geography Portal. Classifications for other higher level geographies will be made available via the portal as they are produced.