Prof Anna Vignoles is director of research at Cambridge University's Faculty of Education, and told the News 'big data' should be used to inform national education policy.
"For a number of years I have been studying education data, about who goes to which school, and what pupils achieve", she said.
"A lot of that data has been helpful in advising government about equity issues and the gap in achievement between poorer and richer students."
She sits on the steering group for the university's Big Data Research Initiative, a multi-discipline group uniting sociologists, physicists and economists interested in the possible applications of mass data, and said utilising data could bring massive benefits, providing it is used responsibly.
"You need to guarantee anonymity. It's about data protection, and using the data for the greater good, rather than necessarily for some other case, like commercial gain.
"To take case studies for minority ethnic groups, for example; they have made massive gains in education over the time, and we wouldn't know that without big data."
Data protection has been an increasing concern for privacy campaigners, who believe too much information is held by the state.
However in the last 10 years, the government has allowed researchers to access some of its educational data under secure conditions.
Academics including Prof Vignoles have recently used this to map the journeys taken by students from the age of four, right through to employment.
She will discuss the issue further in a speech at a Rustat Conference at Jesus College, where she will say: "Let's say that the next stage of our research reveals that graduates with strong analytical skills are in demand.
"This data could inform students, universities and policy makers, and may result in courses offering more training in analytical skills.
"More graduates will then have the analytical skills needed by businesses, and the skills gap should start to close.
"However there should always be strict limitations on the way data is used to ensure that people's privacy is protected.
"We need to have an informed debate about the extent to which members of the public are happy for data collected by the state to be used in this way."