The HESA Finance Statistics Record (FSR) was last formally reviewed ahead of the 2004/05 return. Since then updates have been made to reflect changes to the HE SORP and also to the way in which fee income is returned following the changes to the student finance arrangements. The most recent changes have been made for 2007/08.
When HEFCE approached HESA to take on collection of the HE-BCI survey it was decided that this could most efficiently be done alongside the FSR and the decision was taken to use the opportunity of bringing the surveys together to review the FSR at the same time.
This Circular presents proposals in a number of areas:
The HE-BCI survey is the main vehicle for measuring the volume and direction of interactions between UK HEIs and business and the wider community. The survey has collected data for each academic year from 1999/2000. The data are invaluable as management information, in policy development and, more latterly, as metrics driving the allocation of public funds to further develop HEIs’ infrastructure in this area.
While the survey has been successful in these aims the nature of its collection during these developing years has led to necessary changes and improvements. It has always been understood that, in the long term, this requirement would best be met through the embedded processes of HESA; hence HESA has been a member of the HE-BCI Stakeholders Group from the beginning. More information about the survey is available from the HEFCE website.
Recent discussions between HEFCE, on behalf of the Stakeholders Group, and HESA suggest that the survey is now in a sufficiently stable and robust state to be incorporated into core HESA processes. It is thought that HESA could be in a position to administer and report on data collection for 2008/09. HEFCE will undertake data collection for 2007/08.
Having considered the required timing of the HE-BCI data collection and the style of data to be returned, HESA and HEFCE have concluded that the most appropriate way forward is to link the HE-BCI survey to the HESA FSR, with the two to be returned to HESA together. Guidance and definitions will be developed and embedded to cover HE-BCI.
HE-BCI data have yet to be tested under formal audit and it is likely that some consideration would need to be given to this process. In order to achieve a balance between data needs for HEIs and funding bodies, HE-BCI guidance allows for a certain degree of expert estimation in certain parts of the return, namely where totals are to be disaggregated into subcategories. Where such estimation takes place, HEIs are required to keep records of the details and it is expected that they will be able to make provision for these data within their data capturing systems once embedded as part of the FSR. There is currently no intention to undertake independent audit of HE-BCI data above and beyond the main FSR, as long as appropriate consideration is given to the guidance and definitions. However, that data from the HE-BCI survey that is used to inform funding is likely to be included alongside other data as part of the general funding data audits; this is already happening in Wales.
Funding bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland already draw on HE-BCI data to inform funding of Knowledge Transfer and this will remain one of the key drivers for collection. In addition a range of other public and project funders, such as HMT, DIUS and the RCs, use HE-BCI to produce key performance indicators and for monitoring and international benchmarking between Europe and North America. Arrangements are currently different in Scotland where a dedicated data return is used to drive similar Knowledge Transfer formulaic funding. Scottish HEIs have expressed an interest in continuing to be included under HE-BCI given the usefulness of benchmarking and this position is shared by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Funding Council, although details remain to be resolved.
With the planned inclusion of the HE-BCI survey with the FSR, there is a need to address the mechanism used for collection of the data. The HE-BCI return consists of two sections: the first (Part A) is a qualitative questionnaire and it is proposed that this be collected by HESA as a web form. The second (Part B) is a set of quantitative data, formatted in a similar way to the FSR and, as with the FSR, currently collected in a spreadsheet.
There are a number of options for the format of the new combined return. The return will consist of templates to be completed with financial data for FSR and for HE-BCI (Part B) plus a set of qualitative questions for HE-BCI (Part A). It would be possible to include all of the FSR and HE-BCI Part B tables in a single template, allowing cross checking of the data at an early stage, or to keep them separate, recognising, as discussed above, the different nature of some of the data and the involvement of different staff in the institution.
Institutions are asked to indicate whether they would prefer to complete a single combined template for FSR and HE-BCI or two separate templates.
1. Collection using spreadsheet(s)
Since the first collection in 1994, the FSR has been collected as a spreadsheet; HESA publishes a template, the HEI completes and then submits it.
In recent years HESA has started to see more problems with spreadsheets. These have included:
In all these cases, there are at least delays to those submitting data; in many instances, there is a considerable amount of re-work required by the institutions, the need for which could either be trapped at an earlier stage, or avoided altogether.
Spreadsheets are widely used in the community and they do provide a familiar working environment for colleagues involved in the compilation of the returns.
There are two potential alternatives that could be considered for both FSR and HE-BCI Part B:
2. Collecting the return as a web form
This would involve setting up the template as a page (or series of pages) in Aardvark and have users log into the system and enter the data directly. This will be necessary for Part A of HE-BCI whatever is decided for the FSR and HE-BCI Part B. The following discussion needs to be considered in the context of the latter.
A few implications of collecting via a web form are:
XBRL is an XML language that is emerging as a standard for business reporting. Organisations can currently submit accounts to Companies House using XBRL.
A few implications of collecting via XBRL are:
Institutions are invited to comment on the options presented for return of the data:
1) Collecting the data as an Excel spreadsheet
2) Completing the return as a web form
3) Returning data using XBRL
The Research Councils have requested that income and expenditure in FSR Tables 4, 5b and 6 be split to provide totals for each Research Council. The Student Record allows students to be reported as having their fees paid by a specific Research Council and, from 2008/09, the Staff Record will allocate staff salaries in the same way. By splitting the data in the FSR the Research Councils will be able to draw on data from across the data streams to better monitor and report on use of their own funds.
Table 5a of the FSR collects information about income from fees. This is currently split between fees for full-time and part-time students and also between undergraduate and postgraduate students. It has been suggested by the Research Councils that it would be useful to add an additional level of detail to distinguish between postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students.
On a regular basis HESA is approached to provide data that splits academic staff costs between teaching, research and other activities. The proposal to capture this data through the FSR is not a new one and has previously been rejected by institutions on a number of occasions. Institutions have identified concerns about the additional work involved in compiling the data, and also the fact that the resulting data may have to include estimates, which makes it different in nature – not auditable – to the remaining data in the return. However, the interest in the data remains, so it is appropriate to again invite institutions to consider it.
As part of their published accounts institutions are required to prepare a “Statement of recognised gains and losses”. This table is not currently included in the FSR, but it is proposed that it is added from 2008/09 onwards. This would provide more publicly available information on, for example, movements in endowments and pension funds. The table would be as set out in Appendix 2 (PDF) of the SORP.
Institutions are invited to comment on the proposed additions to the FSR.
Table 1a  of the survey collects income from collaborative research and is one of the most cited indicators (although it is only used in funding by HEFCW). Initial surveys were conducted on the understanding that it would be overly burdensome for HEIs to disaggregate these figures in terms of the public and private contributions; therefore only a gross figure was requested. Given the time and investment seen in recent years, it is now proposed that public and private contributions be disaggregated. The RCs, for example, are very keen to access these data as increasing proportions of their activity are considered in terms of economic impact (and many HEIs now have such systems in place to access RC, EU etc funding) and it is possible they would need to contact HEIs independently if such data is not available through HE-BCI.
The other potential development to the survey being proposed is the use of HESA academic cost centres. Currently, HE-BCI data can be used to show the spending of different external partners (SMEs, other business and non-commercial partners) on different economic activities (research, consultancy, CPD etc) but no data exists to show which industrial sectors are accessing which academic disciplines. From a policy perspective it is where such interactions are lacking (i.e. there has been a market failure) that the funding is needed to address this. Given some financial data are already collected by cost centre, it is hoped that this will not be an unreasonable extension to the data requirements to meet stakeholders requirements.
Institutions are invited to comment on the proposed additions to the HE-BCI survey.
Institutions are invited to comment on the proposals set out above. Responses should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 11 April 2008.
Following collation of the responses to this consultation and further discussion with Statutory Customers and other interested parties, recommendations for change will be presented to HESA Board in May.
Further details about any changes for 2008/09 will be published before the end of July.
C. Jane Wild
Director of Operations