Skip to main content

Statement of administrative sources

Protocol 3 of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics requires all producers of Official Statistics to publish a Statement of Administrative Sources.

Read the full Code of Practice

Administrative sources of statistical data

Official Statistics published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) are based on data supplied to HESA by all publicly funded higher education providers in the UK plus one private provider, the University of Buckingham. Within each HE provider the data is largely captured from internal administrative systems which include Student Records, Human Resources and Financial systems. An exception to this is data on the destinations of leavers from HE which is a statistical survey usually administered through the careers services of HE providers. In addition, the National Statistics product ‘Higher Education Statistics for the United Kingdom' includes data sourced from the Labour Force Survey (Office for National Statistics), The Student Loans Company and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Purpose of data collection

The HESA data are collected for the administrative purposes of the government departments and statutory bodies responsible for higher education policy and funding in the UK. These are HESA's Statutory Customers.

Data specification

The specification of data supplied to HESA by HE providers is determined and maintained by a review process which includes the Statutory Customers and representatives of providers. Proposed changes are the subject of wide consultation with HE sector bodies and the results are analysed and presented to Statutory Customers, who make the final decisions on the implementation of any changes. Staff within HESA and within the Department for Education and their counterparts in the UK Devolved Administrations who are closely involved in the production of Official Statistics are also involved in the  assessment of proposed changes to data collections. In this way the implications of any changes in the administrative data collections on Official Statistics are assessed and appropriate actions taken.

The requirements of HESA's existing range of Official and National Statistics are fully met from these data collections. There are no known alternative sources of administrative data that would provide the information required for these releases.

All staff engaged in the production of statistical outputs are provided access to HESA's data collections to the extent that this is required for their work in producing the outputs. Statistical extracts from the data collections are also made available to third parties under appropriate conditions to ensure confidentiality of information about individuals. Arrangements for ensuring statistical confidentiality are summarised within the published HESA policy.

Data quality assurance

Data is supplied by HE providers to HESA via a secure web-based transfer system created and maintained by HESA. The data supplied is subject to an extensive quality assurance process. This first stage of this includes a suite of validation checks, which ensure that the data collected meets specification, dates fall within expected ranges and the information provided within fields of data is consistent. Failures at this stage may cause a data return to be rejected, requiring a re-submission from the provider once corrected. The second stage of quality assurance comprises a verification process whereby frequency counts and cross tabulations are produced automatically from the data submission of each provider and these are fed back to the provider. A team of quality assurance analysts at HESA also scrutinise this material. Year on year comparisons provide a summary of changes and the level of change in any particular area is examined closely if it falls outside of an expected range. Any issues arising from this stage of quality assurance are logged within an online system to which the submitting providers have access. Providers must respond to each issue to either confirm that anomalies are genuine or correct the data and re-submit. The final stage of the quality assurance process is a sign-off by the head of each provider confirming that data meets required quality standards and is fit for onward use.

Statutory Customer contracts require that the data be of sufficient quality for their own administrative funding and policy purposes and sanctions may be applied against HESA and HE providers should these quality standards not be met. The quality standards set by Statutory Customers are deemed more than adequate for the purposes of production of Official Statistics.