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HESA user engagement strategy for statistics


HESA is an independent charity and an official statistics producer. We collect, assure and disseminate data about higher education (HE) in the UK. This includes a wide range of functions to support HE providers and data users in submitting, processing and understanding the data.

We collect data from universities, higher education colleges and other specialist providers of higher education. Collectively, we refer to these organisations as HE providers. Much of the data we collect is published as open data

Statutory role

HE providers have a statutory requirement to report data to HE funding and regulatory bodies. We work closely with providers to support this data collection process and to analyse and quality check the data they submit.

We are the Designated Data Body for England under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 with a statutory relationship to the Office for Students. We perform a similar official role in supporting the statutory funders and regulators of HE in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Independent, co-regulated and collaborative

We are a not-for-profit private limited company owned by our members; Universities UK and GuildHE. HESA is funded by subscriptions from the higher education providers from whom we collect data. Our company details, registration numbers and trustees are published in Governance and company information, while Compliance and regulation covers the various regulatory regimes that we work under.

Our Vision and principles explain why we do what we do. Impact and strategy explains what we are trying to achieve and how well we’re doing.

We work with colleagues throughout the UK higher education sector, collaborating with sector bodies, representative groups and HE providers. Our data analytics team joined Jisc in September 2019 to form a new data analytics directorate offering enhanced data analytics for the higher education sector. 

Current user engagement practices

HESA’s user engagement practices that we follow regularly are as follows, and we commit to continue operating and demonstrating continuous improvement from this baseline:

  1. Operate central supplier- and user-facing service teams with the function of engagement with key audiences both actively and passively, gather information to support enhanced service delivery, and evaluate and act on this information appropriately.
  2. Offer training experiences to both suppliers and users of data.
  3. Resource a communications team to plan our dissemination activities, and provide a press office function to support public use of our materials.
  4. Publicise our channels to actively promote user-driven engagement. This includes operating opt-in mailing lists, social media engagement, and the provision of specific forums managed by us.
  5. Include clear contact names and online feedback invitations within all HESA statistical products, reviewing and actioning requests for improvements on a regular basis.
  6. Undertake wide consultations where appropriate ensuring all formal consultation activity is handled through our single consultation hub (
  7. Utilise our burden assessment methodology in all formal consultation activities where relevant to the subject matter.
  8. Operate representative stakeholder forums covering core HESA activities such as data collection, survey management and statistical/data publication.
  9. Identify stakeholders and an engagement strategy for each significant project or programme of activity, to build it and the appropriate communication and stakeholder engagement resource into managed projects.
  10. Ensure feedback obtained via informal consultation activities are documented and acted upon.
  11. Summarise and feed back openly on consultation findings (whether formal or informal), and where possible do so ahead of decision-making based on the data gathered in consultation.
  12. Engage proactively in (both familiar and unfamiliar) forums of relevance to our users and stakeholders, in connection with our work.
  13. Publish comprehensive technical documentation to support suppliers and users of our data.
  14. Collaborate with our analytical partners to develop and support additional services of relevance to our users.

During the forthcoming planning period (to 2024) we aim to enhance our work in the following areas:

  1. Develop our policy function to undertake regular scanning of our operating environment. We will evaluate and classify issues of relevance to HESA and our users, and feed this intelligence into our statistical planning processes.
  2. Strengthen our research function, which supports enhancement to HESA’s performance in areas that our users have told us are relevant to them, such as ingesting and processing a wider range of data sources, supporting better quality assurance, and improving our official statistics and open data outputs.
  3. Formalise existing practices into policy documents where this would support enhanced compliance, training and development of staff, and published materials that improve customer understanding of our approach to quality and standards.
  4. Deliver comprehensive user guides for our statistical products, undertaking user engagement activities to determine appropriate content.
  5. Increase our production of ad hoc statistical releases to support debate and decision-making on topics of interest to our users.
  6. More effectively utilise experimental statistics as a framework for developing new statistics alongside structured user engagement, ensuring user feedback shapes the development process.
  7. Work collaboratively with relevant UK education departments, funders and regulators to improve coherence in statistics published about higher education across the UK. We will work with these bodies to coordinate on user engagement activities and share user feedback where appropriate.