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Code of practice for higher education data collections

The Code of practice for higher education data collections has been prepared by the UK higher education (HE) funding bodies. The code is reproduced in full here.

Code of practice for higher education data collections

Data submitted by higher education providers to HESA and the UK HE funding bodies plays an essential role in understanding and supporting HE in the UK. The data is used by potential students to make choices about their studies, and by governments to develop and review policies. HE providers need data to benchmark their operations, and to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, while the funding bodies use it to allocate public money. Data is also required for regulatory purposes, and in some cases is collected as a statutory requirement.

To be fit for these purposes, the data submitted by higher education providers needs to meet certain standards. Many of these standards are set out in the explicit rules and checks that apply to data collections, and in the principles of data protection. But in addition to this, the data must be prepared with honesty, impartiality and rigour. While these principles have always been implicit, we are bringing them together in this Code of practice for ease of reference, and to support those preparing and managing data collections. The Code applies to all data collections submitted to HESA and the four UK higher education funding bodies, whether individualised or aggregate, numeric or text-based, and also applies to discussions concerning the data.

Principles of data preparation by higher education providers

  1. Honesty. Data should genuinely reflect the characteristics, events and objects being reported on, to the best of the higher education provider’s ability. Systems to collect, prepare and submit data should be designed to enable this. Providers should be transparent in all discussions of the data, and not withhold information that bears on their accuracy or interpretation. HESA, or the relevant funding body, should be informed promptly if errors are found after data has been submitted.
  2. Impartiality. Data should be collected, prepared and submitted with impartiality and objectivity. This process should not ever be influenced by organisational, political or personal interests. HE providers should implement controls to ensure that those dealing with data collections are protected from such interests.
  3. Rigour. Data should be collected, prepared and submitted using repeatable and documented processes that can withstand scrutiny. When processes change, records should be kept of previous versions. Estimates and assumptions should be defensible, evidence-based and documented, and the effect on the data tested. Assumptions and estimates should be reviewed regularly.

Implementing the Code of Practice

Individuals who work with data are expected to understand their commitment to this Code. This falls ultimately to the accountable officer (normally the head of provider) who is responsible for ‘signing-off’ data collections, including confirming that the data has been prepared in accordance with the Code. It is therefore their responsibility to ensure that all those involved in the preparation of data submissions are aware of and have abided by the Code.

If a provider or an individual is aware that a breach of the Code has occurred, they should report this immediately to the body or bodies to which the data has, or will be, submitted. The relevant contacts at each body are:




  • Richard Hancock
  • Assistant Director
  • Learning, Governance and Sustainability (LGS)
  • [email protected]
  • 0131 313 6645


  • Stephen Donnelly (Dr)
  • Senior Principal Statistician
  • Analytical Services
  • 02890257510
  • Laura Smyth
  • Principal Statistician
  • Statistics and Research Branch
  • Tertiary Education
  • Analytical Services
  • 02890257663


[email protected]

Breaches of the Code of practice reported to HESA will be forwarded to the relevant funding council.