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Our Strategy

This page sets out HESA’s strategic priorities for 2021-2024. The priorities have been modified and refreshed in light of changes to HESA’s operating environment.



Much has changed in the external environment since HESA’s previous plan was drafted. Priorities and demands continue to evolve as we enter the post-COVID-19 world, and this will continue to have an impact on HESA’s services, requirements, and resources. Maintaining an adaptable and flexible approach throughout the next three years and beyond remains a key aim.

Demand for HESA’s services is increasing all the time, as data becomes ever-more important for the effective development, operation, and regulation of the UK higher education (HE) sector. We will seek to respond to this by adapting our services for the future, while retaining our core functions and purpose.

Like many organisations, HESA is facing a number of strategic challenges. These include:

  • The transition to operating as a hybrid organisation in the post-pandemic world
  • Responding to changes in the HE policy environment
  • Seeking to maintain a UK-wide service and adapt its approach in this area
  • Dealing with rapid developments in technology
  • Responding to an accelerating cyber security threat environment.

The aims and activities in this strategy seek to address all these areas, and more.

At the same time, there are significant positive opportunities for HESA over the next three years. These include:

  • The implementation and operation of the new HESA Data Platform (HDP), which will transform HESA’s core collection capability and upgrade a significant component of the UK HE data infrastructure
  • Developing enhanced capabilities in survey design and implementation, building on the success of Graduate Outcomes
  • Expanding the range and utility of our data outputs, including the accessibility of our open data
  • Broadening the range of data assets available to our customers to respond to new demands
  • Building new organisational capabilities that increase our agility and flexibility.

We continue to value our role as the Designated Data Body for higher education in England, and the statutory services that we provide to our customers as a result. The same is true for our customers in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and we remain committed to providing a coherent data platform and picture across the UK.

The plans, activities, and priorities in this strategy add up to a HESA that is fit for the future, and ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead in the most effective and efficient way.


Our mission is to support the advancement of UK higher education by collecting, analysing, and disseminating accurate and comprehensive statistical information in response to the needs of all those with an interest in the sector’s characteristics and a stake in its future.


Our vision is a successful, competitive higher education sector, underpinned by reliable, trustworthy, and timely data.

High-quality, timely, and independent data leads to better decisions, enhanced performance, improved outcomes, and increased public trust and confidence. Our vision is to support these aims and deliver public benefit through the exceptional data and services we provide. 

We aim to provide frictionless, flexible access to a wide range of data resources and services that are easy to engage with and understand. Through this, we will continue to cement our role as part of the UK HE sector’s critical infrastructure.


We will deploy our expertise in the use and application of advanced statistical and open data techniques to transform and present HE data.

We will seek to develop innovative, low-cost techniques to improve the quality and efficiency of data collection. We will also work as part of an open infrastructure to ensure that as much data as possible is open and accessible to all.

Our strategy is delivered through our people. Ensuring that our staff have the skills, capabilities, and tools to do their jobs effectively is therefore a key theme underpinning all our activities and objectives. This includes providing opportunities for development, growth, and learning.

Strategic objectives

  1. Deliver our data collection activities
  2. Deliver Data Futures
  3. Disseminate robust, relevant and timely data with a relentless focus on the needs of our users
  4. Ensure our data is securely processed, stored, and protected
  5. Operate as a flexible, efficient, and resilient organisation

1. Deliver our data collection activities

Existing activities

  • Deliver our data to Statutory Customers on time and to the required quality standards.
  • Increase focus on delivering to the new and varying requirements of data customers.
  • Develop approaches to establishing data coherence at a UK level, where the individual requirements of UK customers vary.
  • Deliver training and support to the sector, establishing a fresh portfolio of training products as the sector begins to recover from lockdown and looks to the challenges of Data Futures.
  • Develop and deliver non-statutory data collections and services.
  • Enhance and improve our legacy data collection platform in advance of the full implementation of Data Futures, reducing cost and improving security and flexibility where possible.
  • Minimise the burden of data collection where possible.
  • Work to secure a successful outcome from the triennial review of designation in April 2022.

New initiatives

  • Integrate data on HE delivered through further education (FE) Colleges into HESA’s data collections (the ‘College HE’ project).
  • Optimise Graduate Outcomes collections and dissemination processes, including a review of the survey.
  • Respond to data collection changes required by SFC and HEFCW.
  • Develop a plan to transition our other collections onto the HESA Data Platform (HDP).
  • Consider opportunities for deploying our research capability – e.g. Long Graduate Outcomes, International Graduate Survey, Graduate Outcomes for transnational education (TNE).
  • Expand our collection activities for Health and Social Care.
  • Onboard NI FE Colleges.
  • Work to adjust our approach to student data collection to reflect increasingly modular HE.

2. Deliver Data Futures

Existing activities

  • Deliver the Data Futures project on time, on budget and according to the agreed scope.
  • Deliver the agreed project benefits.

New initiatives

  • Plan for the transition of all HESA’s remaining data collections to the new HDP.
  • Assess the future workforce requirements arising from the implementation of the new HDP and put in place plans to ensure these are met.
  • Work to align the outcome of the Data Futures project with the changing needs of Statutory Customers, including ensuring the agreed deliverables are compatible with the OfS burden review.

3. Disseminate robust, relevant and timely data with a relentless focus on the needs of our users

Existing activities

  • Deliver high quality Official and National Statistics outputs, fully aligned with a mature application of the Code of Practice for Statistics.
  • Publish as much data as possible as open data.

New initiatives

  • Transform our statistical production process to enable us to publish data and statistics in more flexible and responsive ways.
  • Strengthen our user engagement processes to ensure we can actively understand and meet user needs.
  • Enhance the range, depth and timeliness of data published, whilst improving accessibility and utility for users.
  • Develop our policy analysis and research activity to enable us to deliver more sophisticated and impactful data insight for our users.
  • Work collaboratively with the UK administrations, education departments and regulators to improve coherence of higher education statistics across the UK.
  • Develop efficient and effective mechanisms to better support access to HESA data for the academic research community.
  • Work collaboratively with Jisc to enhance data services delivered to HE providers.
  • Create greater value for users through combining or contextualising HESA data with data from other sources.

4. Ensure our data is securely processed, stored, and protected

Existing activities

  • Implement and maintain the Information Security Management System across the organisation.
  • Maintain our expertise and approach to Data Protection.
  • Maintain our ISO27001 certification.
  • Maintain our Cyber Essentials Plus certification.
  • Provide ongoing training and support for all staff in information security and data protection.
  • Ensure that security by design and privacy by design are integrated into Data Futures and all new initiatives.

New initiatives

  • Review our security posture, systems, processes, resources, and skills, to ensure these are fit for purpose for the current and likely future threat environment.
  • Review the coverage of ISO27001 in relation to our activities, prioritising those areas with the highest risk and where the certification is most relevant.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for access to all HESA’s data collection systems.

5. Operate as a flexible, efficient, and resilient organisation

Existing activities

  • Continue to pursue discussions with external parties regarding integrating activities and establish deeper and more expansive relationships when and where appropriate.
  • Manage our financial resources effectively: maintain a prudent cash balance and reserves and invest appropriately in future requirements.
  • Continue to upgrade our existing technology infrastructure, and shift to cloud-based services as a priority.
  • Invest in staff training, development, and support. Customise training provision to meet the specific requirements of individual staff and groups of staff (for example, line managers).
  • Develop the HESA Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and facilitate an open, supportive, and inclusive working environment for all staff.

New initiatives

  • Seek to reduce our statutory subscriptions by 10% by Financial Year 2023/24.
  • Implement the office re-start plans post-COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and move to operation as a hybrid organisation.
  • Implement the new HESA Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
  • Implement the new Technology Group staffing structure and talent development strategy.
  • Implement a content strategy to define how we manage the planning, creation, delivery, and maintenance of our content across all platforms and channels, ensuring our content meets both our organisational goals and satisfies our users’ needs.

Measuring our performance

We will develop and refine our approach to monitoring our performance as part of this strategic plan. HESA already has in place a comprehensive system of performance metrics, and these will be updated to take account of the new operating environment.

Performance monitoring will encompass two areas in particular:

  • Performance against the key performance indicators (KPIs) established for HESA with the OfS in respect of HESA’s role as the Designated Data Body.
  • Performance against a wider set of KPIs, covering areas such as: service delivery; impact; customer satisfaction; financial performance; and operational efficiency.

We will publish an annual impact and performance report, tracking our progress against both our statutory and corporate KPIs. More broadly, we will also ensure that as much of our corporate information as possible is available in an open and transparent way. The principle of openness will underpin everything that we do.