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Reflections on the Liaison team survey

The HESA Liaison team support over 430 higher education providers with their statutory data submissions to HESA. A dedicated team of 15 staff provides support and guidance on the full suite of HESA data streams, associated processes and systems. 

‘The Liaison team always provide a good service.’

As the role of the Liaison team is to support providers throughout the data collection process, every few years we ask providers for their feedback, to ensure that we are maintaining a high level of service.

The latest survey was issued in May 2021 and we received 283 responses, so thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

‘The team are always hugely helpful and respond very quickly.  A superb team and very much appreciated!’

Q.21 Overall, how would you rate the quality of your customer service experiences from the Liaison team?

Great: 254

Okay: 29

Not good: 0

‘I am always extremely grateful for their attitude, excellent customer service and help.’

Comments referred to the helpfulness of the team, that we are ‘extremely friendly, polite, extremely patient’ and supportive, always keen to help.

‘I always find the responses from Liaison to be courteous, informative and timely. Staff appear approachable and willing to answer absolutely anything that I ask of them however odd it may seem.’

‘The team are professional and always have time to add the human touch too.’


Q.19: Since the pandemic, the Liaison team has predominantly been working remotely. Have you noticed any changes to our service provision since March 2020?

Service levels have improved: 11

Service levels have remained the same: 235

Service levels have worsened: 9

Question not applicable: 28

This was particularly reassuring considering that the team had needed to adapt overnight to working remotely in March 2020, but we were able to maintain the same level of service.

‘I have, without exception over the years, found the Liaison team to be efficient, prompt, helpful and friendly whenever I've had to contact them.  It's a brilliant service and although they must get some daft questions they are always extremely professional.’






Help us to help you

It was noted in the survey that responses are often delayed when it is close to collection deadlines and during the busiest times. To provide some context to the service the Liaison team provide, approximately 30,000 conversations were responded to over the last 12 months. 

Bar chart showing total monthly volume of emails and calls to HESA Liaison team between July 2020 and June 2021. Bars show increase in calls between July and November, with largest volume of calls and emails in October 2020.

Looking at the number of queries more closely during the peak time, it is apparent how busy it becomes, with over 12,000 conversations being taken during September, October and November 2020.

Bar chart showing total weekly volume of emails and calls to HESA Liaison team between start of September 2020 and end of November 2020. The bars show an increase in calls and emails, with largest growth in last three weeks of October and a peak in phone

We recommend that providers start work on the collections as early as possible, uploading files to the Data Collection system as soon as the collection is open, as quality rules then become visible and questions can be asked in plenty of time. 

This is particularly the case with more complex or specialist queries, when we may need to ask the regulator/funding body for their opinion, which of course will delay the response back.

Similarly with the queries raised by analysts in the Issue Management System, often this can be an iterative process with more information being required, or the data may need to be amended, so sufficient time needs to be allowed for this.

Q.10: How would you rate the helpfulness of [email protected] responses?

Great: 238

Okay: 39

Not good: 0

Not applicable: 6

The team has a broad set of skills but we are very aware that we don’t understand providers’ specific situations and real-world applications. The members of the team have a wide range of diverse backgrounds and experiences, including German and Spanish translation, pensions administration, plant science and primary education. Some of the team have been ‘doing HESA’ for many years, with longer serving team members having been around for 8-15 years; Alison Berry, the Head of the department, has been with HESA for more than 25 years. What gels the team is our focus on people, we all share a common interest in helping others and strive to solve problems and provide excellent customer service. However, none of us have worked at a provider. We interpret the data requirements from HESA knowledge and our own HE experiences of days gone by. 

This is why we rely on providers’ descriptions of their provision and explanations of the particular scenarios when answering queries, and also why we may need to ask for more information if we’re not quite sure about what is being described.

Another theme noticed in the feedback is an occasional frustration when providers phone and are asked to send an email with their query. While we understand that this may be frustrating if the person calling was hoping for a quick answer, the most important thing is that the correct answer is given. We may need to check with colleagues within Liaison or other teams, investigate the guidance or look up similar questions that we’ve been asked.

If it is a more complex query, we suggest that providers send an email as this will then give us the opportunity to do the necessary research.

Thank you again for your responses to the survey, and if you have any further suggestions or comments please send them to [email protected].