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Detailed design coding manual (Data Futures): what it means for providers

As you are aware, it is currently a time of great change and transformation in Higher Education. Our Data Futures programme marks a major shift in the way providers and collectors work with data, combining three existing annual collections - Student Record, ITT and AP Student – into one, new in-year data collection – the HESA Student Record. We appreciate the magnitude of the task ahead and all the hard work and input to date in shaping and challenging the design of the new specification in preparation for the 2019/20 academic year.

The Detailed design phase of the Data Futures programme ran from February this year and concluded at the end of August. Since then, we have been working to provide a data specification in the form of version 1.0.0 of the Coding Manual for use from the 2019/20 academic year.

We are now delighted to announce the launch of Version 1.0.0 of this Coding manual (Data Futures)

We have provided a selection of resources to help you understand and share the information included within this release. These include a full version of the key concepts information as a PowerPoint presentation, a glossary of key terms, updated FAQ section, all available in Data Futures resources.

Regulatory changes

HESA collects data for a range of statutory and public purposes and we must ensure that the data collection meets these changing needs. Policy and regulatory changes during the period between publication and production could still necessitate changes to the specification. Among these, the potential changes to the regulatory architecture for higher education in England following the assent of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 are clearly on our minds.

In the months following publication of this specification, it is likely that clarity will emerge over aspects of the new regulatory architecture, such as:

  • The lead indicators the Office for Students (OfS) will utilise in their regulatory work.
  • The specific data that will be required by providers in different categories of the OfS Register. Specifically, what data Alternative Providers will be asked to return. Coverage by nation/administration, and at field/entity level, is detailed in this release. However, for providers in England, the OfS will need to establish more detailed requirements for providers listed in each section of its Register. The HE and Research Act 2017 has introduced categories ‘Approved [fee-cap]’, ‘Approved’ and ‘Registered’. Detailed data requirements for each category will not be confirmed until the OfS is formally established and the new regulatory architecture is implemented.
  • Requirements emerging from the formation of UK Research and Innovation.

We must ensure that the data collection meets the changing needs of statutory and public purposes


It would be unrealistic to expect that these activities to have no impact at all on the final specification, but we will be working with statutory customers to provide stability and to minimise the impact of any changes required. HESA will continue to work with its statutory customers to understand, and to assess these anticipated developments, as they evolve. We will communicate on these matters as they arise.

Further changes and governance

Alongside the Coding Manual, we have identified a list of fields that we plan to assess using the burden assessment methodology (developed as part of the Collection governance project). This may result in these being removed from the collection (or in some cases changed) before it goes live in 19/20. We will be publishing more details about this in the coming months.

Business as usual 18/19 Collection

The notification of changes for the 2018/19 Student, ITT in-year, and Alternative Provider Student records have not yet been published. We anticipate only minimal changes at this stage.

Next Steps

HESA is currently building the new data collection system (“HESA Data Platform”) that will support this new coding manual from the 2019/20 academic year. As part of this build process we are working with 14 providers, software suppliers and statutory customers through the Alpha phase. The Alpha Pilot testing will run from 2018.

We are also working to develop our transition plans for the 2019/20 year. We recognise that 2019/20 will be an atypical year as we move from operating the old system to the new one. We want to ensure that we have a realistic timetable in place that considers the impact on provider teams as we introduce this change. We also need to allow time to test the new system to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. For these reasons the 2019/20 return is likely to be an annual basis return (a 12-month period, collected once at the end of the year) using the new Coding Manual and new HESA Data Platform, with an additional mandatory in-year test return for all providers at some point during the year.

We will publish an outline approach to the transition year on 2 November, for you to comment on. In January 2018, following further consultation and the Data Futures programme Board meeting, we will publish more comprehensive transition plans. These may also be influenced by the proposals regarding the new Regulatory Architecture, details of which will be published by DfE shortly.

We look forward to working with you on the next steps in the programme and to your insight and feedback on the specification, as we continue to develop the full range of guidance that the coding manual requires.

Please do join our Data Futures JiscMail group - we also have an AP-specific JiscMail group - for programme milestones and announcements and if you have any queries contact our Liaison team.


Rob Phillpotts

Managing Director HESA Statutory