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Data Futures: view from an Alpha participant

Data collection

As part of the Alpha phase of the Data Futures programme, we have been working with stakeholders in 14 organisations to review and collect feedback through development and as we progress to implementation and transition. The Alpha stakeholder group has been invaluable during the development of the system and their participation and feedback have been vital to inform evolving processes as we move towards the Beta phase.

Daniel Norton, Assistant Registrar at Loughborough University provided his viewpoint on the journey so far, as an Alpha participant.

Please note, the deadline for submitting your expression of interest to join the Beta phase is 4pm, 28 February

How has being an Alpha participant helped you to prepare for Data Futures?

It has been extremely useful to look at the detail of the return and run through test cases as it has given us a much clearer picture of what Data Futures might look like. It has also been very useful speaking to the Data Futures team at HESA – they’ve actively sought feedback throughout the process and have responded to the inevitable ‘But what about…’ questions that we’ve had.

What prompted you to join?

At Loughborough we have an in-house records system, meaning that we’ll have to build every part of the new Data Futures return: new fields; new tables; new code for generating the data and the XML; new everything! Joining the Alpha was the best way to ensure that we understood the scale of the changes we’d need to make to ensure that sufficient resource will be allocated in the right places.

Joining the Beta [phase] means you can start working through the inevitable list of questions…testing the model with your own students


How do you disseminate learnings or information to your team?

We have a project group with members of both Academic Registry and IT which meets regularly to discuss the implications for Data Futures at our institution. This group is also ensuring that we consider the other teams that will be impacted by Data Futures (e.g. off-venue activity and the data collection impact for placements teams) to ensure that system and process changes involve the right people.

How has working with the other Alpha participants benefitted your organisation?

It’s tremendously reassuring to talk with others and realise that we’re all finding our way through the process and dealing with similar issues. 

What do you see as the most important element for your preparation for the transition year?

Understanding that Data Futures requires changes to both systems but also processes. Having new fields available in the records system is one stage, but ensuring processes are in place to populate those fields to an acceptable level of data quality is another, especially when one considers that ideally the new processes should be in place by September 2019 if information is going to be captured on registration.

What advice would you give other providers; how would joining the Beta benefit them? 

The devil, as with all statutory returns, is in the detail.  I’d suggest working your way through the field specification, including spending time getting your head round the entity definitions (Course Delivery vs. Course session, Engagement vs. Student Course Session) and keeping an eye out for updates from HESA on updates to guidance. Joining the Beta then means you can start working through the inevitable list of questions that arise once you’ve gone through everything, not just in theoretical terms, but testing the model with your own students.  

We’d like to thank Daniel and all our Alpha colleagues, also those who have so far expressed an interest in joining the Beta phase. We have been in contact with each of our Record contact colleagues about the Beta phase: if you have any queries or want more information to review joining with your colleagues, please contact the Liaison team [email protected] 


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