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Provider profile record 2015/16

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Validation overview

Version 1.0 Produced 2015-06-25

Contents: Validation overview | Business stage validation | Exception stage validation | Validation kit software

Validation overviewBack to top

HESA has developed extensive quality assurance procedures and runs a range of automated validation checks (quality rules) against all submissions. This document describes the different stages of quality rules and at what point during the submission process they are applied.

XML files must be encoded with UTF-8 if they contain characters beyond the standard ASCII character set. Higher education providers (HEPs) are advised to specify the encoding used in their XML files (i.e.) and to ensure that their files are actually saved with that encoding. Files with an explicit encoding declaration other than UTF-8 will be rejected. Files with undeclared encoding will be assumed to be UTF-8. If encoding is not specified or does not match the actual file encoding, HEPs are warned that there is a risk that data contained in the files may be changed on submission to HESA.

Business stage validationBack to top

Business stage validation (previously INSERT-stage validation) are checks on the structure and logic of an individual submission. There are two types of validation checks carried out at business stage:

Schema checks

Checks that the XML is 'well formed' and that it conforms to the rules of the schema definition (the XSD files).


  • Every element in the file must have the correct opening and closing tags
  • Elements must be correctly nested
  • Elements must contain the correct type of data (strings, dates, valid entries etc.)
  • Elements that include characters with special meaning in XML (such as greater than, & ampersand, ' apostrophe and " quotation mark) must be replaced with the appropriate entity reference. Further information is available at:
  • Elements must be submitted in the sequence defined in the XSD

Business stage quality rules

A set of rules to check the business logic of the submission.


  • Consistency between pairs or groups of elements
  • Elements that are compulsory under certain circumstances
  • Range checks

Note that business stage quality rules can only be carried out when all structural errors (schema checks) have been resolved.

Validation kit

HESA provide a downloadable validation kit to assist providers in the preparation of their data. The validation kit provides some basic structural and 'sense' checks prior to data submission with the aim of reducing the number of errors encountered when submitting data to the data collection system. The validation kit performs the two different types of business stage validation.

Business stage quality rules can be switched off when running data through the validation kit, both locally and at HESA. Schema checks can never be switched off.

Exception stage validationBack to top

A further stage of validation will run when data is submitted to the data collection system. Exception stage validation (previously COMMIT-stage validation) includes quality rules that require comparisons with data across an entire return and/or against reference data held at HESA. These checks cannot be run within the validation kit for this reason.

Validation kit softwareBack to top

A schema-only validation kit will be available for download in January 2016 as an MSI installation file. To install the software you simply need to run the MSI file on a Windows PC. If you do not have access to a Windows PC, please contact Institutional Liaison ([email protected]) for further instructions.

When the validation program is opened it automatically checks the HESA web server for the latest set of rules and updates the package if appropriate.

A quick start guide is included in the application.

The kit utilises the Microsoft .NET framework. This is likely to already be installed on many computers as it is required by much of Microsoft's own software. You can download the .Net framework from Microsoft's website.

If you have any queries with regard to the validation kit then please contact Institutional Liaison ([email protected]).

Following early issue of a schema-only validation kit an updated validation kit will be released in February 2016.

Need help?

Contact Liaison by email or on +44 (0)1242 388 531.