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Student Alternative 2019/20: Support guides

This page provides an overview of the 2019/20 Student Alternative collection (C19054).

This should be used alongside the C19054 coding manual, which provides more detailed, technical information about the collection.

Need help? Contact us by email or on +44 (0)1242 211144

Student Alternative overview

What is the Student Alternative stream?

HESA collects data across a number of streams. These streams focus on different aspects of higher education.

The Student Alternative stream collects data about students studying at a subset of higher education providers. Historically, this collected data about students studying at private higher education providers whose students could access student loans. This now includes some higher education providers who are registered with the OfS and are not required to submit the full HESA Student return as well as providers on limited designation or teach out. Details of which students need to be returned to us are included in the Coverage document found in the coding manual.

The data we collect on behalf of the sector is provided to the government and the relevant funding council in order to support the regulation of higher education. We also make anonymised data available to the public to enhance understanding of UK higher education and to support its advancement.

What is a coding manual?

Our coding manuals provide you with all the necessary documentation to support your data return. The coding manual contains technical documents giving detailed information on the record's coverage, data specification and submission formats. Familiarising yourself with these documents will help you make an accurate and timely return.

Each collection has its own coding manual which can be found in the Data collection section of our site. By default, you will land on the open collection for each record; you can then select previous or future years.

The coding manuals will be updated throughout the data collection cycle and Record Contacts informed by email when new versions are made live. Be sure to check the manual's Revision history for a summary of changes.

How do I submit data to HESA?

You submit data via our Data Collection system. To access this, you will need to have an appropriate role in our Identity System (IDS). We publish an IDS user guide which includes information on creating and editing your account.

You will need to be given access to the Data Collection system by the relevant Record Contact at your provider.

Once you have access to the system you will be able to upload files, track the progress of your submission, view data quality issues and download reports. An overview of the submission and validation process is given below. Further details are provided in the Coding manual under the 'Submission process and quality assurance' section heading.

Submit data

Where can I find...?

The coding manual homepage includes all the technical information you require, including:

  • The data specification
  • File format specifications
  • A detailed collection schedule
  • Our XML data entry tool (available for some streams)
  • Quality rules.

This Support guides page collects together the following resources:

  • User guide
  • Data collection system: Known issues and release history.

In the Support area of the HESA website, you can find:

Our Data innovation section includes information about:

  • Open and recently completed record reviews, including information about changes we are implementing
  • Our Data Futures programme which will transform the higher education information landscape.

In the About section, you can find:

Where can I find further help with the Student Alternative record? Who are Liaison?

Our expert analysts have a thorough understanding of our records and processes. We are here to support you throughout the data submission process. 

Contact Liaison by email or on +44 (0)1242 211144 

Find out more about Liaison

Collection information

Data collection schedule: Anticipated dates for deadlines

The data collection deadlines for the Student Alternative return are being moved earlier to bring them into line with the Student return, to ensure that all providers are being treated consistently. In order to assist with this change, we will be phasing the adjustments to the deadlines over the C19054, C20054 and C21054 collections. The anticipated deadlines can be seen in the table below.


Student (C19051)

Student Alternative (C19054)


15 September

25 September


21 September

01 October

Final Commit

30 October

10 November


06 November

16 November


Student (C20051)

Student Alternative (C20054)


15 September

22 September


21 September

28 September

Final Commit

01 November

08 November


08 November

15 November


Student (C21051)

Student Alternative (C21054)


15 September

15 September


21 September

21 September

Final Commit

31 October

31 October


07 November

07 November


New fields: Instance.FUNDCODE, Instance.FUNDCOMP and Instance.FUNDLEV

Only providers who are registered in the Approved (fee cap) category on the Office for Students register need to return these new fields.

Providers in the Approved category do not need to return this data.

For more information please see the C19054 Supplementary notification of changes and the coding manual guidance.

Student Alternative record JISCMail list

Our JISCMail groups allow you to discuss specific streams with colleagues from across the sector. We also use the lists to circulate news regarding data requirements and coding manual and validation kit releases.

Join the HESA-AP student JISCmail list

If you encounter any problems, contact Liaison

Data collection system: Release history and known issues

Release history (C19054)
Release ID Release date Release summary
45 13 Aug 2020

The following quality rules have been amended in this release:

  • Instance.GROSSFEE.33
  • Course.AWARDBOD.6/7 (fixed bugs)
44 30 Jul 2020

The Continuity population (Expected instances population for next year) report  has been updated and is now available from the Data Collection Dashboard and will appear when a new file is submitted.

The Credibility report (Management information tables for QA) have been rolled-on for C19054. Please note that the 2019/20 Registration/Designation and HECoS changes have not yet been made, and as a consequence SIN1/2, SIN1P, SOF1/2, SOF2P, GO2 and SBJ1/2 are currently unavailable. Table Information and historic data updates will also be made in upcoming releases.

43 16 Jul 2020

The Data Supply report (identifying raw data and derived fields) is now available from the Data Collection Dashboard and will appear when a new file is submitted.

The following quality rules have been amended in this release:

  • Instance.FUNDCODE.1,2,3,4,6 (new)
  • Instance.FUNDLEV.1 (new)
  • Course.TTCID.6 (new)
  • InstancePeriod.CAMPID.2,3 (new)
  • Course.AWARDBOD.1, 2 (new)
  • InstancePeriod.INITIATIVES.7 (amended)
  • StudentEquality.SEXID.2 (amended)
  • StudentEquality.SEXID.1 (deleted)
42 02 Jul 2020

UKPRN Static data has been updated to validate providers that are allowed to use the new Access Course codes C13, E13, H13, J13 and M13.

The following quality rules have been amended in this release:

  • InstancePeriod.YEARPRG.7; INITIATIVES.13; INITIATIVES.14 (for Accelerated provision) (new)
  • Instance.GROSSFEE.17/18/19/20/21/22/23/24/25/26/27/28/29/30/31/32/33 (new)
  • InstancePeriod.LOCSDY.10 (new)
  • Course.COURSEAIM.17 to validate new Access Courses C13, J13, H13, M13 & E13 (new)
  • QualificationsAwarded.QUAL.16 (tier 4 provider qualifications) (new)
  • InstancePeriod.INITIATIVES.10 (for Institute of Technology providers) (new)
  • Instance.GROSSFEE.11/12/13/15 (addition of M28) (amended)
  • CourseSubject.SBJPCNT.1 (amended)
  • Instance.GROSSFEE.14 (deleted)
41 18 June 2020

Validation rules that use the Continuity Register / XTPOINTs have been enabled.

The following quality rules have been added/amended in this release:

  • Course:AWARDBOD.6/7 (new)
  • Course.COURSEAIM.5/6/7 (amended)​
  • CourseSubject.SBJCA.3/4 (amended)​
  • InstancePeriod.INITIATIVES.1/2/3/4/5/6/7/9/11/12, InstancePeriod.MODE.3/6/7/8, InstancePeriod.MSTUFEE.14/15, InstancePeriod.LOCSDY.9 (amended)​
  • EntryProfile.QualificationsOnEntry.4/6/8/10 (amended)​
  • QualificationsAwarded.QUAL.5/6/13 (amended)​
  • Instance.SPLENGTH.4/5/6, Instance.COMDATE.4/6 (amended)​
40 04 Jun 2020

The Validation kit has been updated in line with the C19054 coding manual version 1.3 schema update.

The latest version of the C19054 designation file (11/05/2020) has been uploaded. This will update some Quality Rules that reference the OfS designation file.

The following quality rules have been added/amended in this release:

  • EntryProfile.PREVINST.1 and .5
  • StudentEquality.ETHNIC.5
  • Course.COURSEAIM.8, .9, .10 and .11
39 21 May 2020

The latest version of the XTPOINTS library has been added to the domain to ensure validation matches the complete list of QualificationsOnEntry.QUALTYPES listed in the coding manual.

The Entry Profile report has been added to Data collection dashboard.

38 11 May 2020

The Validation kit has been updated in line with the C19054 coding manual version 1.2 schema update.

The following quality rules have been added/amended in this release:

  • CourseSubject.SBJCA.6 (amended)
  • StudentEquality.RELBLF.4 (amended)
  • StudentEquality.ETHNIC.2 (amended)
  • Instance.GROSSFEE.11/16 (amended)
  • InstancePeriod.PRIPROV.3 (amended)
  • InstancePeriod.LOCATION.1 (amended)
  • InstancePeriod.LOCSDY.7/8 (amended)
  • QualificationsAwarded.QUAL.5/6 (amended)
  • QualificationsAwarded.QUAL.11 (deleted)
  • Student.StudentEquality.1 (deleted)
  • Instance.RSNEND.3 (deleted)
37 28 Apr 2020

The Data Collection System for the C19054 collection is now open, to enable the submission of data. This includes the Quality rules, Rules comparison and Designation status report (for those with Limited and Teach out designation). Further functionality will follow.

Please note that all rules referencing the JACs coding frame have not yet been updated to HECoS valid entries, but these are being prioritised. In addition, rules that previously looked up a provider's designation status have not yet been updated to Approved, Approved (fee cap), or Limited designation/Teach out categories. Again, these are being prioritiesd and both sets of rules will be released in upcoming sprints.

37 24 Apr 2020
  • The latest version of the XTPOINTS library has been added to the domain to ensure validation matches the complete list of QualificationsOnEntry.QUALTYPES listed in the coding manual.
  • The Validation kit has been updated in line with the C19054 coding manual version 1.1 schema update (QUAL, QUALSBJ and QUALGRADE valid entries) that were omitted in Release ID 34. 

Please note:

  • Quality rules referencing the JACs coding frame have not yet been updated to HECoS valid entries. These will follow in subsequent releases.
  • Quality rules that refer to 'Designation' are currently being updated to cater for Approved and Approved (fee cap) Registered providers and the new Limited Designation category that remains for some providers. These will follow in subsequent releases.  
35 26 Mar 2020

This release includes a number of updates to the Quality Rules:

  • The first load of a C19054 designation file (11/03/2020) has been uploaded. This will update some Quality Rules that reference the OfS designation file
  • The deletion of several CourseSubject.SBJCA rules that link to the OfS designation.xml, following OfS advice, as subject validation on this file will not take place for C19054
  • The deletion of StudentEquality coverage rules that are now enforced by schema.
34 12 Mar 2020

The Validation kit has been updated in line with the C19054 coding manual version 1.1 schema update. Please note that all rules referencing the JACs coding frame have not been updated to HECoS valid entries, and rules still reference last year's C18054 designation status file. Consequently, the Validation kit should only be used for schema validation at this stage. We are working on the mechanism to reference the Provider registration categories over the coming weeks, and the proposed release schedule will be added to the 'Upcoming releases' page within the Support Guide.

The data entry tool is live. This is the program which will produce XML data in the format required for submission to HESA. The link will be added to the next release of the coding manual, but can be downloaded here:

31 29 Jan 2020 This release includes:

  • The roll-on of the quality rules (business rules). Please note that the 2019/20 changes have not been made at this stage, and the rules are based on the final position of 2018/19. 
  •  The downloadable validation kit including a roll-on of the 2018/19 business rules. This will allow users to validate their XML against the schema as per the C19054 Coding Manual version 1.0. If you already have the validation kit installed there is no need to install a new version. If you do not currently have the validation kit installed, you can access it by going to
30 16 Jan 2020

The HUSID Lookup Service is now available.

Known issues (C19054)
Issue Summary Status Date raised Date resolved
QR.C19054.Student.HUSID.2 is currently triggering for any providers that are completing the Student Alternative record for the first time in 2019/20 and returning HUSIDs that include their own HESA INSTID. Open 06 August 2020  

The Credibility and Expected Instance Population reports are currently not being produced where the provider has triggered the quality rules QR.C19054.Course.AWARDBOD.6 or QR.C19054.Course.AWARDBOD.7.

Open 05 August 2020  

We are currently experiencing issues with the validation of the new AWARDBOD field, in particular the submission of UKPRNs, and the import of INITIATIVES where a two-character valid entry is being submitted. 


07 May 2020

11 May 2020
Upcoming releases (C19054)

A high-level summary of the C19054 major component releases are highlighted below.

This is a guide to the proposed sequence of releases. Releases may occur before, or after, the month indicated depending on internal and external factors.


  • Data entry tool
  • HUSID lookup service
  • Roll-on of collection
  • Validation kit with rolled on business rules from the previous year


  • Business rules to match coding manual schema and coverage updates
  • First load of the OfS designation file


  • XTPOINTs library update
  • Continuity Register update
  • Opening of the Data Collection System with rules and rule compare functionality
  • Designation report


  • Business rules to match coding manual schema and coverage updates
  • Derived field development
  • Exception rule updates following derived field implementation
  • Entry Profile, Data Supply, Continuity (Expected Instances) population report
  • Business rules to match coding manual schema and coverage updates
  • Credibility and Exception rule updates using available external static data
  • Frequency Counts report
  • Revisions to XTPOINTs appendix
  • Credibility reports (revised for Registered and Designated provider categories)
  • IRIS reports


  • NSS (National Student Survey) draft report, Unistats report
  • Commit functionality and Sign-off form

Stages of data submission

Stage 1: Submitting and validating data

A. Sending data

Send data by clicking on the 'send data' button in the data collection system. Note that actions not currently available will be greyed out.

Data collection system - Process flow

Browse your computer to locate the file you wish to submit, and upload the file to the data collection system. 


  • Files can have any name
  • Files must be in XML and conform to the relevant XML Schema Definition (XSD) file
  • Files can be compressed using PKZip/WinZip which will significantly reduce the upload time
  • Only a single file can be held on the system.

B. Validation

Automated validation checks (quality rules) will now run.

Further details on the quality rules which apply to this collection can be found in the coding manual.

The Quality rules report will contain the details of any rules triggered by the submission. Make any necessary amendments to the data and resubmit the file to the system. To pass validation, the file must not trigger any validation errors.

You can run some of these validation checks through our validation kit before submitting data to the data collection system. The kit enables you to test your data locally against schema and business stage validation rules prior to submission. You are strongly encouraged to use the validation kit as part of your data preparations.

Remember that you need to process and pass the business-stage validation in order to meet the requirements of the return deadline.

How to obtain a switch

When errors are triggered in the Data Collection system but the data has been checked and is genuine, you need to request a switch. This is because your file will not pass the validation requirements of the collection deadlines if there are any remaining errors.

Please email your switch request to Liaison, stating which rule is causing the error to be triggered and for how many records, together with an explanation as to why the data is genuine.

This will then be forwarded to your funding council/regulator for them to review. They may agree the switch, ask for more information or state how they wish the data to be returned so that an error is no longer triggered.

This request should be sent well in advance of any deadline, to allow sufficient time for a decision to be made.

When a switch has been agreed, it will be applied to your data for the count specified and the data will be reprocessed. This will resolve the error.

If the count increases, the rule will be triggered again, and you will need to request that the count on the switch be increased. This will be forwarded to your funding council/regulator for approval.

Stage 2: Committing and decommitting data

To proceed to the next stage in the submission process, a valid file needs to have been submitted. The data will then be classed as 'committable' and the option to process a COMMIT transaction will be made available through the data collection system.  

Prior to committing data, you should review all of the reports produced on the data collection system and make any necessary corrections to the data.

The COMMIT transaction sends a copy of your submission to our data quality assurance team and, where appropriate, to the relevant funding council. We analyse your return in parallel with your own analysis.


A passed commit transaction will lock the system to prevent the data from being amended. This is to allow our data quality assurance team to analyse the submission. To unlock the system you will need to request a DECOMMIT transaction.

Request a decommit by email or on +44 (0)1242 211144

Remember that you need to process and pass a COMMIT transaction in order to meet the requirements of the commit deadline.

Stage 3: Credibility checks

Once we have analysed your committed return, data quality queries will be posted onto the Minerva DQ database. Relevant users will be notified by email when these queries are available to view. The Minerva user guide provides help on using Minerva.

Access the Minerva Data Quality database

Stage 4: Sign off

Once your data has passed all the stages of validation, and any issues highlighted during credibility checking have been addressed, we will set the return to CREDIBLE. This produces the sign-off form.

When data is set to credible, a link to the sign-off form is automatically emailed to the head of the submitting organisation as well as the appropriate record contact. The form should be completed and signed by the head of the reporting organisation and returned to us by email or post. This verification offers both you and us assurances regarding onward use of the data.

Sign-off completes the data collection process.