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Student Alternative 2021/22: Support guides

This page provides an overview of the 2021/22 Student Alternative collection (C21054).

This should be used alongside the C21054 coding manual, which provides more detailed, technical information about the collection.

Need help? Contact us by email or on +44 (0)1242 388 531

Student Alternative overview

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.

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.

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 and track the progress of the collection.

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:


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 388531 

Find out more about Liaison

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

Dates for deadlines

The data collection deadlines for the Student Alternative return have 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 have been phasing the adjustments to the deadlines over the C19054, C20054 and C21054 collections. The deadlines for 2021/22 can be seen in the table below.


Student (C21051)

Student Alternative (C21054)


15 September

15 September


21 September

21 September

Final Commit

31 October

31 October


07 November

07 November



Data collection system: Release history and known issues

Issue Summary


Date raised

Date resolved

The rule QR.EntryProfile.APELCRD.3 is working correctly however the population of the rule has the potential to cause some confusion. The rule only triggers for first year students that are in the Standard Registration Population (XPSR01). Where entry profiles are resubmitted for continuing students they will not be within coverage of the rule.  Information 26 October  
(139691) Credibility: Full time equivalent FTE1, 2 and 3. A manual calculation of Average FTE taken from the Drill down's excel download may not tie up with the Credibility Average full-time Equivalents 'Avg-FTE' cell value value as they use slightly different base data. The Credibility table uses the publication's derived field XSTULOAD01, which sums up the STULOAD across all linked InstancePeriods, whereas the Drill down brings back the STULOAD for the displayed HUSID's InstancePeriod. Information  04 October 04 October
(138514) QR.Course.AWARDBOD.8 and 10 triggerng incorrectly where the Course.AWARDBOD field has not been returned. Resolved 02 September 07 September
(138012) Following changes to the availability of the QualificationsAwarded.CLASS GPA codes, and a further review, we will be deleting the newly created QR.QualificationsAwarded.CLASS.10 quality rule as it has been found to be over restrictive. Resolved 24 August 31 August
(137916 / 137911) QR.EntryProfile.PARED.5, APELCRD.3 and 7, and CRDPTSTU.7 are causing 'Target of Invocation' errors in the validation kit. This is being investigated.  Resolved 24 August 31 August 
(137921) QR.StudentEquality.SEXORT.5 is being amended to add the Continuity StudentWquality.SEXORT value to the fields to display Resolved 24 August 31 August
(137259) QR.EntryProfile.PARED.4 is being amended to add default fields to the rules display (Student.HUSID, Student.OENSTU, EntryProfile.NUMHUS, Instance.OWNINST). Resolved 24 August 31 August 

(ID 137882) QR.StudentEqulaity.ETHNIC.11 is triggerig correctly where an incoming EntryProfile.DOMICILE is outside coverage, but could prevent a submission of Student.ETHNIC if a previously sent instance for the student had a DOMICILE within coverage. QR.StudentEqulaity.ETHNIC.11 will be downgraded to a Warning.

QR.Student.ETHNIC.12 will continue to trigger as an Error where all EntryProfile.DOMICILEs are outside coverage.

Resolved 23 August 31 August
(ID 137550) QR.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.6 appears to be over-triggering. This is being investigated. Resolved 16 August 24 August
(ID 137492) QR.InstancePeriod.CAMPID.1 is missing a few CAMPID locations from the ProviderProfile collection from the static data lookup file. Resolved 16 August 24 August
(ID 137056) QR.Instance.FUNDCODE.16 incorrectly triggering for EU domiciled students with a COMDATE prior to the 2021/22 reporting year. Resolved 10 August 24 August

A number of Continuity validation rules are not displaying the identifying information such as HUSID or NUMHUS required to review the results. The rules affected are:

  • QR.EntryProfile.APELCRD.2
  • QR.EntryProfile.APELCRD.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDPTSTU.7
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDSCM.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.SEC.3
Resolved 09 August 24 August 
(ID 136275) QR.C21054.Course.AWARDBOD.8 appears to be triggering incorrectly. This is being investigated, to be fixed, by the development team Resolved 19 July 28 July
(ID 136270) QR.C21054.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.2 is over-triggering. This is being investigated, to be fixed, by the development team. Resolved 19 July 28 July

The Schema datatype YEARTYPE requires the maximum value to be updated to 2022 from 2020.  The schema will be updated in the version 1.6 coding manual release. 

Resolved 09 Mar  


Release ID Release date Release summary
100 21 September 2022 The latest versions of the Office for National Statistics postcode files have been added. These are used by quality rules that validate postcode submission
99 07 September 2022

The Unistats report is now available from the Data Collection dashboard. 

Degree Awarding Powers static data has been updated to add Spurgeon’s College. 

The following quality rules have been amended or deleted:


  • QR.StudentEquality.ETHNIC.11 has bene downgraded to a warning
  • QR.StudentEquality.ETHNIC.12
  • QR.QualificationsAwarded.CLASS.3 and 4


  • QR.QualificationsAwarded.CLASS.10 has been deleted following a review of the CLASS GPA codes.
99a 31 August 2022

The "commit" feature is now available.

All known issues with quality rules have been addressed - please refer to the Known Issues page for details.

98 24 August 2022

The draft National Student Survey (NSS) report is available from the data collection dashboard

The following quality rules have been added, amended or deleted:


  • QR.Student.UCASPERID.3  ​

  • QR.COURSE.Awardbod.10 

  • QR.InstancePeriod.INITIATVES.16 

  • QR.QualificationsAwarded.CLASS.10, 11


  • QR.InstancePeriod.Campid.1 ​

  • QR.Instance.STULOAD.17 -

  • QR.EntryProfile.SEC.3, APELCRD.2, CRDSCM.3 

  • QR.QualificationsAwarded.CLASS.3, 4 

  • QR.EntryProfile.QUALENT3.5



97 09 August 2022

The following quality rules have been added or amended:


  • QR.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.6
  • QR.EntryProfile.POSTCODE.11
  • QR.EntryProfile.DOMICILE.13
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDPTSTU.6
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDPTSTU.7
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDPTSTU.8
  • QR.EntryProfile.PREVINST.6
  • QR.EntryProfile.PARED.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.PARED.4
  • QR.EntryProfile.SEC.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.SEC.4
  • QR.EntryProfile.APELCRD.2
  • QR.EntryProfile.APELCRD.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.5
  • QR.Student.BIRTHDTE.12
  • QR.StudentEquality.NATION.3
  • QR.StudentEquality.GENDERID.4
  • QR.QualificationsOnEntry.QUALGRADE.5


  • QR.QualificationsOnEntry.QUALYEAR.17
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.6
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.7
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.8
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.9
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.10
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.11
  • QR.Instance.FUNDCODE.12
  • QR.Instance.FUNDCODE.13
  • QR.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.4


96 28 July 2022

The following quality rules have been added or amended:


  • QR.Course.AWARDBOD.9
  • QR.Student.UCASPERID.2
  • QR.Instance.2
  • QR.InstancePeriod.INITIATIVES.15
  • QR.InstancePeriod.STULOAD.17
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDPTSTU.9
  • QR.EntryProfile.CRDSCM.3
  • QR.EntryProfile.SEC.2
  • QR.StudentEquality.SEXORT.5


  • References to the C21041 Provider Profile collection have been updated which is used in Instance.CAMPID quality rules
  • QR.EntryProfile.QUALENT3.3
  • QR.Instance.FUNDCODE.10, 11
  • QR.InstancePeriod.CAMPID.4
95 14 July 2022

The following reports are now available from the Data Collection dashboard, and will be visible following a new submission:

  • IRIS reporting has been switched on (although the OfS are currently sending back a blank text file)
  • Credibility reports are now available, updated for C21054.

The following quality rules have been added or amended:


  • QR.StudentEquality.ETHNIC.11, 12
  • QR.Course.AWARDBOD.8


  • QR.QualificationsOnEntry.QUALYEAR.14, 15, 16
  • QR.EntryProfile.PARED.5
  • QR.EntryProfile.POSTCODE.4
  • QR.EntryProfile.CARELEAVER.1, 2
  • QR.Instance.FUNDCODE.16
  • QR.Instance.ENDDATE.8
  • QR.EntryProfile.QUALENT3.4
  • QR.InstancePeriod.PERIODEND.2
94 30 June 2022

The Continuity (expected instances population) report is now available.

A number of Static data tables have been updated and released to enable and allow subsequent updates to exception rules:

  • Degree Awarding Powers list for Course.AWARDBOD rules.
  • The latest versions of the Office for National Statistics postcode files have been added. These are used by quality rules that validate postcode submissions.
93 16 June 2022

A number of Static data tables have been updated and released to enable and allow subsequent updates to exception rules:

  • OfS Fees data to update and allow subsequent implementation of Instance.GROSSFEE rules
  • The OfS FinancialSupport data to update and allow subsequent implementation of QR.Instance.FinancialSupport.2 and 5 and QR.FinancialSupport.APPSPEND.1.
  • A number of UKPRN MAPSET and KEYSETS have been updated, used in DeliveryOrganisationAndLocation.DELORG.1

The Frequency Counts report (identifying the occurrences of valid entries) is now available from the Data Collection Dashboard and will appear when a new file is submitted.

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:

  • Instance.FinancialSupport.5
  • Instance.GROSSFEE.30, 40.
92 01 June 2022

The following quality rules have been added:

  • DeliveryOrganisationAndLocation.DELORG.5
  • DeliveryOrganisationAndLocation.DELORG.6
  • DeliveryOrganisationAndLocation.DELORG.7
91 18 May 2022

The Entry profile report, enabling providers to review missing entry profile data, has been updated and is available via the data collection system.

The Continuity register has been updated for C21054. Continuity rules, linking submitted data to last year's submitted data, have now been updated. 

The Expected instance population report, enabling providers to identify students for whom HESA expects to receive a record in the following academic year, is now available.

The XTPOINTs library has been updated and released based upon the values in the UCAS tariff point aggregation field  XTPOINTS_1.24.2 (

An updated version of the C21054 Designation file (27/04/2022) has been loaded. This is used by quality rules for providers that remain designated with the OfS. For these providers, the Designation status report is also available on the Data collection system.

87 22 Mar 2022 The validation kit has been updated to match the QualificationsOnEntry.QULAGRADE and QULATYPE additions released in Coding manual version 1.5 (22/03/2022).
86 09 Mar 2022

The Data Collection system for C21054 has been enabled with the 'Send data' functionality to validate against this year's schema and the rolled-on business rules, based on their final position of 2020/21 (C20054).

The validation kit is available with a roll-on of the 2020/21 business rules. Rules will be updated for C21054 through future iterative releases. 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 here.

Please note that access to the data collection system is governed by the Identity system. Users will need to ensure that they have the relevant permissions attached to their Identity system account in order to access the data collection system.

The updated HUSID Lookup Service is available from the drop down at the top of the Data Collection System page, containing students from the 202021 collection. Please see the HUSID lookup support page for further information at

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:  


A high-level summary of the C21054 major external component releases is highlighted below.

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


  • HUSID lookup service


  • Data entry tool


  • Validation kit based on current year schema, with business rules rolled-on from last year
  • Opening of the Data Collection System with rules and rule compare functionality
  • Addition new constituent HE providers to Data Collection System drop-down
  • First release of business rules to match coding manual schema and coverage updates
  • * J for UCAS loaded into the system for validation


  • No releases


  • First load of the OfS designation file (when available from OfS) / Designation report [Moved from April to May]
  • XTPOINTs library updated to validate data against QualificationOnEntry.QUALTYPES [Moved from April to May]
  • Roll-on of exception rules (that are not dependent upon derived fields) [Moved from April to May]
  • Qualifications on Entry and Continuity Register update [Moved from April to May] 
  • Continuity stage rule releases [Moved from April to May]
  • Entry Profile report
  • Derived field implementation  
  • Release of business rules to match coding manual schema and coverage updates [Moved from April to May]
  • Expected Instances population report 


  • Frequency Counts report [Moved from May to June]
  • Further release of business and exception rule updates
  • Exception rule updates using available external static data 
  • Data Supply 
  • Credibility reports roll-on 


  • IRIS reports  
  • Credibility reports updates  
  • Revisions to XTPOINTs appendix (if required) 


  • NSS (draft) report 
  • Commit functionality and Sign-off form available 


  • Unistats report
  • Credibility checking

Stages of data submission

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.

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 388531

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

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

Access the Issue Management System data quality database

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.