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Graduate Outcomes Contact Details record 2022/23

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Contact details guidance for providers

Version 1.0 Produced 2023-07-05

Contents: General guidance | Supply of 'best' contact details | Shared contact details | Provider domain email addresses |Switches | Human / system error | Approval | Future proofing

The Data Specification for the return of contact details for the Graduate Outcomes record can be found on the HESA website.

  • The ‘data items’ page outlines the requirements for each field which a provider must refer to, to ensure the correct data is returned in the correct field. HESA has provided some additional guidance on the EMAIL, INTTEL, UKMOB and UKTEL fields.
  • The quality rules page outlines the validation that will take place in the provider portal.
  • The role and responsibilities of providers with reference to their own quality assurance of personal contact details data.

This page summarises the guidance for the creation of accurate personal contact details data and should be used prior to submission in the provider portal.

Contact detail Email (EMAIL) Phone number (UKTEL and INTTEL) Mobile (UKMOB)
Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable
Agents or recruitment agency x x x
Companies that support international students studying abroad x x x
Referees (e.g. for UCAS) x x x
Sponsors x x x
International study centre x x x
University lecturers/academics x x x
Dummy data x x x
Legitimately shared / duplicate contact data x x x

Submission of duplicates and shared email addresses is not best practice. These should only be submitted where there is a genuine reason for this e.g. shared family telephone number, shared accommodation, shared workplace / business landline telephone. Providers will need to request for the quality rule triggering to be switched. More information is provided below under ‘Switches’.

General guidance

Throughout the collection process, providers should quality assure (QA) contact details to ensure their robustness, accuracy and validity. This should include a thorough data cleansing exercise prior to submission in the provider portal and the identification and removal of all duplicated contact details, where there is not a genuine reason for there being shared contact details.

Providers should carry out thorough data cleansing to include:

  • Accuracy of personal contact data – these should be current (verified by undertaking the recommended best practise contact activities) and be the personal contact details for the graduate as provided and verified by that graduate. This should include taking all reasonable steps to verify that ‘unacceptable’ contact details have not inadvertently been recorded as the graduates’ personal contact details
  • Determining that there is a valid reason for the submission of duplicate/shared contact details and removing duplicate/shared contact details where there is no valid reason for their submission
  • Removal of unacceptable contact details as outlined in the Data Specification for Graduate Outcomes, examples of which are given in the table above.

Supply of 'best' contact details

Providers should be focused on returning the best contact details that they hold for a graduate, therefore, it is recommended that a maximum of 3 contact details are returned for each of the different types of contact detail. All contact details should be current and be the personal contact details for the graduate as provided and verified by that graduate. What HESA also means by ‘best’ is the supply of contact details that are most likely to elicit a response to the survey. This can be determined by recent contact with the graduate via this contact detail.

We previously instructed providers to place the ‘best’ contact detail in position one, however, this is no longer the case. Read the background information to explain this change (this was published on Jiscmail on 30 January 2020).

Email guidance

Some providers will be using email clients (e.g. mailchimp, raisers edge) to despatch their communications to students and graduates which often provide rich insight into the behaviour of the email recipient. This includes where the recipient has opened the email, clicked on a link or replied to it. This provides the evidence required to determine that the graduate is actively using this contact detail and is therefore useful in terms of survey engagement.

If the provider is using these systems to carry out the suggested graduate contact during the 15 months post-course completion period, this provides a regular feed of information about this contact detail to help make this determination.

Where providers do not have access to this information, and multiple email addresses for a graduate are known, then provided these remain accurate for the graduate, it is recommended these are all returned to give HESA additional opportunities to contact the graduate (up to a maximum of 3).

Shared contact details

The use of shared contact details is only permitted where there are legitimate reasons. This is because HESA needs the personal contact details for a graduate to contact the intended graduate directly, and to remove the risk of the survey being sent to unintended recipients.

HESA accepts that there will be cases where the graduate has legitimately requested that a shared contact detail be used. These occcasions will be switchable in the provider portal i.e. confirmable by providers, but providers should seek to identify these instances and verify them before they are submitted to HESA. As an additional measure HESA has released additional validation in the provider portal.

Provider domain email addresses

Where providers have supplied email addresses for graduates on their domain e.g. joe.bloggs@[provider], they should be mindful of the expiry period for these addresses. Some providers allow graduates to keep these addresses for life, others expire them after a fixed period (e.g. six month post-course completion). These email addresses should only be returned as valid graduate contact details for Graduate Outcomes when they are still live accounts on your system. Please refer to your IT department for guidance on the retention policy for such email addresses before submitting them to HESA.

Where providers are satisfied that the provider domain email address will be live at the point of HESA contact, HESA suggests that providers whitelist the relevant email sender address which will be [providername] This will help ensure these emails are delivered successfully.

It's important that provider domain email addresses are still live as this has an impact on HESA’s IP address reputation. Should provider domain email addresses be shut down at the start of the survey period, this may lead to HESA's emails bouncing and its IP address being blacklisted. This would put a halt to HESA’s email capability thus restricting its surveying to phone or SMS only.

**HESA analysis of contact details suggests effectiveness of email addresses is far greater than HESA therefore advises providers to collect at least one personal email address from all their graduates and most importantly from international graduates. This would maximise the chances of HESA contacting graduates and collecting their response to the online survey.**

HESA monitor the delivery of emails and may contact providers if there are low deliverability rates.


A switch will need to be requested where there are genuinely shared contact details which are triggering a record level error in the provider portal.

To request a switch, the provider will need to email the HESA Liaison team.This email will need to detail the rule triggering, the student identifier such as a SID and an explanation for why this data is genuine. Once the switch has been approved, it will be applied to the data so the error is no longer triggering for those records.

Please note that when contacting HESA, personal data of the graduate should not be included in the email.

Human / system error

We’re aware that many staff members are involved in the creation of the contact details data for the purposes of Graduate Outcomes, using a number of different internal systems and software houses.

Email addresses should be reviewed to ensure their accuracy, checking for incorrect spelling especially in the suffix of the address. For example, @gmial @hotmil.

With this in mind along with the above, additional checks/validation should be taken by providers prior to submission to HESA to ensure there are no human / system related errors when producing the XML file for submission to the provider portal. This is to avoid incorrect transposition of data arising from manual data handling.


When approving the submitted contact data as per the published deadlines, you must agree that the data submitted meets the Data Specification for Graduate Outcomes. A pop-up window will request that you have checked and verified that it meets the specification and that quality assurance mechanisms have been used.

Future proofing

HESA knows that some providers have found effective ways of verifying their data to ensure it meets the Data Specification for Graduate Outcomes so HESA will look to create case studies to enable these good practice approaches to be shared and used more widely.

Need help?

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