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Student record - Data Futures

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Version 1.0.0 Produced 2020-03-31


The HESA Student record has been collected since 1994/95 from subscribing HE providers throughout the devolved administrations of the United Kingdom. The data collected as part of the Student record is used extensively by various stakeholders and is fundamental in the formulation of:

  • Funding.
  • Performance Indicators.
  • Publications (including UNISTATS).
  • League tables.

The Data Futures programme brings the requirements of two existing data collections - Student record and Student Alternative record (previously known as the Alternative provider student record) - into a new (in-year) student data collection specification.

The originals specification for the new Student record to be delivered by the HESA Data Futures programme had been produced following three principal bodies of work over several years:

  • The Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP), which engaged extensively over three years and multiple projects to establish a vision for redesigning the HE data landscape. This included the definition of a new Data Landscape Steering Group, to oversee a sector-owned Data Language for Higher Education, supported by an observed model of data entities and relationships.
  • Collection design project, which consulted and engaged widely to establish a draft student data collection specification based largely on HESA's current mandate for data collection.
  • The Data Futures Programme's Detailed design project, which has produced a more detailed specification based on a substantial volume of feedback from the Collection design project, and on further detailed work by the Data Futures team.

Some of these principles where possible have remained within the new Specification, but with the decision to move away from continuous to discrete collections in April 2019 these have been adapted to better suit the needs of the Statutory Customers.

The new data specification has been a product of extensive work with Statutory Customers, HE Providers and sector bodies. Through this collaborative development the collection specification has been refined, accommodating the needs of Statutory Customers and executed in a way as to minimise the resulting impact upon providers.

The data specification needs to flex and adapt to the future requirements of a dynamic policy environment and therefore will require changes to be made. The collection specification for Data Futures has been structured in such a way to ensure that these changes are not fundamental. An iterative schedule of releases will allow for modifications to be made, at a similar frequency to those of an established collection specification (for example the Staff record).

Record specific detail

The Student record is collected in respect of all students registered at the reporting provider who follow courses that lead to the award of a qualification or provider credit. The emphasis of the coverage of the Student record is those who are (or were) actively following a course at some time during the applicable reference period.

Full details of the coverage can be found within the Coverage of the record.

Data collected

The Student record collects individualised data about students active during the reference period. A wide range of data items are collected, including: the student's entry profile and personal characteristics, module and course level data, funding information and qualifications awarded. The detail of the different items collected can be found in the Data dictionary located on the coding manual landing page.

Students who are studying overseas or who come to the UK for a period of less than 8 consecutive weeks during their programme of study are not included in the Student record but should instead be included in the Aggregate offshore record. This is a complementary annual return which provides a headcount of students studying through the provider's provision overseas. Please note the current coverage for the Aggregate offshore record has not changed.

Data collection

The original vision for the Data Futures Programme was to implement a continuous data collection system, where it would have been possible to submit data on a more regular basis and more closely aligned to business events. In April 2019 the decision was taken to move to 3 submissions a year.

Therefore, the Data Futures Programme will be running as a ‘discrete’ collection. This sees data returned to reflect the status at a point in time - in this case the end of the Reference Period.

Discrete collections can be categorised by three core dimensions:

  • Nature of the data: returned to reflect the status at a point in time, in this case the end of the reference period.
  • Nature of the collection: in a discrete approach, each collection operates independently from any others.
  • Scope of data: each dissemination requires the full coverage of the record to be returned, i.e. for each student all that is known about them at the time and relevant to the reference period is supplied.

More information on in-year collection, Reference periods and in-scope data is available in the Key concepts section of Data Futures.

Need help?

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