Dissemination - Content and presentation of data in HESA data releases
As part of HESA’s Open Data Strategy we are working to publish as much of our data as possible as open data, using recognised open data licencing approaches to encourage the widest range of re-use. However, the desire to publish as much as possible must be balanced against the risks to confidentiality of individuals for many of HESA’s data collections which are drawn from individualised personal data, including the Graduate Outcomes survey. We deploy tried and tested approaches to preserving confidentiality of individuals in our published data releases through use of statistical disclosure control and appropriate design of data tabulations and visualisations.
Content and presentation of data within HESA published releases is designed to deliver a wide range of data and information to meet the most commonly expressed requirements of users. User requirements are captured through a number of different mechanisms including engagement with user associations, user surveys, user feedback channels via the HESA website and through identification of areas of policy and topical interest.
HESA undertakes regular monitoring of the general and specialist press as well as studying emerging HE policy, regulatory and funding matters in order to inform this work. Our aim is to enable content and presentation of HESA releases to continuously evolve and improve, as well as being sufficiently well-informed and flexible to address topical issues as they arise.
The Tailored Datasets service delivers access to specific extracts of data or additional analysis of data that are ‘tailored’ to the needs of each user. This service acts alongside HESA’s range of published materials to enable flexible third-party access to as wide a range of data as possible which can be configured for particular applications.
The Tailored Datasets service is operated by Jisc analysts on behalf of HESA, according to a clear set of procedures and protocols which are defined and monitored by HESA. A trained analyst discusses the data and analytical requirements with each third-party requesting data through the service, and determines the most appropriate data or analysis specification which meets the requirements, whilst also complying with any necessary constraints such as data protection. Data and/or analyses are typically provided under an appropriate data sharing agreement which defines the purposes for which data may be used over a pre-agreed period of time, after which data must be destroyed.
Data delivered through this service will typically include requests by producers of university league tables and guides for prospective students. It is HESA’s policy to engage with such users and to enable them to access appropriate data to deliver information resources for prospective students. Use of data in league tables represents a contentious area and HESA’s approach is to restrict our advice to objective matters. We will therefore advise on issues such as data quality and coverage and may also comment on data fitness for purpose for a given application. However, HESA does not comment on subjective matters such as selection of measures for use in league tables, nor the ways in which measures are combined to create university rankings. It is HESA policy to utilise our ‘Provider Preview’ service for HE Providers in respect of all data requests for use in league tables and university guides.
This service informs HE providers about third-party requests received by HESA for Tailored Datasets to be used for high-profile and significant purposes. It is used primarily for league tables, press enquiries and the calculation of provider subscriptions, along with a few other examples of high-profile uses. The service provides advance notice of each such request along with a copy of the data requested for each HE provider. This is normally made available two weeks prior to the data being made available to the third-party requester.
It represents an opportunity to understand the range of uses and for the HE provider to supply any supporting or contextual information that is pertinent to the intended onward uses. HESA will forward any such contextual information alongside the data to promote appropriate and well-informed usage.