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Data Futures resources

Page updated 18 July 2022

Data Futures e-learning

HESA glossary

HE Provider: supply side

The data model translates the Student and Student Alternative records into a single data stream.

Details of the entities and fields to be collected will be presented in the Data dictionary in the Coding manual.

To view the diagram below in full-screen, right-click and select 'open in new tab'.

Data Futures model diagram showing updated entities and flow of data


A Reference period is a fixed period of time, the end of which, aligns to when HESA’s statutory and public purpose customers require sector-wide data and information. The diagram below summarises the structure of a Reference period:

Key concepts what is a reference period

Key terms relating to a Reference period:

Sign-off: The process of a defined role (for example Vice Chancellor) making a formal declaration that the data submitted to HESA for a given collection represents an honest, impartial, and rigorous account of the HE provider’s events up to the end of the reference period. 

Dissemination point: The specified date, after the end of a Reference period, by which signed-off data will be extracted and supplied to HESA's data customers. Data disseminated at the Dissemination point will be used for official accounts of the higher education provider’s activity for statistical, regulatory, and public information purposes.


Whilst the approach to quality assurance in the HESA Data Platform (HDP) is similar to current practice in the Student and Student Alternative collections, we have improved automation and customisation.

Quality and Credibility rules will each have tolerances associated with them. Previously providers had to request ‘switches’ to rules by contacting the Liaison team via email; these requests will now be handled directly through the HESA Data Platform (HDP) and Issue Management System (IMS). This will ensure that requests are routed correctly and reduce the feedback time.

The HESA Data Platform (HDP) automatically raises issues in the Issue Management System (IMS). This is based on the latest submission after the reference period, which removes the need for what was previously called ‘Commit’. However, HESA and Statutory Customers will still review the submission ahead of allowing the provider to move to sign off: this step is called ‘Submit for Approval’. Providers can choose to create issues sooner if they choose to manage their workload effectively.


  • The triage process in the IMS will forward tolerance requests to the correct recipient for review. 
  • Self-approved rules will reduce the feedback turnaround time to our providers. 


  • Providers can request to self-approve some rules; these would typically be those rules flagged as ‘Warning’ rules in the current collection.
  • When an individual tolerance request is approved, HESA or the Statutory Customer can apply the tolerance to future collections: the tolerance override can persist across collections, as required.
  • Tolerances will, over time, allow the rule base to better reflect the profile of the organisation: this will enable us to focus on changes from the norm for each provider.
  • Providers will create their own issues in the IMS rather than waiting for the HDP to create them once the reference period has ended:
    • This brings forward the time in which providers can request tolerance overrides, to reduce peaks and troughs of activity.

Frequently asked questions

Will there be any requirement to order the XML elements in a particular way at all? (Preference is that ordering is not required)

Files must conform to the structure in the XSD. The XSD is available in the Student - Data Futures coding manual.

What happens if Statutory Customers don’t approve a tolerance in time?

In existing collections, HESA passes on the approval from a Statutory Customer. In Data Futures we’ve removed the step where a Statutory Customer has to feed back to Liaison; instead, the Statutory Customer will make that change directly in the Issue Management System (IMS).

Changes made to the process should reduce the time it takes for a tolerance to be applied. There is additional reporting in the Issue Management System (IMS) to reduce the likelihood of delays. 

 We encourage providers to seek tolerance change requests as early as possible to ensure there is sufficient time to work through the quality assurance process, and to raise any concerns with the Liaison team: [email protected] or call +44 (0) 1242 533 231 

Will we be able to export errors?

In the HESA Data Platform (HDP), you can download the summary of which quality rules have triggered, also the details of which students/courses/modules, etc. have triggered each rule individually.

Can we change the tolerances ourselves?

Tolerances will be routed to the appropriate approver which will be defined in the quality rules.

Will we need to request tolerances every year/reference period?

This depends on the circumstance; some tolerance adjustments may apply for several years and not have to be requested again. Others may need to be approved for each collection.

Where there are two interrelated quality rules, do we have to request a tolerance change for each?

Yes. Each quality rule will have its own tolerance, so you will need to request a change to each quality rule individually.

Can HESA assure smaller providers that percentage tolerances will not be used when absolute numbers of records would be more appropriate to their scale?

Tolerances can be based on a percentage and a count so in some cases this can be mitigated but probably not all.

What exactly will be the mechanism for raising issues?

There is a button called ‘Create issue’ for you to raise a tolerance change.

If you fix an issue then break it again, will the system remember your customised agreed tolerance, rather than resetting to the default?

If the tolerance adjustment still applies, it will remember it.

The Office for Students may have queries that are not related to tolerances – how will queries like comparisons or funding issues be raised?

Data issues do not need to relate to a rule. Users will have the ability to raise issues in relation to any report irrespective of whether it is subject to tolerance.

Will the quality checking be per reference period or on an annual basis?

Quality rules will run in each reference period but there may be some checks that look at the annualised picture, for example, looking at significant changes in student numbers between year.

Can we have some sort of commit button, so we can acknowledge that we're ready for you to accept the data?

The HESA Data Platform (HDP) automatically raises issues in the Issue Management System (IMS) based on the latest submissions after the reference period, which removes the need for what was previously called ‘Commit’. However, HESA and Statutory Customers do still need to review the submission ahead of allowing the provider to move to sign off and this step is called ‘Submit for Approval’.

The Data Futures preparation assessment is intended to help practitioners to:

  • Reflect on, and evaluate preparedness across a range of information management categories
  • Prioritise areas for further action
  • Guide discussions with software providers
  • Communicate levels of comfort and concern to senior managers



As part of our commitment to transparency, we will publish any relevant external Data Futures presentations in this section.

Presentation Supporting information

Thumbnail of Data Futures update presentation given at Independent Higher Education conference October 2021


Alison Berry, Head of Operations and Performance led a Data Futures update session at the Independent Higher Education (IHE) Annual conference, October 2021.


SROCfest2021: Data Futures Programme Update (external link, opens in new screen: link to YouTube video recording of presentation)

Emily Carter, Data Futures Project Manager, gave a Data Futures programme update on Monday 22 March 2021 at the Student Record Officers' online Conference, SROCfest2021




HESA Data Platform - demonstration by product owners

Remote demonstration to the Programme Board of the Data Futures HESA Data Platform, October 2020.

No real data is being used and providers' names were chosen to represent different administrations.

Data Futures Unit4 presentation


Remote presentation given on 5 May 2020

Software suppliers Data Futures remote workshop 21 May 2020


Remote workshop given on 21 May 2020


Sign up for the HESA weekly update

Data Futures operational updates (coding manual releases, resource updates, etc) will now be available via the HESA weekly update. If you are not a HESA operational contact, you can still sign up for the HESA weekly update; you can change your preferences at any time.

Data Futures monthly update

In August 2022, providers will need to start collecting data using the Data Futures data model for submission to the HESA Data Platform (HDP).

We have launched the Data Futures monthly newsletter to regularly communicate updates, milestones and useful content: 

  • Programme timeline, upcoming key dates and readiness requirements.
  • Updates on the Beta phase.
  • The latest e-learning.
  • Insights into the work of the programme: high-level overviews and deep dives.

You can opt in to receive the newsletter via the form linked below, and you can change your preferences at any time.

Sign up for the Data Futures monthly update