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Data Futures FAQs

If you have any questions which are not answered by the FAQs please email [email protected].

Our Data Futures e-learning programme includes an Introduction to Data Futures and Data Futures Specification modules:

Data Futures e-learning

Supporting resources are also available:

Data Futures resources         

Key concepts

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

The XSD is now 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).

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.

Alpha participants have accessed downloads during the Alpha phase, and this functionality will be available in the Beta phase.

Can we change the tolerances ourselves?

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

We have two twins who have the same name, same date of birth, same address and we constantly get asked to explain this (as you think it’s the same student). Will there be a better way to explain this to you in the Data Futures model?

Yes, there should be, you will be able to confirm that these are different students once and then not be asked about them again.

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 reference period.

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.

What if there are multiple tolerance approvers in a quality rule, who would trump who?

Ultimately the tightest tolerance wins, i.e. if one approver allows 5 students and the other 10, the error would trigger if 7 students are failing the quality rule. However, we would not generally expect a single quality rule to have multiple tolerance approvers for the same population.

Will statutory customers be ready to do the data quality checking needed for this?

Statutory customers will receive training on the new system and the approach, so they will be able to engage with the system.

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.

Since there is no more Minerva, will we be having dialogue with HESA through the HESA data platform?

There is no dialogue through the HESA Data Platform; the Issue Management System (IMS) has replaced Minerva and all queries and questions previously raised in Minerva will now be handled in the IMS.

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’.

FUNDCOMP and MODOUT fields require a lot of derivation and do alternative providers need to do this?

Office for Students are reviewing the funding methods, which might change that in future.

Can we publish questions that we are talking to Statutory Customers about on the website?

Yes, the Specification: ongoing development section in the Collection specification and technical content page contains this information.

Data collections

Reference periods are out of sync with the Scottish Funding Council early statistics return which uses 1 December. Will these be aligned and were the Scottish Funding Council involved in the discussions around moving the first reference period date?

Scottish Funding Council deadlines are a question for them rather than HESA. Scottish Funding Council colleagues present will confirm their input into the decisions.

The last day of teaching is the current end date reported to councils for students' council tax exemptions and this will now differ from the HESA definition, is there any possibility of aligning?

We have included more information on this in End date guidance.  

Have there been any discussion with UCAS about the timing of the *J?

Conversations with UCAS regarding the *J file (including the timing) are ongoing and we will update the sector with information as we have it.

Do we have any clarification on what UCAS will and won't be able to provide us with for the equivalent with *J?

Not yet, though we are in discussion with UCAS.

Could HESA source data from the *J rather than requiring providers to submit this? There are no current plans for this. General feedback from providers is that they would not want to lose control of this data as they make changes to the *J data prior to submission to HESA based on updated information from students.

Are we seeking to in the future bring in other statutory returns like National Student Survey (NSS), Higher Education Students Early Statistics Survey (HESES), etc.?

The long-term aims of Data Futures include bringing other collections onboard to reduce burden. Many customers will want assurances from the first Data Futures collection before committing to this, but it remains a goal and we will continue to have these conversations with other data collectors. Office for Students (OfS) have given us a statement on HESES in particular:

The OfS does not intend to get rid of HESES in the short term. There are three main reasons for this:

  • The current funding model relies on forecasts of new starters and non-completions. We are reviewing the funding model and it is unclear if this data will be required in future. However, it is still currently required.
  • Were the funding model to change, we would need to ensure the data from HESA was as robust as the HESES data for our purposes.
  • Finally, it is currently unclear what the change request process and timelines for new data for HESA Data Futures will be. Therefore, the OfS may still need to independently require student data from providers in order to carry out its functions.

Venue info is returned in the Provider Profile, will this now get removed?

The Provider Profile return will be absorbed by Data Futures at some stage but not straight away.

How does Aggregate Offshore Record (AOR) fit into this?

The AOR is included in Specification items under consideration: we will communicate when more information is available.

Coding manual

Yes, you can find the Glossary here

The Student 2022/23 collection will be an annual collection using the Student - Data Futures 22056 data model from 1 August 2022, replacing the current Student and Student Alternative collections. More information about the coding manual and timelines are available in Data Futures resources and Data Futures: the programme pages.

The following letter was sent out to those providers with Further Education and Degree Apprenticeship students:


I am writing to you with an update that affects the services HESA provides to providers with Further Education and Degree Apprenticeship students. Our records indicate you may be utilising these services. The contents of this letter will shortly appear as an FAQ on the HESA website, but I wanted to write to you personally, as you may wish to take action in response to this.

In October 2017 we published a data specification for the new HESA Student record to be collected in 2019/20 as an outcome of the Data Futures programme. This new specification improves student data collection as it is designed to better accommodate the increasingly diverse ways that HE providers educate students. This is an investment in the future rationalisation and standardisation of HE data flows and it improves the timeliness of HE data collection, and therefore its usefulness.

However, the 19/20 HESA student data specification does not currently include:

· Data fields in the HESA student record to collect data about Further Education provision being undertaken at HE providers, as an alternative to some elements of direct reporting.

· A facility for HE providers offering Degree Apprenticeships to submit an enhanced HESA Student record in order to generate an Individualised Learner Record to support the HE provider to comply with their reporting requirements to the ESFA (England only).

We are committed to delivering these services until the end of the 2018/19 academic year. We cannot commit to delivering these services beyond summer 2019 at this stage.

We are engaging with statutory customers to ascertain whether there will be a requirement for HESA to collect this data or to support these services in the future. We would like to continue to provide these services subject to an assessment that HESA’s continued provision of these services is viable and represents the best value for the sector.

Given the uncertainty inherent in this situation, I understand that you may wish to make contingency plans should these services be withdrawn. I anticipate being able to provide an update later in the spring, but if you have any questions or comments arising from this letter, please contact our Institutional Liaison team on +44 (0) 1242 211 144 or [email protected]

As the 2019/20 Student collection will now be on the legacy system, the above principles still stand. We will not be offering the ILR generation tool in 2019/20 and the ILR specific fields will no longer be returned. We do not expect any FE data to be returned, though the fields will remain in the record for one more year (to help providers with the transition). In 2020/21 all of the FE data items will no longer be returned. 

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