Skip to main content

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 order of the fields is part of the hard schema and must be correct before the file will be accepted.


What happens if statutory customers don’t approve a tolerance in time for the end of a reference period?

We need to confirm expectations with statutory customers around turnaround time but, as with the current returns, we would always recommend getting requests in in plenty of time. If you ask for a tolerance adjustment very close to the deadline day, you may not get a response in time.


Will we be able to export errors?

In the first instance quality rule reports will not be downloadable, but this functionality will become available in a later release of the system. The reports will be presented in a table that can be copied to Excel. Downloadable copies of reports will be added gradually and we will be prioritising those of most value to providers.


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?

You can have the dialogue with HESA and statutory customers directly through the data platform. But you can still get in touch with Liaison if you would like to speak to us directly, as we will be able to see all the discussion threads.


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?

Not on the list currently - HESA to consider if this is a possible future development.


Please do not use 'Cohorts' on quality rules. It means placements, links to Graduate Outcomes. Approver group would be better.

Ok, HESA will consider an alternative name.


Could we move away from putting lists of values into the hard schema please?

This is currently in hard schema, but we could reconsider this for the future.

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, we have already published a page on the website for providers to see what areas HESA is currently working on.


When sending queries to Liaison on Data Futures we often get a holding response or the response that more information is to follow. When will requirements be confirmed, as some are key questions?

We are working through these as quickly as possible and get back to you with answers when we can. We are adding more guidance with each release and will continue to do as it is confirmed.

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?

No current plans.


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?

This is not within coverage at the moment, but we are looking to review this record soon.


What happened to linking data up to the Student Loans Company (SLC)?

We have been having some discussions with the SLC recently. We are trying to make sure we are aligning definitions with the SLC. It will be revisited.

Coding manual

Yes, you can find the Glossary here

The Data Futures programme has taken three separate data collections, and translated them into a single collection, expressed in sector-owned, observed data language. Further information about this can be found in Key concepts.

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. 

Further information

  • 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 sign up for HESA weekly update; you can change your preferences at any time.

  • If you want to get in contact with someone, please email [email protected].