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Data Futures FAQ

Frequently asked questions brings together common queries that have arisen during the Data Futures process. It also supports the new Coding manual (Data Futures).

If you have any questions which are not answered by the FAQ please contact Liaison by email: [email protected], or phone: +44 (0)1242 211144.

Further supporting resources, and information around key concepts and Data Futures, are also available here:

Data Futures resources          Key concepts          Data Futures hub  

Key concepts

Quality assurance

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.


When are quality rules run against data?

For each open collection, quality assurance is run against data that is in-scope for that collection. Data submitted in advance, i.e. that is not yet in-scope, will not be subject to quality assurance until it becomes in-scope for an open collection.


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.


When we trigger hard schema rules, will you keep the data?

No, as we won’t be able to interpret the file.


When we trigger implicit quality rules, will you retain the data?

Yes, so you will need to delete or correct the data if it’s run and turns out to be incorrect.


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.


How will data that has fallen out of scope contribute to tolerances?

Data quality is run against in-scope data so out of scope data will not be considered.


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.


Will there still be a desktop validation kit?

Not in 2019/20 but this is a potential future development.


Will quality rules run as soon as a reference period opens? Will we be able to run these ahead of time?

They will run when a reference period opens but how far in advance these can be opened is still to be confirmed.


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.

Data submission: requirements

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.


If we can’t confirm exactly what we need to submit as an alternative provider, how can we confirm that we are ready?

It makes it a bit harder. We would advise that you prepare yourself to report everything a non-alternative provider reports.


If you are an alternative provider, waiting on the Office for Students to decide which data items will be required from alternative providers is putting us at a disadvantage compared to other providers as they are getting longer time to prepare data.

Office for Students reply: alternative providers won't be alternative providers in future, it will depend on how you're registered with the Office for Students.

Returning data

Returning data general questions

Do we expect the sign-off of the data for each reference period to be the head of provider as it is now?

Yes. This will be done via an electronic sign-off form.


Will we have the option to delete a whole file?

No, you will need to send a deletion instruction for the data items you want to delete. There is no option to ‘undo’ a single file.


Why do people change data, because it’s wrong or because they’ve updated it?

It can be both, it really depends on the circumstances.


Does one reference period need to be signed-off before data can be submitted to the next?

No, you can submit data in advance and it will not need to be signed-off until it becomes in-scope. How far in advance reference periods will be open is still to be confirmed.


Does data about a student submitted in one reference period carry over to another?

Where applicable, yes, student level data will remain in-scope throughout a student's Engagement and so does not need to be resubmitted each reference period unless it changes or needs to be corrected.


If we returned a file every month, for example, will previous files be overwritten?

New files do not overwrite previous files, even within a reference period where the previous file has not yet been signed-off.


Are you going to move to a real-time approach?

Our starting point is three reference periods a year. There are no immediate plans to move to a real-time approach, but the system allows providers (with the capability) to submit data in this way.


Once data is submitted, will it always stay there?

Yes, data submitted will remain in the system and continue to need to be signed-off until it falls out of scope.


So, we won’t have to fit into a HESA reporting year (like the AP Student record does now)?

Yes, there is no HESA reporting year in the new collection.


Can we supply full XML files and fragments?

Providers can submit fragments with small amounts of data as well as larger files with data previously submitted. The system allows for either approach and will be able to update things that have changed without affecting data previously submitted.


Will Liaison be available throughout the transition period?

Yes, the Liaison team will be available throughout to provide support to providers.


If we have submitted incorrect data, do we need to delete and resubmit?

This depends on the changes that need to be made. If the Primary Key of an entity remains the same, it can be amended rather than deleted and resubmitted. HESA will look to publish more guidance around deletes and amendments.


Are the reference periods set dates?

Yes, they are and will be published soon.


I can’t see the logic of deleting data from an operational point of view. It might get very messy with data issues if we have to update data all the time?

In a cumulative return it’s unavoidable to have to concept of deletes. A potential consideration is at what point you return the data to HESA. It depends on your set up; holding off on submitting some ‘in advance’ data may reduce the need for deletes.


So, we only send information when something changes? How will I know something changes, unless I send the whole file to HESA?

It will really depend on how your system is set up, you can send through things that haven’t changed and our system will work it out if your system is set up that way.


What if we aren’t ready due to software houses?

We are working with the software houses, so they should have let us know if they are behind. We have run workshops with software suppliers and sessions alongside the Alpha participants as well as attending user groups where we can. If you have concerns about your software house you should raise this with them, but also let us know.


When should I be preparing for Data Futures?

If you are not already preparing, we would recommend starting as soon as possible. There are significant changes to the approach and planning for the transition, including working out any resource requirements. The Data Futures preparation assessment in resources may be a good place to start as a way to identify areas that need particular focus.


Data entry tool – will there definitely be one?

Yes, and it is now available on the website.


At what point will the data be accepted into the system?

Once a file passes the hard schema validation it will be pulled into the system and associated with the relevant collection(s).


Will all the statutory customers abide by the new reference points, e.g. Department for Education (DfE)?

We are in discussion with DfE and they won’t change the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) census point, they will get a specific cut for that purpose. But others are happy to stick to the new dates.


Providers are quite reliant on software suppliers - what are the key things we should be thinking about ourselves?

Software suppliers are key in the success of Data Futures but providers will also need to make changes. The change in approach to submission and timescales could have a significant impact on resourcing requirements at different times of year and the timing for when certain data, e.g. entry qualification will be required. We would also recommend completing a mapping exercise internally to work out if there are any gaps or changes that need to be made to submit data against the new model.


Any tips on how we get our senior management buy-in to this?

The Data Futures preparation assessment in resources can be used to do an analysis of your current capability and the changes that will need to be made to be successful in the transition. This can be helpful, giving senior management context around the scale of the change.


Could deleting a student get messy with referential integrity issues?

Potentially, you will need to be sure to delete any child entities as well as the parent as the delete will not ‘cascade’. If you do not delete, this will cause referential integrity errors, so we will highlight to you where this has not been done.


For non-UCAS providers can we leave out a student in the first reference period if we don’t know their entry qualifications?

No, I’m afraid not. Statutory customers have said that they want this data early and there will be no leeway to have this data vague at the start, and more accurate later on.


How do you return things in relationship to academic years (the old TYPEYR)?

The new system is designed in a way that you will not need to tailor your submission to our reference periods. The current concepts of 'type year' and 'non-standard years' therefore do not exist. The potential exception is around STULOAD/FTE - we are working with statutory customers to confirm requirements.


Do we have an idea yet as to what outputs will be delivered to which customers and the date of the dissemination point(s)?

Output specs have not been defined but anything that is signed-off could be delivered to customers.


Is it anticipated that there will be a charge for the historic amendments?

The current charge for fixed database is associated with the cost of maintaining an old system, we still need to investigate how this will work in the new world.


We can upload data in advance but quality assurance will not run until it's in-scope so what is the incentive of submitting early?

Quality assurance is run against any open reference periods, HESA need to decide how far in advance a reference period can be opened.


Will derived fields be available in the 'core file' supplied back to the provider?

The specification for this is still to be confirmed; however, we'd expect that derived fields would be included.


Could we have some more information about collaborative provision and how that should be returned in Data Futures?

Yes, we are planning a scenario to show how this will be returned.


When will the HUSID lookup service be available?

Not yet sure, but hopefully no break between the current service.


What do we return if we have a Course delivery that leads to more than one qualification at the same level?

We will need a specific example in order to answer this. It should be just one qualification aim.


Courses that run January to December. We would return to August in the C18051 and then what would we do for August to January in Data Futures?

You would carry on with the same coverage for C18051 and any remaining time periods would then be returned in Data Futures.

Returning curriculum data

Should we be aware when we are transferring to Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS)?

Yes, this will first be submitted in the Student return in 2019/20.


What about interim qualifications, how do we return them?

Interim awards do not have to be reflected in the aim of a course delivery. When they are awarded, a QualificationAwarded entity can be returned against a StudentRegistration without a Leaver record so interim qualifications can be recorded in this way.


What if we have an optional mobility, is that two different modules?

Yes, two modules would be required.


Would you amend the expected end date on course delivery?

No, not for each student (unless you needed to correct it).


Are separate course deliveries required for courses with and without foundation years?

Yes, you will need two course deliveries.


How rigid are course sessions, do we have any flexibility?

A course session must be a year long (e.g. September to August), but the student course sessions could reflect the time period that the student was actually doing something (for exmaple, September to June). The only exception is where the final year of the course delivery is shorter, the course session can be less than a year.


Does a course delivery have a start and end date?

Yes, it has a start date and expected end date.


If the student was taking separate modules in the Spring term, would we have to make a separate submission for the Spring term?

Updates would need to be made for each reference period where there is new or updated data to submit. So, in this example, module data would be required to be submitted.


Would we have to return duplicate data for full-time and part-time courses?

If two sets of courses, then yes, you would need both. But if it is a full-time course for most students, and every now and again a student studies part-time, then they would be the same course.


Can you have the same modules linking to both the full-time and part-time versions of the different variations of a course?

Yes – that’s the idea. Return once, use many times.


If the student is aiming for two qualifications, e.g. PhD and master’s, what is the aim?

It will be the overall intention, so this would be the PhD here.


Do we need to return all qualifications that we might award at some point (even if it isn’t the original aim for our courses)?

Yes, so you can link to them. However, they are only required when you award them to a student, so you don’t need to return every possible outcome if some of these are never used.


If we submit a qualification in advance, and then no student is awarded it, what should we do?

For curriculum data, we would work out if it’s in-scope – if no one is linked to it for a qualification or has been awarded it, it will just sit there waiting.


Is course session similar to instance periods?

It’s similar; however, course sessions are curriculum data and in the alternative provider (AP) student record you don’t have to submit it as a year-long instance period.


Would you expect a master’s course that starts in September and ends in August to be multiple Course sessions?

It would be one course session, as it fits in a year. Remember that the year can start whenever.


For accelerated degrees where we have three levels within two years: how would you want course sessions returned?

For accelerated degrees it would probably be two course sessions.


How do we return session location if there is an optional year abroad?

If you run a programme with and without a year abroad, this is two course deliveries.


Do curriculum dates include assessment periods?

Yes, it includes planned assessment periods, but not resits.


Would end dates include the final submission date? Or the date the exam board assesses it?

As it is curriculum, it can’t be the student’s submission date as this can vary between students. It would be the end of the planned assessment period, so this could be end of exam period or assessment deadline.


If we run the same module in semester one and semester two would it be two module deliveries?

Yes, and linked to only one module.


How will alternative provider designation be returned in the model?

The model has been set up to allow for the current model of designation with the designated course identifier returned on the course delivery. However, we know this will be changing and so will need to incorporate the new approach once this is confirmed by the Office for Students.


If you have multiple campus locations within a mile, is that still defined as one location?

For a higher education provider, yes that is the current rule and that will be the same. But that wouldn’t stop you from returning multiple locations, if that makes more sense to you.


Could master’s students who start in September and then finish in September be in one course session?

Yes, this is a year-long course delivery so whilst in the current return it would be considered ‘non-standard’ this is still one course session.


How do qualifications work when you have a student that drops out?

Their aim is still the same, but then you award a qualification at the lower level.


In terms of current HESA where are the TINST, PCOLAB fields and how do they work in the Data Futures model?

The ModuleDeliveryRole entity records where a Module is delivered by an organisation other than the reporting organisation.


How many programme and module subjects can we return?

The HECoS codes in module and qualification can have up to five HECoS codes but we would expect this to be the exception rather
than the rule.

Is it possible to set up the course as a Postgraduate General Certificate of Education (PGCE) generic course, rather than PGCE secondary or primary courses, and then associate multiple ones to it?

No, it would need to be one for each one, as it is now.


Accreditation – does that only cover health, or is it others, or does it cover things in Unistats?

It’s not everything that’s in Unistats as it only includes requirements for the student return which cover three areas: teacher training, health and accreditation by the Architects Registration Board (ARB).


There is nothing on qualification to say it is a main award or an exit award, should there be?

There is no flag on the entity itself, but we’ll know if the qualification is the same as the aim of the course. If you give them something lower, then we’ll be able to compare that.


The qualification awarded subject might be different to the qualification aim subject, how do we return it?

If the aim and exit is the same, you don’t need to return it again. If the subject awarded was different, then yes you would need to return that.


Initial teacher training (ITT) specialism and accreditation will be duplicating information, can we reduce that by deriving whether it is primary or secondary?

It’s because you might have multiple subjects, and we need to know which one the specialism is. We may be able to derive this in some cases but not across the board, so the data is needed.


Can we split up our course deliveries in whatever way we want to?

You have a bit of flexibility, if it fits within our parameters. However, designated courses might need to have some specific requirements, but we’re still reviewing this.


What do we return in accreditation where the students start on a generic engineering programme and later specialise?

Engineering is not a required accreditation, so no accreditation would be returned.


Do changes to courses need to be recorded, even if a student transfers back and forth?

Yes, you should tell us whenever this happens.


Would a course transfer be a deletion and an addition?

No, it would probably be an update.


We have courses with similar subjects and similar accreditations, would they be different courses?

Yes, if the subjects and accreditation are not the same, more than one course delivery is required.


If the course accreditation changed (i.e. was lost or gained) should we then transfer students to a different course delivery?



Would we have to change courses where accreditation is based on a module choice?

This depends upon the circumstance. If students specialise partway through their programme, e.g. 'NMC' accreditation becomes 'NMC adult nursing' or 'NMC mental health nursing' then the StudentAccreditationAim entity is used to indicate the student's specialism. In cases where the accreditation changes more than this based on student choice, multiple courses would be required.


When do you split course sessions with fully flexible provision?

Course sessions would be returned as a year of the delivery and students associated with the appropriate delivery based on when they start. If students can start on any day of the year, you might want to create a course delivery representing each month and group students in that way.


If a student transfers to a course at the same qualification level, would they move to a different course delivery?

They would transfer to a different course delivery, session and associated course delivery but would likely remain on the same registration if there was no requirement for a new contract.


Accreditation is part of the definition of a course delivery, but a course can lose accreditation - how does this work?

If a course loses or gains accreditation this is a new course in HESA's definition and so a new course delivery record must be submitted.


What about validation agreements for courses?

There is a code in the course delivery role entity to record where the returning provider is the sole provider, but another organisation awards the qualification.


Are each of the course delivery types designed for specific providers or can anyone use them?

You should return the type that reflects your course delivery; we are aware some of these are more likely to apply to some providers than others, but none are reserved for specific providers.


What is the definition of a course delivery role and course delivery initiative?

The course delivery is the specific offer of a course to students and so has a defined start and expected end date, mode, location and qualification aim. An initiative can be associated with a course delivery where it applies at this level; for example, for a higher apprenticeship course delivery where all students are studying for the apprenticeship. There is a student level initiative as well for when they apply at a student level.


Do we need to set up a separate course delivery for a student who withdrew early?

No, course deliveries are planned curriculum data; if a student withdraws early they would have their own end date and curriculum data would not be amended.


We have a module delivery that lasts 18 months, how would this need to be returned?

A module delivery can be 18 months but a module instance is associated with the student course session and so cannot be longer than a year. So this could be one module delivery but more than one module instance.


A student transfers between two course deliveries, how do we know their start date?

The student registration has its own start date, so the student's start date would still be recorded.


A student fails a module and needs to retake the exams only (i.e. does not attend lectures but sits the exam again). How would this be returned?

The module outcome entity would be returned once the result of the retake is known.


We have programmes where we do not know what the student will ultimately study at the start. For example, they enrol on a Higher National Certicate (HNC) and will later decide whether to continue onto the Higher National Diploma (HND), what would we return as their aim?

You can only tell us the student's aim as you know it at a given point in time. If they sign up for a lower award, this is your best view; if they later tell you they intend to continue to a higher award, you can change their aim.


I have a course that has two versions delivered at the same time, but one delivered at the weekend and the other on weekdays. Would this be two course deliveries in the Data Futures model?

This wouldn't need to be two deliveries as it is students being taught on different days of the week rather than a more significant difference. However, if the courses are designated as two separate courses, this may mean that now they would have to be two different course deliveries depending on how designation looks in the future.


My provider does not have degree awarding powers and we have a course that can be awarded by different organisations, are these different courses?

No, the awarding body information is associated with the Course delivery, so these would be one Course with multiple deliveries.


We have 13-month Postgraduate teacher (PGT) courses, would these need to have two course sessions or is there any flexibility on the course sessions being a year?

The clear steer we have had is that course sessions must not be longer than a year and so this would need to be two course sessions. There has to be the flexibility of a few days around this rule to allow for a small amount of time over one year.


We set our term dates two years in advance so at the start of a three-year course delivery we would know the dates for the first two course sessions but not for the third; would we need to guess the dates for the third?

You only need to return a course session once students are studying on it. You can return this in advance if you know the information but if not you can return the first two years and return the third later once the dates are confirmed.


How will work apprenticeships work, in terms of qualification aims?

Just the higher education (HE) element needs to be returned; HESA need to confirm what data is required for the apprenticeship elements of the programme.


What should be returned for course sessions where you know the students will be undertaking some study abroad or work placement, but you don't know which course session it will relate to or it will take place over the summer?

You will need to set up separate course deliveries for the different options and move students between them depending on what they end up doing.


How precise do the start and end dates for course deliveries need to be? Is Monday of week one enough, or do we need to find out that it was actually on a Wednesday?

This is the same problem as now. It is picked up a lot in audits - so just be able to justify why you've done what you've done.


How will the curriculum data fit in with the Unistats return?

We will need to revisit elements of this when the Unistats return is incorporated (e.g. accreditation); the details of how this will work are yet to be confirmed.


What will we do when a course delivery has an optional year abroad? The course delivery is the same length and some students do the year abroad and some don't.

You would need to have multiple course deliveries for these cases, and transfer student(s) between them depending on what they end up doing.


How firm will you expect session start and end dates to be? We suspect that we will allow some flexibility when you might not know, such as end dates at the start of the course.

Office for Students were quite specific about dates at audits in the past, so just be able to justify why you've done what you've done. Course session dates are allowed to be within 14 days of the previous anniversary date.

Returning student data

How long will a qualification on entry remain for us to update?

As long as you need. But it may trigger an error if you update this information too long after the student started as this is on entry information.


Will the data model have a status flag to show they are not undertaking a course?

Students not engaging with any curriculum do not fall into the coverage of the record and should not be returned.


Will only new entrants need a Student Unique Identifier (SID)?

Yes, all new students will need to be assigned a SID.


What do we submit for continuing students for their SID?

For continuing students, the HESA Unique Student Identifier (HUSID) can be returned in the SID field.


Can we still return an OWNSTU?

Yes, this is one of the identifiers that can be returned in the PersonIdentfier entity.


How will we know the student's persistent HUSID?

HESA provide a HUSID lookup service to allow providers to query our data and find the HUSID.


Do we need to use the HUSID lookup service?

If you are aware that a student studying with you has previously been submitted to HESA, you should use the HUSID lookup service (which is not yet available, but we hope to make available with no break between the current service) then try and identify their persistent HUSID to confirm this. This is not a new requirement of Data Futures and exists in our current student collections.


If you have a Unique Learner Number (ULN), would that be in the SID?

No, that is returned in the personal identifier field.


What would the SID be if they were coming from another provider?

SID would be unique to you for a student, and the persistent HUSID would identify that they already had been given an identifier at another provider.


What if they are jumping to us as part of collaborative provision?

They would have a new SID with you, but persistent HUSID would record the first SID.


What if we don't know that the student was previously submitted to HESA; for example, they came from an overseas provider but didn’t tell us that they had previously studied in the UK?

If you're unaware the student may have a previous HUSID, you can't know to check our system. As soon as you do become aware, then you should try to identify what it is.


What happens if you discover they had more than one HUSID in the past?

Use the first one. But please also notify HESA.


If a student has two engagements with us, but due to an error we assigned them a new SID for the second, should we record their previous SID in the persistent HUSID?

Yes, the correct approach is using the same SID, but if this was done in error the persistent HUSID should be returned so we know they’re the same student.


Can you confirm which person characteristics are required on entry, versus needing to be maintained throughout an engagement?

Yes, we will add this to the guidance. This follows the current requirements of entry profile data versus student data in the current collections.


Can person characteristics be updated throughout an engagement?

For those that are not on entry only, these are based on a student's self-assessment and so all can change throughout the engagement and should be updated if the student updates their information.


Can duplicate disability records be submitted? For example, if a student has more than one specific learning disability?

The way the model is currently set up means that the system would see this as a duplicate and de-duplicate these records, so two could not be recorded.


So, do we have to return the ‘dummy date’ in the personal characteristics fields?

Yes, we need to have a default date in the valid-from field the first time a characteristic is returned for a student, a primary key can’t have a null in it.


If a student has multiple engagements, how do you know which entry qualifications apply to which?

There is an award date which can derive which engagement an entry qualification applies to.


Personal identifiers for UCAS data – how will you be able to identify that they are a UCAS entrant, so you won’t ask us for certain data items?

You would return the relevant identifiers for UCAS entrants: the person identifier and scheme code so we know they’re a UCAS entrant.


Is the permanent home address on entry or required to be updated?

This is only required on entry to an engagement, we will be clarifying this in the guidance.


Why would we update entry profile information?

Data required only on entry to an engagement will not be required to be updated throughout an engagement. The only reason for this to be amended would be if a provider was correcting a data error or if the student had multiple engagements with the same provider.


How are you defining ‘permanent’ for home address?

A lot of it is down to self-definition and where they consider themselves to be. The definition is the same as DOMICILE now.


If you want to update just DISABILITY, what would you send?

It would be the disability field and just the primary identifiers for the student.


What about BIRTHDATE?

You can either send just the SID to identify the student or re-send the full student entity, including birthdate.


If engagement is an offer, do we have to return students that we make an offer to, but don’t ever come?

No, the coverage is the same as now, so only the ones that register and turn up. The model just allows that it could.


Do valid from and to dates apply to SURNAME?

No, that doesn’t apply in that case; it would just be changed.


If I send an update for personal characteristics, would I then need to send a valid to date as well as a valid from date on the new one?

A valid to date is only required if something ceases to apply. For example, a student can have multiple disabilities that overlap so the presence of a second disability in the file would not necessitate the first to have a valid to date returned. Ultimately it depends on the scenario.


Will there continue to be validation comparing the permanent address on entry and the student’s fundability/fee status?

Most likely, but we can’t confirm that just yet.


Can a provider generate new SIDs for continuing students, even if they already have a HUSID?

In theory you could do this provided the old HUSID was returned as the persistent HUSID to allow us to do continuity validation.


Person characteristics to and from dates - are these the dates the provider found out or when the change applies from?

It would likely be when the student tells you about the change as that's when it would be amended on the system. HESA need to confirm if there are any requirements around General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if a student tells you that something has changed, and it applies from a specific date in the past.


If study intention is different to the current course delivery a student registration is linked to, where will they be reported for analysis purposes (based on study intention or course delivery)?

The potential exists for either but the standard use in our reports would likely be from the study intention as this is the overall aim.


Are the country restrictions on ethnicity and religion going to be maintained?

We believe so, these will generally align with the census categories.


Are there any plans to have an API for the HUSID lookup service?

No current plans but we can feed this back as a suggestion.


Can the HUSID lookup service be incorporated into the main collection system through validation?

This will not be available in 2019/20 but is a potential future development of the system. There are some data protection issues to consider regarding sharing data between providers. If we were to do this it would be enhanced by providers returning more identifiers e.g. ULN.


Can HESA not imply the to date, from the from date we send next?

It might be possible to imply some dates, but this isn't the proposed solution. It will be tidier for providers to return all the dates, as it makes sure their own systems also have the correct dates.


You have expected end date on student registration - does that only need to be filled in if the registration is expected to go beyond the end of the course delivery?

This should be filled in for every student and it does not need to be updated if the student resits a year or changes course deliveries.

Returning data on student activity

Do we need to record details of students transferring between courses?

Yes. We will probably see more transfers, as you are submitting data more regularly.


Is it a problem that the module outcome could come a long time after the module delivery has ended?

No, remember that the module delivery dates include the planned assessment period, so this should help to mitigate the issue. However, a module and delivery will stay in-scope until all the students have outcomes, so if a student takes much longer than expected to complete, this is fine; just return the outcome once it happens.


In the current returns, the student needs to be dormant for the full year to be classed as dormant, is this still the case?

No, for in-year reporting, you let us know when the student goes dormant and when they re-start. From that we will know how long they were dormant for.


UK-based distance learners – do we have to return off-venue activities for learners?

No, this is identified in the curriculum data.


How will initial teacher training (ITT) placements in schools be returned?

In the off-venue activity entity (this is at student course session level).


Can you record off-venue activity that isn’t associated with a module?

Yes, as it is now associated with student course session.


Why is language on the module outcome entity?

So, you can differentiate it at a module level if necessary.


How would intercalating medical students be returned?

There is a flag on the student course session to identify intercalating years, the student would likely be associated with a different course delivery for that year as appropriate for the study they are undertaking before being transferred back to the appropriate course session for their original programme.


Are you going to calculate STULOAD for us?

Feedback from providers was mixed on this proposal, with many feeling we couldn't accurately calculate STULOAD based on the information submitted. However, with changes being made to full-time equivalent (FTE), it may be possible to do this for some cases. More details will be published soon.


If a student comes back after an agreed break in learning, in a future year, which course delivery should they be associated with?

The student is associated with the relevant delivery for their progression. If they've taken a year out, they have moved to the subsequent delivery of the same course.


If a student completes semester one of their first year and after a 12-month break comes back to complete semester two, what do we return?

When they come back they are on the same year of the programme, so they would move to the first course session of the next course delivery. Their start date would need to be recorded on the student course session to indicate they started that course session in semester two, not at the beginning.


A student fails a module in year one and then continues onto year two with the agreement they will complete this module as part of their second year, have they progressed to the next course session?

The principle is that you would return the course session that's most relevant. They have moved into the next course session as with others, but they are just picking up extra credits on the side. The modules would then give the details of what is happening.


If a student joins on one course and decides to change to another, is this one Engagement/Student registration or multiple?

This is one engagement if the student transfers at the same level. Whether more than one student registration applies depends upon the situation and whether a new contract was required to account for the change.


If a student is a direct entrant onto the second year of a course delivery, how is that returned?

They would start by being associated with the second course session of the delivery and we would be able to see that they went straight onto year two.


If a student who previously went dormant now tells the provider they are not going to come back, do we have to return all the curriculum data again?

No, in this case you would be able to return a leaver record for the student (and an exit award if applicable).


Is it a problem if a student fails a module and needs to retake, but the module they failed is no longer running so the student has to choose another?

No, just associate the student with whichever module is appropriate.


Does off-venue activity include placements?



Is off-venue activity being collected for specific students?

Yes, for all students who have activity not at the provider or partner's venue(s).


If a student does a year abroad which is three modules at the overseas provider, does this need to be three modules in the HESA data?

Yes, you will need to return three modules.


A student completes six vocational placements, is that six off-venue activities?

It depends on the circumstances - if it's all at the same place you might be able to bundle this into one.


If off-venue activity is shorter than four weeks do I have to report it?

No, the off-venue activity entity in Data Futures doesn't need to be returned if it's less than 20 days long. However, if it is ITT placements in England then it does have to be returned whatever the length of placements. But that doesn't mean you can't return the data if you really wanted to, as it is still interesting, just not required.


If it's half days over a period that add up to four weeks, would I still need to return them?



If a placement is required for their professional qualification but doesn't have any credits, would I return them?



If a student goes to another provider abroad, do you not care exactly where they are?

For the UK, yes you would return the identifier. But abroad, we only need to know the general idea, we don't need the specific place.


Initial teacher training (ITT) placements can be one day a week. How would we return that?

These can be returned individually or, if they're in the same place, can be added up. The model is flexible enough to allow durations to be recorded in days, hours, etc.


Why can't you have module instances span student course sessions?

It's related to the limitation of student course sessions being a year in length.


What about students who are on health-related courses? They do a placement as part of a module, but that might be associated with a number of different modules.

Medical students might be doing a lot of placements. You can return all the different placements in the off-venue activity, and then associate them with the relevant modules if appropriate.


Does the employment as part of the apprenticeship need to be returned in off-venue activity?

No, as we only care about the higher education (HE) part.


What if a student starts a few days late (say sickness), do you need to know they started on Wednesday and not the Monday?

If they were ill for a couple of days - no, you won't need to. We haven't agreed what the cut-off points are yet in other circumstances.


Does the session status field cover transfers between course deliveries?

No, transfers are recorded in the reason for student course session ending field - this includes transfers between deliveries of the same course or between courses.


Most of our modules are over the student course session by just a few days. Would we have to return two module instances for them all?

Course sessions have a 14-day leeway on start and end dates, so a few days is probably ok here.


How do we define venues in relation to teaching hospitals in particular? Is this considered being at a partner or an off venue activity?

If this is a clinical placement, then it would be returned as an off-venue activity.


ITT Placements need to return lead school and employment school - should that be in the record?

Yes, both should be returned. Employment school is now in the data model.


Can you help us by providing us some general guidance around off-venue activity, so we don't spend a lot of time of data you don't need a lot of detail on?

Yes, we'll try where we can. We understand it's your best endeavours you can manage for the first year.


Can we add activity type of 'study abroad' to ACTTYPEID as that's a well known type?

Yes, this is included.


Are research students studying at partner research facilities - venue or off-venue activity?

If it's a partner that would be on venue.


What level of granularity is required for when a placement lasts a year, but the student is moving around at different offices?

Whatever level of detail that you hold. If it's the same placement and they're at different offices of the same company then it is probably not necessary to return an off-venue activity for each office with the durations, particularly if you might not know if the student moves between different offices. For these cases you could return just one off-venue activity entity and the postcode can be the main location. However, if there is travel to different countries involved within an otherwise UK-based placement then those periods should be counted separately.

Returning fee and funding information

Are fees at an individual student’s level (and not just course level)?

Yes, these are recorded against the student.


We are introducing different pricing options for distance learning depending on where they are, how do we return the fees?

Fee information is held at student level, so you record the fees for that student on that course.


Student course session has a student fee and a student module fee – if we don’t charge per module, then we should aggregate it up?

Yes, you wouldn’t return per module. The model allows different structures to be returned, depending on what you do.


Do we need to explicitly record where the £2000 difference between what a student is paying and a lower amount due to a provider discount?

No. HESA will assume the discount has been given by the provider, based on the difference between the maximum fee and the amount charged.


What if we have nursing courses where we don’t charge per student but receive a block payment from an organisation?

We still need a student level fee, this needs to be divided up between the students.


How do we record bulk payments from organisations to deliver courses, such as the NHS – which fields would I fill in?

This is the funding of delivery rather than paying the fees of individual students so would be recorded in the Course delivery role indicating the NHS as a funder.


Are you validating that there is a fee invoice amount?

No, it might not exist. There will be a student fee/student module fee, but not necessarily a fee invoice amount.  We need to look at how we will validate this to ensure it is not missing in error.


Office for Students used to hinge their funding on domicile a lot – would all those funding rules disappear?

No, the data previously collected in domicile is still collected. It will probably be used for the exact same thing as now.


How do we return degree apprenticeships and fees?

If the money comes from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) then record that, i.e. via the levy. If it comes directly from employer, return the employer. Remember that you can have multiple invoices for a student course session, so you can build these up over time.


Does ‘funding and monitoring’ relate to the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) by any chance?

No, it was just that we realised that not everything was about funding, and some was about something else. If you have a better name, we are open to suggestions!


What about Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) and the highest qualifications on entry link?

Yes, this will still be collected in the same way, with some light validation to make sure it’s ok.


Is there a list of organisations that fees can be charged to?

Yes, there is a valid entry list for the organisations that would be paying the fees, and a few generic ones. Including some overseas codes.


We don’t often get the fee until the end of the year, so how do we return that?

It’s the invoice, not when you’re paid; return the invoice information once you know it.


This was supposed to be less data burden, but these seems to be increasing our work. Sometimes we don’t know if the Student Loans Company (SLC) will be paying until April and we are worried that we can return that.

It is only the invoice, not when it is paid. Burden comment is understood, but this is on a long path. There are some areas where it is less data and some where it is more.


FUNDCOMP and in-year reporting, presumably funding will be calculated on a yearly basis, or will that change?

Office for Students is still looking at data strategy, so we don’t know yet.


If ELQ could change, is it possible to return the new qualification they’ve gained?

The highest qualification on entry is on entry information and so should not be updated. You would just update ELQ.


Where is Funding Code now, and how do we return NHS-funded courses or NHS students?

If student funding comes in the form of paying tuition fees, this is recorded in the Fee invoice amount. Whether the student is fundable, and the relevant funding body, is recorded in FundingAndMonitoring.FUNDINGBODY, this is the closest equivalent of FUNDCODE in the current student return.


Can ELQ be derived?

We have been considering this with statutory customers and unfortunately there are cases where ELQ cannot be derived correctly. For example, some information might change during a student's course which providers don't then have to return in the HESA data.


Can FUNDCOMP be derived? Is it still important, and what is this being used for?

No, we cannot derive this with the data we currently have in the record. A student's completion status is considered against their intention at the start of the year. Data Futures does not specifically collect this intent and it cannot be reliably derived.


We don't currently return fees for students with a student support number (SSN) - has the coverage for this changed?

For some providers yes, this will have increased from the current record.


What is the updatability period for fees?

The updatability period is the timeframe you are able to update data, where we think it is possible for it to change. After the updatability period it would become a historic amendment. For fees data this is currently any time, but this may be reviewed in future.


What about the implications of taking a break in study with relation to the Student Loans Company (SLC) funding? Have you thought about this? SLC have the date the funding stops.

We are collecting data for different purposes to the SLC. We are collecting data about activity and we want the date the student stopped, whereas the SLC will want a date related to funding.


What if a student transfers courses when fees are returned, which course do they return fees against?

It would be the fees for the course they are transferring on to.


If a student drops out partway through a year, should the fees recorded be the annualised fees (as in our current guidance) or the actual fee they were ultimately charged?

For the FeeInvoiceAmount,FEEAMOUNT this would be the actual fees they were charged, which might be reduced if they leave earlier than expected. However for the StudentFee.FEEAMOUNT or StudentModuleFee.FEEAMOUNT it would be the maximum the student would have been expected to pay, regardless of whether or not they were actually charged it.

Returning leaver information

Can you award a qualification at a lower level than the qualification aim?



If we award a lower qualification to a student (than was their intended award), would we amend the intended qualification, and how will you be able to see the difference?

You keep the intended award the same, so we will be able to see the difference between the two.


Does the end date include referral periods following exam periods?

Assessment and resit periods are included in the Leaver.ENDDATE but not time for e.g. late exam boards, graduation.


Does leaver end date have a slightly different definition of end date to the delivery entities? Yes, the delivery end date is in relation to planned curriculum so only includes planned assessment periods. The Leaver.ENDDATE is about the student’s actual activity so may include re-sits.


End date on leaver entity – if the re-sit is outside the next reference period, would you expect to see them again later?

Yes, you’d let us know when the student finished so in this example that would fall into the following reference periods.


Can more than one reason for ending be returned to account for multiple reasons?

The model does not currently support this, only one reason can be returned.


What is the intended destination field?

It’s about collaborative provision students and recording where a student will be transferred to another provider.


If we are reporting a late result from a different year, we would report as dormant currently. In this model, would we just not report them until we know their result?

Yes, if you have told us a student has left, you would be able to just return the result once you know it.


If the student is just retaking the assessment but not doing any studying, would you just expect the outcome later?

Yes, that’s it, if that’s applicable.


Is 'fail' a valid entry for the qualification result? If not, please can you add it in?

We don't consider 'failure' a valid result, so it's not there. It is however in the entry qualification result field.

HESA Data Platform

HESA Data Platform

Will providers be able to see the outputs on the HESA Data Platform?



How does uploading a file work and what size do you expect it to be?

You can upload a file to the system in the same way as now and the file can be a full submission or a single entity depending on the update to be made. Additionally, it will be possible to upload files via an API. There is currently a 100MB file size limit on the Alpha system, but this can be reviewed.


When will we have an API specification?

Hopefully by the end of summer.


Can we have sample XML files?

Good idea, HESA will consider producing these to go alongside the scenarios.


Can we still download the reports?

Not all reports will be downloadable from 2019/20, as a minimum the replacement for data supply will be downloadable.


Data collections

Other 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; it stays as it is. This reporting language has been defined in the Data Futures model to cover all the details we might need, meaning there is the potential to remove AOR in the future.


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

Is there a Glossary to explain key terms?

Yes, you can find the Glossary here

Why is there only one Coding manual?

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.

How does this affect the General Medical Council (GMC) collection?

HESA will be working with the GMC to develop an appropriate coverage statement and specification for the capture of module marks, to support the recent announcement that HESA will be collecting data on GMC’s behalf.

What is the provision for further education (FE)?

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 01242 211144 or [email protected]

Get Involved

  • The Data Futures programme will present multiple opportunities to get involved, provide feedback, and ask questions.
  • You can join our Data Futures JISCMail group for the latest updates and milestones.
  • If you want to get in contact with someone from our Data Futures team, please email.