Supply-side Code of practice
Data submitted by higher education providers to data collectors plays an essential role in understanding and supporting HE in the UK. The data is used by potential students to make choices about their studies, and by governments to develop and review policies. HE providers need data to benchmark their operations, and to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, while the funding bodies use it to allocate public money. Data is also required for regulatory purposes and, in some cases, is collected as a statutory requirement.
To be fit for these purposes, the data submitted by higher education providers needs to meet certain standards. Many of these standards are set out in the explicit rules and checks that apply to data collections, and in the principles of data protection. But in addition to this, the data must be prepared with honesty, impartiality, and rigour. While these principles have always been implicit, we are bringing them together in this Code of practice for ease of reference, and to support those preparing and managing data collections.
This Code applies to all data collections as well as to discussions concerning the data.
Principles of data preparation by higher education providers
Data should genuinely reflect the characteristics, events, and objects being reported on, to the best of the HEP’s ability. Processes and systems to collect, prepare, and submit data should be designed to enable this. Providers should be transparent in all discussions of the data, and not withhold information that bears on their accuracy or interpretation. The data collector should be informed promptly if errors are found after data has been submitted.
Data should be collected, prepared, and submitted with impartiality and objectivity. This process should never be influenced by organisational, political, or personal interests. HE providers should implement controls to ensure that those dealing with data collections are protected from such interests.
Data should be collected, prepared, and submitted using repeatable and documented processes that can withstand scrutiny. When processes change, records should be kept of previous versions. Estimates and assumptions should be defensible, evidence-based, and documented, and the effect on the data tested. Assumptions and estimates should be reviewed regularly.
Implementing the supply-side Code of practice
Individuals who work with data are expected to understand their commitment to this Code. This falls ultimately to the accountable officer (normally the head of provider) who is responsible for ‘signing off’ data collections. This includes confirming that the data has been prepared in accordance with the Code. It is therefore their responsibility to ensure that all those involved in the preparation of data submissions are aware of and have abided by the Code.
If a provider or an individual is aware that a breach of the Code has occurred, they should report this immediately to the body or bodies to which the data has, or will be, submitted.