The Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS)
A new subject coding system - the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) - has been developed to replace the JACS system.
JACS is used by HESA and UCAS to classify subjects of study; the implementation of HECoS provides an opportunity for a far broader range of stakeholders to use a common subject coding system in the future.
The coding frame is a single flat list of subjects that ensures the categorisation of courses and modules is always performed at a consistent level. Unlike JACS, the subject code identifiers are randomly generated to avoid the coding frame running out of space.
HECoS has been developed independently from JACS and therefore there is no direct mapping available between the coding frames. To assist providers in recoding courses from JACS to HECoS, we have produced two mapping documents to indicate suggested mappings that might be used:
HECoS implementation guide
It is important that data suppliers and data collectors adopt a consistent approach when implementing HECoS to ensure comparability of data across the sector. To promote consistency, we have produced an implementation guide to establish the key principles of HECoS allocation. This guide also addresses those specific areas where the basic allocation principles are insufficient.
HECoS management guide
This document explains the process by which the HECoS standard is managed. It aims to provide confidence to users that the standard is stable and appropriately governed. It also delineates the parameters within which the HECoS standard can be adapted over time, and provides guidance to users who seek to update or improve HECoS.
Common Aggregation Hierarchy
A Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) has been developed to provide standard groupings that can be applied to both HECoS and JACS subjects allowing for consistent analysis across both coding frames. These aggregations provide continuity in subject analysis through the transition from JACS to the new scheme and to other schemes such as those used by QAA. This will improve consistency across the sector.
In summer 2018 further research undertaken by the OfS (and DfE) identified areas where intended users of the CAH found groupings to be confusing, and as a result developed a proposal for amending the CAH. HESA worked closely with users of the CAH and Version 1.3 was created and approved by the Data Landscape Steering Group. Within Version 1.3 an additional sheet highlights the changes that have been made between each version.
Version 1.2 of the CAH will be deprecated on the 31st July 2021. HESA are working with public bodies who are using CAH to support their work as longer timescales are required to make changes to support continued use of CAH for student funding and security. We are working with organisations to determine when CAH 1.3 will be adopted in their processes and we will update this page shortly.
The CAH has been designed to act as a bridge between HECoS and JACS. These are, however, two distinct coding frames, with HECoS having been developed in part to allow for more robust coding to address inconsistencies in coding using the JACS framework. As such, analysis between HECoS and JACS using this Common Aggregation Hierarchy will only provide indicative comparisons for time series analysis.
Watch a recording of a webinar on the impact of HECoS held on 5 Sept
Timescale and additional resources
HECoS will be implemented for the academic year starting in the autumn of 2019.
For UCAS this means that the first collection of HECoS data will be aligned to the collection of 2019 entry undergraduate course details, ahead of the launch of their search service.
Allocation of codes for ITT
With the transition to HECoS for the 2019/20 academic year, we have worked closely with the Department for Education (DfE) and have now confirmed a mapping document which providers must use to determine which codes need to be allocated to their ITT course.
This will come into effect initially in ITT-C19053 and finally Data Futures.
Supporting the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
We are supporting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in their adoption of HECoS to support the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). 2019/20 has already been agreed as the adoption point for HECoS in UCAS and HESA processes and the FCO are working to align ATAS with this timescale. In practice this will mean that ATAS applications made from January 2019 will have the capability to be made on the basis of HECoS coding, which means the ATAS online application form will need to be updated in good time for this implementation. We are helping the FCO achieve this requirement and convened a meeting with volunteer institutions to help define a way forward. Minutes from the meeting are available in the PDF below:
The Student Loans Company (SLC) intends to adopt HECoS from the academic year 2019/20, in line with UCAS and other bodies. The SLC is currently in the early planning stages, and expects to provide HE providers with any technical changes by the end of December 2017. SLC calls for courses for the academic year 2019/20 in November 2018. It is assumed that providers would already have made the necessary classifications, in order to meet the earlier UCAS timetable. SLC gathers existing course information in order to provide support to existing students, and will need to take this into consideration
Background to the development of HECoS
Work began on the development of a new subject coding system in 2013 led by HEDIIP and in consultation with the HE sector. The project was borne out of a need to replace the JACS system to meet the needs of a broader group of stakeholders and to reflect the diverse and dynamic nature of Higher Education in the twenty-first century, and culminated in July 2016 in the publication of the subject code system now known as HECoS.
You can also discuss HECoS and best practice on the dedicated Jiscmail list.