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Aggregate Offshore record (AOR) review

HESA is relaunching the review of the Aggregate Offshore (AOR) record to ensure that the UK’s Transnational Higher Education (TNE) data is fit for purpose. There continues to be significant interest across the HE sector in improvements to the TNE data collected by HESA.

Our project mandate document provides the background and requirements for the major review to the collection:

HESA review of transnational higher education data: Project Mandate (pdf)

Background to AOR

The Aggregate Offshore record is the official data collection for students studying wholly outside the UK, while registered at UK HE providers or registered on their programmes. Information about the UK’s TNE has been collected by HESA since 2007/08 and it identifies, by HE provider, a headcount of students studying wholly overseas, by level, type of provision, and country. From 2019/20, providers in England and Wales have submitted separate headcounts to capture the numbers of students in active study, dormant, successfully completed, and withdrawn from study, also by level, type of provision, and country.

What needs to change?

Increasingly the AOR offers an insufficiently rich picture of TNE. For example, we need to know more about the financial value of TNE, the subjects and disciplines taught, the nature of the provision, its relationship to the host institution or system, and the outcomes graduates achieve.

Also, since the AOR is not an individualised student record, the data is high-level and tabular, which limits its extensibility and analysis. If increased data collection were justified, consideration should also be given to an individualised record to rectify these limitations.

Regulatory requirements

In the decade since the UK’s HE sector started collecting data on TNE, the regulatory focus has also changed. In England, the Office for Students has indicated that it will “regulate such overseas activity on the basis that the obligations of the registered provider extend to students for whom it is the awarding body wherever and however they study” (Regulatory framework, paragraph 88, pg 40). The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the General Medical Council have also demonstrated a regulatory interest in more detailed data on TNE.

This review aims to address these gaps in our understanding of the rapid evolution and growth of TNE.

Review timeline

Timescale Activity
Q3 2022 Establish priorities for the review and hold discussions with stakeholders to identify and refine data requirements
Q4 2022 Develop and publish consultation materials
Q1 2023 Complete consultation activities
Q2 2023 Agree approach with Statutory Customers and publish consultation outcomes
Q3 2023 Publish notification of changes for 2024/25

HESA will detail a set of proposals to update or replace the AOR and invite further feedback and consultation on these towards the end of 2022.

The review will therefore seek to answer the following questions: 

  • What are the main intended uses of more detailed TNE data? What published form(s) should it take? 
  • What measures should we take to reduce or avoid duplication between the AOR and other data collections about TNE? 
  • What data do we now require about TNE?
  • Is there sufficient justification for collecting it? 
  • What concepts (if any) need to be developed to help make better sense of TNE? 
  • What is the most appropriate collection mechanism for the required data? 
  • What are the benefits and obstacles of an individualised approach to collecting TNE data? 

Terms of reference - AOR review group (pdf)

We will shortly be seeking input from the sector about the review and its implementation. We will provide details on how to participate in due course.