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Aggregate Offshore record (AOR) review

As announced on our Coronavirus news page, work on the AOR major review is currently on pause. The timescales below are therefore subject to review. We will update this page once we have further information.

HESA is launching a review of the Aggregate Offshore (AOR) record to ensure that the UK’s Transnational Higher Education (TNE) data is fit for purpose.

HESA’s project mandate document provides the background and requirements for a major review to the collection:
Aggregate Offshore record review: project mandate

Short-term improvements to the collection

We have now published the draft notification of changes to the 2019/20 AOR as part of our planned short-term changes. Please provide feedback to [email protected] by Friday 29 November.

Background to AOR

HESA’s annual 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 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 and 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).

Review timeline

This review aims to address these gaps in our understanding of the rapid evolution and growth of TNE. We have announced short-term improvements for the 2019/20 collection as a draft notification of changes, inviting feedback via email: [email protected].

In 2020, we will publish a more in-depth review phase, detailing a proposal to update or replace the AOR. We will invite further feedback and consultation during this phase.

HESA’s proposed review at the start of 2020 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 and 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? 

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