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DLHE online survey platform

December 2015

For the 2015/16 DLHE collection the online survey platform will be supplied through the newly replatformed Bristol Online Surveys (BOS). In October, HESA announced that it would not be possible to retain precisely the same output file format as previous years. This circular provides details of changes to the output file specification. The online DLHE file layout coding manual page, usually published in March, has also been published in an ad-hoc coding manual release, in order to provide HE providers and software houses with sufficient notice to make any required changes.

  • Files will be available in comma separated value (CSV) and fixed length format, but not XML. The BOS system also offers downloads in Microsoft Excel (.XLSX, .XLS), SPSS (.SAV) and tab separated value (TSV) however HESA will only maintain the output specification for CSV and fixed length format.
  • A separate export file will be provided for the incomplete surveys. Therefore the INCOMPLETE_SURVEY flag will no longer be included
  • TIMESTMP will include the letters ‘UTC’. This extends the field length from 19 to 23.
  • STATUS will no longer complete with ‘XX’ if the file is incomplete. Instead, for all online surveys, STATUS will be ‘04’. Therefore if a HE provider follows up an incomplete survey through an alternative methodology such as a phone call, STATUS should be updated to reflect this.
  • For providers who do not offer teacher training provision, Section C (Newly qualified teacher status only) will not be included in the questionnaire, and therefore will no longer show in the output file. Therefore for these providers, the following columns will no longer be included in the output file
    • NONQTS
    • Q20 Teaching.EMPLDTEACH
    • Q21 Teaching.GTCSTIS
    • Q22 Teaching.TEACHFUND
    • Q23 Teaching.TEACHPHS
    • Q24Teaching.SEEKTEACH

October 2015

For the 2015/16 DLHE collection the online survey platform will be supplied through the newly replatformed Bristol Online Surveys (BOS). The BOS platform will offer graduates completing the DLHE survey online a much more user-friendly experience and offers the potential to improve the functionality of the online survey in the future.

We have been working collaboratively with the team at BOS in order to develop and test the DLHE survey on the BOS system. As previously communicated, we have been working to achieve the same validation and output specifications as in previous years.

Output file specification

During development and testing we have discovered that it will not be possible to retain precisely the same output file format as in previous years. Therefore, we are announcing today that the online DLHE file layout will change in the move from the HESA in-house online survey system to BOS.

In order to give HE providers and software houses sufficient notice to make any required changes, the revised online DLHE file layout will be published at the end of November.

To give an early indication of the likely scale of these changes to the output file specification, these are expected to impact the following areas:

  •  The order in which fields appear (e.g. timestamp)
  • Alteration to data keyed (e.g. capitalisation of postcodes)
  • Unanswered questions defaulting to a valid entry (e.g. HE experience questions)

File formats

We will be offering two file formats for exporting the data as in previous years – a comma separated value file and a tab-separated value file. We are currently discussing the provision of a fixed-length file and will confirm this shortly. An XML file will no longer be available.

Downloads of complete and partial data will be made available as separate downloads.

User accounts

Survey administration for HE providers will take place within the BOS tool. This means that the HESA-supplied administration interface will be decommissioned.

We will be publishing guidance for survey administration using the online tool, shortly.

We anticipate collecting some survey set-up information using a questionnaire to DLHE record contacts in January.

September 2015

From April 2016, our new online survey system will provide a range of improvements to the DLHE, including a more user-friendly survey which is optimised for mobile devices.

DLHE online survey platform

For the 2015/16 collection of DLHE, the online survey system will be supplied through the newly re-platformed Bristol Online Surveys (BOS), as previously communicated in theNovember 2014 circular. This is a technical change to the platform of delivery. To minimise negative impacts on HE providers we have maintained a consistent approach from the previous HESA-supplied platform, where possible, and have worked with colleagues at BOS to support new features that will benefit all BOS users.

The only changes to the questionnaire are those detailed in the notification of changes.

The standard email text will be provided as in previous years and HEPs will be able to email the survey to graduates similar to in previous years – the landing page will be available via and providers will be able to set up PIN or Student number identifiers to identify individual student responses. Both English and Welsh versions will be provided as previously. We will also supply a telephone third party version of the survey, which can be used as a data input tool.

Access to new DLHE online survey platform

We are currently working on the process for providing DLHE administrators with access to the survey system, and associated guidance. For the first year of using the survey, HESA will provide user access through a HESA organisational account. This will be separate to any existing BOS accounts an HE provider may already have and will be provided at no cost to providers. The design functionality of this version of the survey will be ‘locked down’. HEPs will have access to survey distribution and analytical features. In order to provide providers with sufficient time to adjust to the system, user accounts containing the April DLHE survey system will be supplied in January 2016.

Data downloads

Data collected via the BOS platform will be available to export through both CSV and TSV. There will be separate downloads functions for complete and partial responses.

XML downloads will no-longer be supported. This is the only feature which will not be available through BOS, which is available from the current DLHE online survey system. The decision not to pursue supporting a new feature in BOS to cater for XML download was taken after careful consideration and reviewing provider use of this feature. The majority of HEPs do not use XML download functionality, and those who do use it in conjunction with another download format. Data downloads will still conform to the same output structure as in previous years.

Previewing the system

Early demonstration of the survey system will take place at the DLHE advanced training seminars in October 2015. Colleagues from BOS will also be attending, presenting on the features of the BOS system and answering questions about the functionality. There are still some places available at these seminars – for further details see training seminars.

Future developments

In future collections, HESA is looking to expand the functionality of the survey system, including offering HEPs more flexibility in configuring the online system, to add questions or validation to the system (in addition to the HESA defined validation and questions). This will be offered through HE provider's own BOS accounts, as opposed to HESA’s account. This work is scheduled for the 2016/17 DLHE collection. The focus groups referred to in the November 2014 circular will take place in 2016.

Further details of the survey system will be provided in late 2015, including updated guidance.