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Governance: Details

Open centralisation features an approach to governance that will maintain the confidence of funders and users of the survey, including HE providers. We will establish a steering group to take forward the work of the review into the procurement phase and then into the business as usual phase.

Steering group

During the procurement phase, the steering group will: assist in drafting the tender documentation that will be necessary to describe the proposed service in detail; have a role in formal procurement dialogue; and help to select the successful survey contractor.

In the business as usual phase, the role of the steering group will be to act as a governance board for the survey. It will:

  • Ensure the right questions are being asked
  • Keep the methodology under review
  • Ensure graduates are not being over-surveyed
  • Help ensure standards are being met, for example by advising on quality assurance of coding activities.

Terms of reference will be drawn up to codify this.

As demonstrated in the methodological model, our proposal is for a main census survey, with core questions. This will be supplemented with optional banks of questions available for benchmarking and special interests, for example to capture information on subjective well-being. The steering group will have ongoing responsibility for defining and approving changes or additions to both the core questions and the optional question banks.

How governance of optional question banks will work

A process will be developed for submitting requests for optional question sets to the steering group. This process will require the organisation requesting the questions to justify the benefit of the addition. This process will be modelled on work HESA is currently undertaking to establish national-level data governance for the sector.

Providers will have the opportunity to add their own questions to the survey without subjecting these to the formal governance process. Further details of how this facility will work is available in the methodological model.

Who will be involved in the steering group

The steering group will include viewpoints from HESA, the funding councils, HE providers and other sector bodies, along similar lines to the composition of groups HESA periodically convenes to review its records. As usual we will ensure representation from a diverse range of providers.

How will the survey be reviewed?

In the DLHE survey, no changes are made to the survey between the April and January presentations, to ensure data is consistent for an entire annual cohort. This approach will be maintained under NewDLHE, with no changes taking place during the four survey periods.

The questions in the survey will be reviewed annually to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose. However, we aim to build up a reliable time series, and so significant changes will be avoided.

The addition of new questions to the core survey will require the approval of the steering group. The use of the data will be examined to ensure no questions are being asked without sufficient justification. Current and emergent opportunities for utilising linked data will be kept under regular review for the same purpose.

The uptake of optional question banks will also be kept under review to establish whether further optional banks are required or if there would be a benefit in optional questions moving to the core question set.

There will be a post-implementation review following the first full cycle of operation.

Quality control of the survey contractor

The survey contractor will be required to produce a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Standards will be set to which they must adhere, such as response rates and coding data quality. The role of the steering group will be to ensure these standards are being met. The implications of not meeting these KPIs will be set out in the contract with the survey contractor. The contract will allow for audit by the steering group or others appointed by them.

HESA will retain responsibility for setting the quality assurance rules to which the data must adhere and overseeing the relationship between the survey contractor and the HE provider.

Quality assurance

HESA will set the standards for quality assurance, similarly to the quality rules in place for DLHE. The survey contractor will be responsible for adhering to these standards and the steering group will audit this.

If a provider were to identify a problem in the quality of their data, they will be able to enter a dialogue with their relationship manager at the survey contractor, and there will be an escalation mechanism.

Data will be continuously quality assured by the survey contractor, rather than after all graduates from one academic year have been surveyed.

Will additional surveys be catered for?

We have not included a mechanism for accommodating additional surveys in this proposal, but the proposal is potentially extensible, in that it could be adapted to undertake other surveys. This could be the case, for example, for certain cohorts of graduates where there is an established interest in early destinations e.g. teachers; or for longitudinal studies to add depth to our understanding of, say, women who studied Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Any request for an additional survey would be subject to the governance process, which would be required to demonstrate compliance in line with HESA’s normal processes, covering: 

  • Legality of data collection 
  • Appropriateness of this method of data collection 
  • Consideration of the impact of additional surveying on graduates 
  • Justification of the burden on HE providers 
  • Explicit agreement of the governance group.

The costs of any putative additional survey(s) will not be incorporated within the funding model of the main census survey, and so would have to be funded by the interested organisation.

Updates June 2017

We consulted on the model in March/April 2017, and published a synthesis of consultation responses. We have also published a number of responses and clarifications on points raised by respondents, including points on governance and the relationship between the HE provider, the survey contractor and HESA