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Data Futures: design phase and programme update

Since its inception, the ambition of the Data Futures programme has always been to improve the way we collect, process and disseminate data in line with an evolving, transforming HE sector. With this understanding we are extending our design phase, continuing to work closely with Statutory Customers, UUK, GuildHE, IHE, UCISA, ARC, AHUA, HESPA, SROC, software suppliers and providers through our Programme and Sponsoring Board, Provider forum and directly.

Discrete collection

We have moved to discrete collections. This move is complex but necessary, and we are therefore reconfirming our requirements across the programme as part of the design phase. We will give providers an opportunity to engage with these requirements, where appropriate, following agreement with Statutory Customers. 

As this level of rework suggests there are many elements of the technical solution that are currently being reviewed. At this stage we wanted to provide some reassurance of the fundamental principles that will continue and remind you of the key concepts.

Data Futures concepts 

  • Three submissions will be required in each academic year.
    • These align with the following agreed reference periods:
      • Reference period 1 will run from 1 August – 15 November
      • Reference period 2 will run from 16 November – 15 March
      • Reference period 3 will run from 16 March – 31 July
  • Each of these submissions will be a full submission
    • This will require all relevant fields to be complete at each stage, meaning data such as entry qualifications will be required in the collection in which the student commences studies (earlier than in the current collection).
  • There will be a mandatory trial for all providers, prior to go live.

Definitions, and explanations of what is meant by discrete collections and reference periods can be found in our Data Futures key concepts area.

The key concepts also include what is known and agreed regarding the approach to quality, quality thresholds and expectations from Statutory Customers.  This, and other key concepts will be expanded, and the area added to as the programme develops.


The move to discrete collection is the result of extensive technical and operational consultation and activity, and wide-ranging discussion and review with stakeholder groups and sector organisations. 

Our alpha and beta colleagues tested and challenged the previously planned approach. Their corresponding organisational expertise and feedback has been of huge benefit, not least contributing to the decision to move to discrete collection, formed of three complete collections per year. 

Data Futures data model

Our work to complete the data model as part of our specification workstream continues as we work towards a release in 2020. The number of ‘resolved specification items’ details are down to the contributions made by you, and we thank everyone who has engaged with the consultations and events we have hosted. You will see that we have been updating our specification overview page, so please continue to review this page to see how this work is progressing. 

Next steps and timelines

As this email has indicated there is extensive work being carried out both on the technical solutions and the data specification. We will be communicating timelines and further information regarding the programme when we are able to do so.


Press Officer