Skip to main content

Timescales, costs and FAQs

Free requests

We try to undertake minor data enquiries - those that only involve a few figures and take around an hour for us to process - free of charge. We will confirm this before beginning work.

Free requests can be undertaken when a specification has been agreed. They are usually processed within 4-5 working days.

Paid requests

HESA's bespoke data service is invariably professional, well-informed, efficient and customer-focused, and it is a pleasure to work with them. Charlie - Graduate Prospects

The charge for more substantial requests will vary depending on the size and complexity of the enquiry and the format in which you want it supplied.

The minimum charge for a paid enquiry is £150.00 + VAT.

Our standard turnaround time for a paid enquiry is 10-15 days following the signing of a contract. This will vary depending on the size, complexity and legal constraints of the data requested. If possible, and depending on our current workload, we will endeavour to meet your requirements. For further information on timescales, please contact us.

Request your data now


Members of higher education providers are eligible for a 20% discount. There is a 50% discount available for data requests to support academic research (with conditions attached). We also have discounts available for students undertaking dissertations.

Discounts must be confirmed with a member of our team.


In order to receive custom data from us, you must be able to comply with the Agreement for the Supply of Information Services. This agreement incorporates conditions which enable us to fulfill our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Why do we charge for custom data enquiries?

We are funded by subscriptions from HE providers who provide us with raw data. We are committed to providing value for money to these providers and keeping their subscription levels low.

The fees charged for custom data extracts cover the time and resources taken to specify, extract, and check each data supply, to draw up the necessary licenses, and to invest in improving HESA’s services to data users and data providers.

Why do I need to sign a contract to use HESA data?

The student and staff data that HESA holds is personal data collected for research and statistical purposes. We release a lot of information as open data that doesn’t identify individuals, but we’re committed to data protection and privacy so we can’t release everything.

We ensure privacy and data protection compliance by only releasing the minimum detail necessary for any research project, and only for specified statistical and research purposes. A legally binding license agreement ensures that data is only used in ways that are compatible with what we’ve told people will happen with their data.

Does HESA produce league tables?

HESA does not produce league tables. However, data is supplied for this purpose to many league table producers, such as The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Complete University Guide.

I have found some of HESA’s data on a different website. Why doesn’t this exactly match the free data available on HESA’s website? Can HESA update this for me?

There are several reasons why reports based on HESA data that have been published by a different organisation might not match our publications.

We provide bespoke data on an ad hoc basis to a number of different groups/bodies, for example funding councils, institutions, local councils etc.

  • As the data is provided on a bespoke basis, the populations used may not be those used in our publications 
  • There may also be additional restrictions in the data, for example a report could be looking at just full-time and sandwich students, or just first year students etc.
  • Furthermore, in some of the data requests that we receive, our clients request their own specified field groupings. For example, while we have standard subject group (Subject Area and Principal Subject), clients can request these to be grouped differently so that it better suits their analysis 

If you have any queries about reports from other sources which are based on HESA data, please contact the Information Services team. Please include as much detail as you can about the report, such as where it came from and (if possible) what population/restrictions have been used in the report.

We can attempt to match the data for you, but will not always be able to do this if there is not enough information about how the report has been created.

If we can match the data, we will be able to update reports for you (this may be subject to a fee depending on how large a request this is). If we are unable to match the data, then as an alternative we would suggest creating a new bespoke report for you.

What institutions does HESA hold data on?

HESA holds data for all of the publically funded HE providers in the UK, as well as the privately funded University of Buckingham. Please see our provider contact page for more information.

HESA does not hold any data on providers located outside of the UK. An alternative source of information for higher education provision overseas is UNESCO.

Which years of data are available from HESA?

HESA holds data from the academic year 1994/95 onwards. Please note that this amount of historical data is not available for all of our datasets, and that due to changes in the datasets, data for all years may not be comparable. Please contact us for more information.

Where can I find earlier data?

The Universities Statistical Record (USR) collected information from universities during the period 1972 to 1993/94. They also produced publications for the years 1980-1993/94. Data from the USR is available from The Data Archive, based at the University of Essex.

Prior to 1972, The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) holds some very limited data from the 1950s to 1970s.

We do not recommend direct comparison between HESA data and the earlier data, firstly due to the distinct difference in population coverage e.g. the USR data relates only to the pre-1992 university sector whilst HESA data covers all publicly-funded HEIs. In addition there are some differences in the definitions used by HESA and the USR which may affect any comparisons made.

Why is data not published at course level?

There is no standard course lexicon across the sector, and course structures can vary enormously between higher education providers; academic regulations at each provider will define words like course and programme for that provider, and comparisons between course offerings at different providers can be difficult.

The relationship between the course a student applies to and the course they end up graduating from can vary due to flexibility within a course structure and the ability to transfer between courses.

The word course is used extensively – though not exclusively – in sector-level data systems and higher education providers can represent their courses in different ways across these different systems. The data returned to HESA is not standardised in any way, and institutions can return course titles in any way that they wish; a course in BA English Studies could be returned as Eng Stud BA, English Studies, BA English Studies, BA Eng Stud etc, and there is no way to group this data together.

For more information, please see our published document What is a Course?

Data is available at course level through the Unistats website which you can find more information on here. The raw data from which the website is built on can be downloaded via the following link.

Is HESA data subject to Freedom of Information requests?

HESA is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as we are not a public authority under the Act. HESA is a not-for-profit private limited company owned by its members. The members are Universities UK and GuildHE – the two representative bodies of Higher Education Institutions in the United Kingdom. HESA is funded by subscription from all of the universities and higher education colleges throughout the UK. Please see the freedom of information page for more information.

Although we are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we will do our best to answer any queries that we receive. There may be a charge for this depending on the size of the enquiry.

How does HESA handle Personal Data?

The data protection pages describe how HESA handles personal data, how and why it is used, and how HESA complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Why collect unique individual identifiers if records are never looked at individually? Why are student names collected?

Collection of individual identifiers is essential both to aid the collection process and to allow the Statutory Customers to carry out their functions effectively. These include the tracking of students and staff in HE providers to produce accurate progression and participation statistics.

Student names are needed to ensure the data collection process runs smoothly. Actual names are supplied to Statutory Customers for record linking and in support of audit processes. Names within HESA data are not used to make direct contact with students. Access to names within HESA and its Statutory Customers is restricted to essential staff who have received the appropriate training in data protection.

Why are ethnicity and disability data collected, and are they given special treatment?

Ethnicity and disability information is classified as ‘sensitive personal data’ under the Data Protection Act 1998. This means that processing of this data is subject to stricter conditions than other data in the HESA records. Collection of this data is essential for equal opportunities monitoring required by Statutory Customers.

I’ve been asked to sign a document electronically – what does this mean?

An electronic signature (or eSignature) is the equivalent of your handwritten signature on a document: it is a form of authorisation showing your approval of the content of a document. We use two digital solutions – DocuSign and Adobe Sign – to allow us to accept eSignatures on contracts and other official documents. These signatures are secure and legally binding. You can read more about eSignatures here. Please note that if you are signing on behalf of an organisation, you should make sure you are authorised by that organisation to sign on its behalf.