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HECoS Archive

The HECoS archive comprises background information regarding the development of the HECoS framework. 

HECoS was the main output of the Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) New Subject Coding System Project (NSCS) which ran between 2014 and 2015. 

HECoS Archive Contents

The objectives of the NCSC project were: 

  • To define the HE sector requirements for a new subject coding system to replace JACS. 
  • To develop a standard coding structure that meets the HE sector requirements. 
  • To prepare an adoption plan and gain the agreement of the project's key stakeholders. 
  • With reference to Project 2.3 (Data language), define a governance model for the on-going maintenance and development of the New Subject Coding System. 
  • To develop and execute a communication plan that: raises awareness of the new system and its benefits; enables appropriate stakeholders to participate in the project; and enables stakeholders to prepare their organisations for implementation. 
  • To recommend a standard approach to subject based analysis using the new subject coding system. 

The desired project outcome was for a coding system that meets the design principles described below:​ 


  • a coding framework that corresponds to recognised good practice; 
  • a framework with scope for evolution; 
  • a framework at an appropriate level of granularity (in relation to usability and meaningful data); 
  • an easy transition path; 
  • increased consistency of application across institutions; 
  • a means of furthering the open data agenda; 
  • a unified approach to supporting a much wider group of stakeholders; 


  • a means of linking to data classified in other frameworks; 
  • backwards compatibility with legacy data. 

Work began on the development of a new subject coding system in 2013 led by the former Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) and in consultation with the HE sector. The project was borne out of a need to replace the JACS system to meet the needs of a broader group of stakeholders and to reflect the diverse and dynamic nature of Higher Education in the twenty-first century, and culminated in July 2016 with the publication of the subject code system now known as HECoS. 

The HECoS and CAH management guide (published as a .pdf download) explains the process for managing the HECoS standard. In particular it: 

  • Delineates the parameters within which the HECoS standard can be adapted over time. 
  • Provides guidance to users who seek to update or improve HECoS. 

Download the HECoS management guide

Mapping document archive

An extensive archive of the HEDIIP programme is maintained at HESA. Selected NSCS project documents are reproduced here in unredacted form (including some notes that were absent from the versions previously available on the former HEDIIP website). Taken together, these documents offer an overview of the way the project objectives were defined, how the project was conducted, the considerations that were taken into account, and the outcomes and outputs of the work. 

HESA supports the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in their adoption of HECoS and CAH for the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). This was implemented from 2019/20, to align with UCAS and HESA processes. HESA convened a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO, the FCDO's predecessor organisation) and volunteer HE providers to help determine an appropriate approach. Minutes from that meeting are available in the PDF below: