HESA Data Futures

Project summary

This project will prepare the University of Oxford to meet the requirements from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the new approach to collection of student data. The University currently reports to HESA on an annual basis, however from 2019/20, it will need to do so at regular points throughout the year. The two-year HESA Data Futures project will make the necessary improvements to processes and data handling via eVision to ensure regular reporting can be done efficiently and allow the University to continue to receive funding at the appropriate level.

This project will work with colleagues in divisions, departments, colleges and the UAS to understand current processes and how these can be adapted to meet the new requirements.

The project is jointly sponsored by AAD’s Jackie Hoyle (Director of Student Registry) and PACS’ Mike Glover (Director of Planning and Council Secretariat), with Student Registry and Student Systems working closely with IT Services to deliver it. The University’s return of student data to HESA in October 2019 will take place as usual.

The briefing note (below) from Jackie Hoyle and Mike Glover provides more information about the project, its timescale and the changes it will introduce:

July 2019

An update on HESA Data Futures at Oxford
In early July, HESA shared its thinking about the scope and delivery timeframe of the Data Futures programme.  While HESA has announced a further design phase to consider the scope and impact of the required changes, it has also confirmed that student data collections for the 202 / 21 period will use the existing legacy system.  This development has significant implications for our student data project at Oxford, and the Project Board discussed a number of options at its meeting recently.  It was agreed that:

  • The Project Team would continue to deliver the outputs agreed at the last Executive Board meeting
  • Replacement of the existing access database used for the HESA return should be brought forward, removing risk and so making the data submission more reliable

The HESA Data Futures programme has presented opportunities and challenge in equal measure, and following the announcement above, we can now provide clarity around the scope of work at Oxford - and specifically, confirm those areas of workstream activity that will continue and those where work will case.  The focus for us, however, continues to be one that delivered benefits along key points in our student data process, and that we derive as much value as possible from the investment we've already made in HESA Data Futures.  Please do read the update here.

March 2019

HESA released a statement on Tuesday 12 March announcing that Data Futures will no longer be going live in 2019/20 as there is a significant risk that Data Futures may not be able to deliver the required data quality in the timescales to meet statutory customer needs for 2019/20. 

The Oxford HESA Data Futures team will review the implications of this decision over the coming weeks and look at the opportunities and risks it presents. We expect to carry on with the project as planned, but there may opportunities to take more strategic approaches now that we are not working to such compressed timescales. 

February 2019
The programme team has delivered a number of introductory presentations at colleges and divisional meetings since the start of this academic year, to share an overview of the programme, and to gain an understanding of the impact of the proposed changes. Colleges and departments will continue to be engaged with through  workshops, surveys, working groups and more, to fully understand how HESA Data Futures will affect processes and systems, and to ensure that all relevant staff are kept informed of developments.

December 2018
HESA has released their full data model and the project team are carrying out detailed work identifying the new areas of data required compared with those currently provided to HESA.

Workshops began for some workstreams to start understanding current processes and how changes will affect different areas within the University. These will continue in the Hilary Term 2019.

During Michaelmas Term 2018, we continued to raise awareness about the Programme. Outline briefing to divisions were completed and meetings with departments began, which will also continue into the Hilary Term 2019. HESA Data Futures was also introduced at the Academic Registrar's briefing.

October 2018
A number of HESA’s proposed changes are still being finalised, with the release of the full data model due late October 2018. Once published, this will give us a clearer picture of exactly what data they will be looking to receive in the Data Futures style student return. As new information is released, it will be added to the specific workstream pages and links put to the relevant pages on the HESA website.

Initial outline briefings with Divisions and Continuing Education are underway to provide an understanding of this project and timelines. This will be followed by further briefings and workshops with colleagues in departments and support areas.

What is HESA?

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is the official agency for the collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative information about higher education in the United Kingdom. Legally, higher education providers such as the University of Oxford must send an annual return of data to HE funding bodies.

This data currently includes:
• the student record (personal characteristics, course- and module-level data, funding information and details about qualification outcomes);
• Unistats record (all full- and part-time undergraduate courses plus other course-level metrics)
• Initial Teacher Training Record (personal characteristics of new and continuing ITT students and details about their courses)
• Aggregate Off-shore record (an aggregated headcount of students registered with providers but studying wholly outside the UK).

HESA gathers, analyzes and quality checks this information before sending it to their statutory customers, who include the HE funding councils, government bodies, governments, universities, academic and commercial researchers, students and potential students, and policy makers. This is used to enable strategic planning, inform policy making, support academic and commercial research, understand social and economic trends and support prospective students’ decision making.

Why is this project needed?

Currently, University data is collected, cleansed and quality assured before being sent to HESA in the one annual statutory student return.

Under direction from the government, this model is changing. Data collection will move from one annual collection to in-year collection where it will be possible to submit data at any point during the year. The in-year submission will be grouped into three Reference periods.

We will need to move from a system aimed at producing one ‘good’ version of a single file comprising of a complete annual return, to an on-going update approach, where fragments of data are accumulated, and build towards a complete picture over time.

This new model requires data to be correct at any point in the year so HESA can collect data at any time and can provide more timely data to its customers. As well as the change to when and how data is collected, HESA Data Futures has a much broader scope and increased requirements in terms of the types of data and level of information required. 

HESA is due to release its new data model in late October 2018. This will give us a clearer picture of exactly what data they will be looking to receive in Data Futures. As new information is released, it will be added to the specific workstream pages and links put to the relevant pages on the HESA website.

The HESA Data Futures Project will prepare the University to meet these new requirements through changes to technology, process and ways of working to meet the shorter turnaround times.


October 2018 HESA Data Futures project structure chart

The project will consist of five workstreams focusing on particular data areas, looking at how Oxford currently collects, stores and processes student data and what changes will need to be made in these areas. The HESA Data Futures project is only concerned with the student returns data and does not include staff, estates or other data at this time.

Using a combination of streamlining current practices, technology initiatives and changes to working processes the HESA Data Futures project plans to meet the deadline for the first trial submission of data to HESA in Jan 2020-Apr 2020 (exact timescale tbc by HESA).

The project will work with many areas of the university: divisions, departments, colleges, administrative departments, to understand how they currently collect and manage the relevant data and to look at ways in which the new requirements can be met. It is likely a combination of technology adaptations and culture change will enable this to happen.

More information about the different workstreams is available on specific pages in the menu.

The Project Board meets on a regular basis to review progress of the project, and has ultimate responsibility for overseeing its direction and governance. It is expected to meet twice a term, with dates arranged around the key deliverables of the project. The business of the Board may also be undertaken between physical meetings with the agreement of the Chair and members (e.g. via email or telephone conference).

The Project Board comprises of representatives from the following units, including colleagues from the Education IT Programme:

HESA Data Futures Project Board - Jan 2019
Member Role
Dr Mike Glover

Director of Planning and Council Secretariat

Chair, Project Sponsor

Jackie Hoyle

Director of Student Registry, AAD

Project Owner

Bryony Collis Head of Student Records, AAD
Camilla Romaine Head of Student Administration, Continuing Education
Jane Gover Director of Student Fees and Funding
Catherine Whalley

College Registrar, St Peter's College

Colleges representative

Andy Garlick

Assistant Registrar (Education)

Social Sciences Division representative

Jocasta Gardner

Head of Humanities Education Support

Humanities Division representative

TBD Medical Sciences Division representative
TBD MPLS Division representative
David White Director of Student Systems
Elaine Aitken Education IT Programme Manager
Karina Botrel Business Change Manager

You can contact the HESA Data Futures project team by emailing: hesa-student@admin.ox.ac.uk


HESA Data Futures Project
Location: Gibson Building and Exams Schools
Email: hesa-student@admin.ox.ac.uk