Regulatory reporting of data

Like all universities, Leeds has a variety of regulatory reports that it is obliged to provide to statutory bodies. One of these is the HESA student return, which is due to change significantly from August 2022. This page explains how we are preparing for that change.

HESA is the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the designated data body for higher education in England. It collects a range of data from universities, including data on students, programmes of study, academic outcomes and sources of funding.

At present, universities are required to provide their data once a year, but from August 2022 Data Futures (often abbreviated to DF) will launch a new collection specification. HESA will start collecting data twice a year from 2023. This will help make the process more efficient and standardised across universities, as well as enabling more immediate analysis of the data. HESA is also changing the data it requires, which will include collecting additional items like thesis title, an indicator for students estranged from their families, and module results.  

Preparing for the change

A Regulatory Reporting project team is working to prepare the University’s systems and processes to be ready for this change. As well as ensuring that all the mandatory data can be collected and returned, the project will be addressing the issue of data quality and putting in place mechanisms to assure this going forward.

It’s crucial that everyone working at the university who deals with data understands that they play a part in the student data lifecycle, which is integral to the HESA return. The student data lifecycle cuts across the functional structure of the University and encompasses multiple teams and processes. Each one of you enters and exits the lifecycle at different points, up- and/or downstream of each other.

This means that data issues at any point in the lifecycle can have a knock-on effect elsewhere and changes to processes are sometimes made at one point in the lifecycle without having been fully discussed with all the affected stakeholders. As well as this affecting operational efficiency, it can have a significant negative impact on data quality.

Data governance

While it may sound like an uninspiring topic to some, data governance activity is a vital aspect of ensuring data is accurate, reliable and meaningful. It helps us define our data so that there is a shared understanding of what it means. Policies tell us who can and can’t access data and what they can and can’t use it for. Governance processes describe the steps we must take when data needs to be redefined, or a change is needed in the data structure, or an issue has arisen that needs fixing.

Done right, these activities, and others, will result in a higher quality, reliable set of data. This means we end up with trusted data that can be seen as an asset, as opposed to unreliable data, which can be a liability if it leads to incorrect data returns or decisions being made on a faulty basis.

Trustworthy data can also be used to help drive automation of processes, which in turn can free up staff time to focus on more complex and developmental work.

What can you do?

It is important for the project team that they have access to the considerable knowledge and experience of staff from across the institution. Key colleagues have already been identified and will be included in discussions and decision-making as appropriate. Even if you are not directly involved your immediate colleagues may be and they might ask you for your input. The better informed you are, the more effectively you will be able to contribute and so we encourage you to engage with and absorb information about HESA DF when it comes your way.

Further information

You can find out more about HESA Data Futures on the HESA website.

Find out more about the Student Lifecycle Programme on the SLP Sharepoint (University login required).

If you have any questions about the project, please contact with ‘HESA DF’ as the subject.