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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This circular letter notifies institutions of the release of HEFCE's web facility. Institutions in England can access their web facility from today; the facility for Northern Irish institutions will be available in due course. The web facility is provided to institutions so that they can verify and correct, where appropriate, their 2010-11 Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student data prior to signing off their data with HESA. This web facility was formerly called the 'Statistics derived from HESA data: HEFCE web facility'.

2.   We will write to institutions separately providing them with the necessary access keys to use the web facility. Details as to where to find further information are in paragraph 22.

3.   HESA and HEFCE strongly encourage use of the web facility because we regard it as an essential element of all institutions' data quality processes. It will help institutions to:

  • return accurate data to HESA
  • reduce the likelihood of selection for the 'HESA funding and monitoring data 2010-11' exercise (selected institutions are typically subject to considerable additional work and the potential of funding adjustments)
  • identify discrepancies between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns, such as the Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey and the Research Activity Survey (RAS), and the outturn position for 2010-11
  • identify errors in HEFCE funding returns
  • verify the accuracy of the derived fields that may inform funding allocations
  • verify that 2010-11 HEFCE-fundable student full-time equivalents (FTEs) for the Transparent Approach to Costing for Teaching (TRAC(T)) are suitable to inform the periodic review of the relative costs of different subjects
  • verify that the derived statistics are suitable to inform data audits
  • verify that the derived statistics are suitable for publication and to inform policy.

4.   Where discrepancies occur between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns (such as HESES) and the outturn position for 2010-11, we expect institutions to take full account of the outputs from the web facility when preparing future funding returns. We encourage institutions to analyse the web facility outputs as part of their data quality, planning and audit processes.

5.   Changes to the web facility since 2009-10 are described in Annex A, in particular the addition of indicative outputs for the 2012-13 research degree programme (RDP) supervision fund, the 2013-14 National Scholarship Programme (NSP) allocation and the removal of the HESES non-completion toolkit. Annexes are available alongside this letter.

Action required

6.   Use of this web facility is optional, but we strongly encourage institutions to use it as part of their data quality processes. Past reviews have confirmed that it is an essential element of most higher education institutions' HESA data quality processes and that institutions that do not use the facility are more likely to be selected for the reconciliation exercises described in paragraphs 8-12, which may have funding consequences for them.

7.   In the past we have generally used, in our funding calculations, any amendments that have been submitted via HESA's post collection system (fixed database). Institutions should note that in the future we may not incorporate such amendments in our revised funding calculations. We expect to confirm our policy for using amendments for funding purposes following the outcome of the forthcoming second part of the consultation on teaching funding from 2013-14 (we expect to publish the consultation in the winter of this year and the outcomes in 2012).

Relationship with 'HESA funding and monitoring data' exercise (formerly called 'Statistics derived from HESA data' exercise)

8.   We use the annual 'HESA funding and monitoring data' exercise (formerly called 'Statistics derived from HESA data for monitoring and allocation of funding' exercise) to monitor institutions' HESES, RAS and co-funded employer engagement (CFEE) returns using HESA student data. This reconciliation exercise occurs after we have received a final copy of all institutions' data from HESA, typically in the December following the web facility launch.

9.   Our funding allocations are informed by the data provided by institutions. If we find, either through reconciliations with HESA or other organisations' data, or any data audit, that erroneous data have resulted in institutions receiving incorrect funding allocations, then we will adjust their funding accordingly (subject to any appeals process that may apply and the availability of our funds).

10.   Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from HESA student data of 2010-11 HESES, CFEE or RAS data (HESES10, CFEE10 or RAS10, respectively), or from the comparison of cost centre assignments based on sector norms for subjects with the HESES10 re-creation, are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2010-11 (2011-12 only for RAS) and all subsequent years.

11.   Institutions selected to make a response to the reconciliation exercise must typically undertake a substantial amount of work, which may take several months to complete. The web facility is provided to complement the reconciliation exercise but it does not replace it.

12.   The 'Funding data reconciliations' area on the HEFCE web-site provides further detail regarding the reconciliation exercise.

Web facility outputs

13.   The 2010-11 web facility generates the following outputs:

  1. Indicative funding summaries:
    1. Indicative 2012-13 widening participation (WP) allocations.
    2. Indicative 2012-13 teaching enhancement and student success (TESS) allocation.
    3. Indicative 2012-13 RDP supervision fund allocation.
    4. Indicative 2013-14 NSP allocation.
  2. Funding data reconciliations:
    1. HESES10 re-creation.
    2. HESES10 re-creation based on sector norms for subjects.
    3. RAS10 re-creation.
    4. CFEE10 survey re-creation.
  3. Other derived statistics:
    1. 2010-11 HEFCE-fundable FTE student numbers for TRAC(T).
    2. Derived statistics that may inform data audits.
    3. Derived statistics used for publication and to inform policy.

Indicative funding summaries

14.   The algorithms used to generate the indicative funding summaries (that is, the 2012-13 WP allocations, 2012-13 TESS allocation, 2012-13 RDP supervision fund allocation and NSP allocation) are expected to be the same as those that will be used for the 'HESA funding and monitoring data' exercise. We may, however, make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms (subject to any changes that our Board may make to the methodology).

Funding data reconciliations

15.   The algorithms used to generate the re-creations of HEFCE funding returns (that is, HESES10, RAS10 and CFEE10) are intended to be the same as those that will be used for the ‘HESA funding and monitoring data’ exercise. We may, however, make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

Other derived statistics

16.   The web facility will generate 2010-11 HEFCE-fundable student FTEs by academic cost centre for TRAC(T).

17. We will use 2010-11 HESA student data to identify areas of further investigation during data audits. The web facility will generate an output that will be used to identify areas of potential further investigation relating to student completion data. These outputs may be used as part of the data audits carried out by us or agents acting on our behalf.

18.   We intend to publish summaries of 2010-11 HESA student data. These summaries enable us to map the provision of higher education by location. They may also be used to inform policy decisions. This will be the only opportunity for institutions to ensure that these summaries are suitable for publication.

Data confidentiality

19.   The web facility is a tool for institutions to use. Therefore, HEFCE staff will not access any data submitted to, or derived by, the web facility except in the limited circumstances described in paragraph 20. Only those fields listed in our technical documentation will be retained on our system. We will remove individualised files and any outputs from the 2010-11 web facility when we launch the 'HESA funding and monitoring data 2011-12' web facility in 2012. All other submitted data files will be deleted immediately after the outputs have been generated. Details about our commitments to handling personal data can be found on the HEFCE web-site.

20.   HEFCE staff may examine outputs from the web facility where an institution explicitly gives permission, or to study general data quality and algorithmic issues with qualifications on entry data (in particular where these data may be used to exclude students with very high entry grades from the 2012-13 student number control or inform WP or TESS allocations) or postgraduate research students (where these data may be used to inform the 2012-13 RDP supervision fund).

Northern Irish higher education institutions

21.   For Northern Irish higher education institutions we produce the outputs listed in Annex B.

Further information

22.   There are a number of help guides available in the funding and monitoring area of our web-site. Some specific areas that may be of interest are:

  1. Guidance for using the web facility can be found in the 'How to use the HEFCE web facility' web page.
  2. Extranet locations, deadlines and documentation can be found in the '2010-11 funding and monitoring data overview'.
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) are listed in the '2010-11 funding and monitoring data overview'.
  4. Information on how to obtain data from the HEFCE extranet can be found in the 'How to access outputs' guide.
  5. Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the web facility are on the HEFCE web-site.

23.   If you require any further information or guidance please contact Matthew Brind (tel 0117 931 7285, e-mail hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive


Date: 11 August 2011

Ref: Circular letter 21/2011

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, planning, finance, audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Matthew Brind, tel 0117 931 7285, e-mail hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk