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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Higher Education Statistics Agency funding and monitoring data 2011-12: Web facility

1. This circular letter notifies institutions of the release of HEFCE’s web facility for Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) funding and monitoring data (FAMD). Institutions in England can access their web facility from today; the facility for institutions in Northern Ireland will be available in due course. This web facility is provided to institutions so that they can verify and correct, where appropriate, their 2011-12 HESA student data prior to signing off these data with HESA.

2. We will write to institutions separately providing them with the necessary access key to use the web facility.

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
  • verify the accuracy of the derived fields that may inform funding allocations and the setting of student number limits
  • respond to data verification queries raised by HEFCE staff
  • reduce the likelihood of selection for the HESA FAMD exercise for 2011-12 (selected institutions are typically subject to considerable additional work and potential funding adjustments)
  • identify discrepancies between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns, such as the Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey, and the outturn position for 2011-12
  • identify errors in HEFCE funding returns
  • verify that the 2011-12 HEFCE-fundable student full-time equivalents (FTEs) used in the transparent approach to costing for teaching (TRAC(T)) are suitable to inform the periodic review of the relative costs of different subjects.

Action required

4. 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 17 to 21, which may have funding consequences for them.

5. HEFCE staff may query (via HESA’s Minerva Data Quality System) potential errors in HESA data which could affect future funding calculations and the setting of student number controls (SNCs).

6. In the past, when calculating funding and setting SNCs, we have generally used any amendments to data that have been submitted via HESA’s post-collection system (the ‘fixed database’). Institutions should note that in the future we may not incorporate such amendments (to 2011-12 HESA data onwards) when revising our calculations.

7. Where discrepancies occur between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns (such as HESES) and the outturn position for 2011-12, we expect institutions to take full account of the outputs from the web facility when preparing future funding returns. We therefore strongly encourage institutions to analyse the web facility outputs as part of their data quality, planning and audit processes.

8. We would be grateful for feedback on the proposed algorithms for using HESA data to inform the allocation and monitoring of funding and SNCs, in particular where these algorithms have changed from previous years. These include but are not restricted to:

  1. The adjustment of SNC limits for ABB+ equivalent students and those topping up from a foundation degree or HND to an honours degree.
  2. The indicative 2013-14 student opportunity (SO) allocation.
  3. The calculation of FTE and non-completion status for students starting a non‑standard year of instance.

Feedback should be e-mailed to hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk.

Web facility outputs

9. The 2011-12 web facility generates the following outputs.

  1. Indicative funding and SNC summaries:
    1. Indicative 2013-14 quality-related research (QR) Research Degree Programme (RDP) supervision fund allocation.
    2. Indicative 2013-14 SO allocations (to be released later in September 2012).
    3. Indicative proportions of ABB+ equivalent and students topping up from a foundation degree or HND to an honours degree (to be released later in September 2012).
  2. Funding data reconciliations:
    1. HESES11 re-creation.
    2. HESES11 re-creation based on cost centre sector norms.
  3. Other funding and monitoring data:
    1. 2011-12 HEFCE-fundable FTE student numbers for TRAC(T) (to be released later in September 2012).
    2. Indicative 2014-15 National Scholarship Programme (NSP) allocations (expected to be released later in Autumn 2012).

Indicative funding and SNC summaries

10. The algorithms used to generate the indicative funding summaries (that is, the 2013-14 QR RDP supervision fund and 2013-14 SO allocations) and the ABB+ equivalent and topping-up proportions to inform SNC adjustments are expected to be the same as will be used for the HESA FAMD 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

11. The algorithms used to generate the re-creations of HEFCE funding returns (specifically, HESES11) are intended to be the same as will be used for the HESA FAMD exercise. We may, however, make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

Other derived statistics

12. The web facility will generate figures for 2011-12 HEFCE-fundable student FTEs by academic cost centre for TRAC(T).

13. We also expect to add an indicative 2014-15 NSP allocation output later this autumn (subject to any subsequent decisions that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills may make concerning the methodology).

14. Changes to the web facility since 2010-11 are described in Annex A.

Data verification

15. Like last year, due to the increased use of HESA data to drive funding allocations and calculate SNCs, HEFCE staff may raise queries (via HESA’s Minerva Data Quality System) when potential errors in data could affect future funding calculations and the setting of SNCs during the data collection window. HEFCE will scrutinise data in the following areas:

  • indicative ABB+ data (to inform the setting of 2013-14 SNCs)
  • the indicative 2013-14 QR RDP supervision fund allocation
  • indicative 2013-14 SO allocations
  • indicative phase-out funding rates
  • indicative 2014-15 NSP allocations.

16. Further details of this process are described on our web-site at www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/invest/institns/funddataaudit/dataverification/.

Relationship with HESA FAMD exercise

17. We use the annual HESA FAMD exercise to monitor institutions’ HESES 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.

18. Our funding allocations are informed by the data provided by institutions. If we find, either through reconciliations with HESA or other organisations’ data, or during the course of 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).

19. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from HESA student data with HESES11, or from the comparison of cost centre assignments based on sector norms for subjects with the HESES11 re-creation, are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2011-12 and all subsequent years.

20. 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.

21. The ‘Funding data reconciliations’ area on the HEFCE web-site provides further detail regarding the reconciliation exercise (see www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/fundingdatareconciliations/).

Data confidentiality

22. The web facility is a tool for institutions to use. HEFCE staff will not access any data submitted to, or derived by, the web facility except where an institution explicitly gives permission, or to study general data quality and algorithmic issues as part of the data verification described in paragraphs 15 and 16. Only those fields listed in our technical documentation (see www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/lateststatistics/) will be retained on our system. We will remove individualised files and any outputs from the 2011-12 web facility when HESA’s 2011-12 fixed database closes in 2014. 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 at www.hefce.ac.uk/contact/freedomofinformation/.

Higher education institutions in Northern Ireland

23. For higher education institutions in Northern Ireland we produce the outputs listed in Annex B.

Further information

24. There are a number of help guides available in the FAMD area of our web-site (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/workingwithindividualisedfiles/). 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 (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/howtousethehefcewebfacility/).
  2. Extranet locations, deadlines and documentation can be found in the ‘2011-12 funding and monitoring data overview’ (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/lateststatistics/).
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) are listed in the ‘2011-12 funding and monitoring data overview’ (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/lateststatistics/).
  4. Information on how to obtain data from the HEFCE extranet can be found in the ‘How to access outputs’ guide (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/howtoaccessoutputs/).
  5. Answers to frequently asked questions regarding the web facility are on the HEFCE web-site (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/thefundingandmonitoringdataexercise/hesadata/2010-11faqs/).

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

Yours sincerely 

Sir Alan Langlands

Chief Executive 

Date: 29 October 2012

Ref: Circular letter 25/2012

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Dominic Meyer, tel 0117 931 7285, e-mail hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk