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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Higher Education Statistics Agency funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2012‑13: 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. Institutions in England can access their web facility from today; the facility for institutions in Northern Ireland will be available on 16 September 2013. This web facility is provided to institutions so that they can verify, and where appropriate correct, their 2012-13 HESA student data prior to signing off these data with HESA.

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

3. HESA and HEFCE strongly encourage use of the web facility, which we regard 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 control (SNC) allocations
  • respond to data verification queries raised by HEFCE staff
  • reduce the likelihood of selection for the FAMD reconciliation exercise for 2012-13 (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 survey (HESES)) and the outturn position for 2012-13
  • identify errors in HEFCE funding returns
  • verify that the 2012-13 HEFCE-fundable full-time equivalent student numbers 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 18 to 22, 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 SNCs.

6. Where discrepancies occur between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns (such as HESES) and the outturn position for 2012-13, 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.

7. 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. This includes but is not restricted to the adjustment of SNC allocations for the revisions to the exemptions list. Feedback should be e-mailed to hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk.

Web facility outputs

8. The release timetable for the 2012-13 web facility is as follows.

     By 15 August 2013

  1. Funding data reconciliations:
    1. HESES12 re-creation.

     By 16 September 2013

  1. Indicative funding summaries:
    1. Indicative 2014-15 quality-related research (QR) Research Degree Programme (RDP) supervision fund allocation.
    2. Indicative 2014-15 student opportunity allocations.
    3. Indicative proportions of students who may be newly exempted according to the 2014-15 SNC exemptions list.

9. We may release further outputs to the web facility later in the year as they become available (for example, the 2012-13 HEFCE-fundable full-time equivalent student numbers for TRAC(T)). We will e-mail institutions’ HESES contacts to announce their availability accordingly.

Data verification

10. HEFCE staff may raise queries (via HESA’s Minerva Data Quality System) when potential errors in data could affect future funding calculations during the data collection window. HEFCE will scrutinise data in the following areas:

  • indicative 2012-13 funding for old-regime students
  • indicative 2012-13 high-cost subjects funding for new-regime students
  • indicative 2012-13 SNC grant adjustments
  • illustrative 2014-15 QR RDP supervision fund allocation
  • illustrative 2014-15 student opportunity allocations
  • some indicative 2012-13 and 2013-14 targeted allocations.

11. Further details of this process are described in the ‘Data verification’ section of our web-site.

Key assumptions

12. The outputs generated by the web facility contain indicative and illustrative funding calculations. The algorithms used to generate the outputs are generally expected to be the same (subject to any changes that our Board may make to the methodology) as will be used for funding calculations and when monitoring funding via the FAMD reconciliation exercise; however, we may make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

13. Throughout the outputs we generally assume the funding rates used in the March grant announcement. While the actual funding rates are expected to change following the October grant announcement, we will not generally change the rates that are used to produce the web facility outputs. This is because the web facility outputs are primarily intended to identify data quality issues.

14. In the web facility calculations we have assumed that students with undetermined completion status (FUNDCOMP = 3) have completed their year of study. Institutions should note that this assumption may change after we receive final HESA data, and therefore that the funding information presented in the web facility outputs may change when calculating funding for the March 2014 grant announcement. In particular it is unlikely that we will assume that all students in this category complete their year of instance.

15. We may request updated information regarding students reported with FUNDCOMP = 3 on the 2012-13 HESA student record. This would follow the same process as the HESA FAMD 2011-12 Completion Status Survey (see ‘HESA funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2011-12: Funding summaries and request for updates to completion status data’, HEFCE Circular letter 05/2013).

16. When setting the SNCs for 2014-15 we will link HESA data to other data sources (further education colleges’ Individualised Learner Record and schools’ National Pupil Dataset data) to enhance data on students’ qualifications on entry. Links to these data are not included in the web facility outputs; the funding information presented in the web facility will therefore change when calculating SNCs in January 2014. When calculating the 2014-15 SNCs in January 2014 we will also link to 2012-13 Student Loans Company data to identify part-time students who were in receipt of full-time student support in 2012-13, as this information cannot be explicitly sourced from HESA data alone.

17. The web facility calculations will incorporate any HESA amendments and overrides to derived fields that are signed off by 2 August 2013. We do not intend to update our algorithms to reflect any amendments and overrides that are subsequently signed off.

Relationship with HESA FAMD reconciliation exercise

18. We use the annual HESA FAMD reconciliation 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.

19. 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).

20. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from HESA student data with HESES12 are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2012-13 and, where relevant, all subsequent years.

21. 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.

22. The ‘Funding data reconciliations’ area on the HEFCE web-site provides further detail regarding the reconciliation exercise.

Data confidentiality

23. 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 without an institution’s explicit permission, except to study general data quality and algorithmic issues as part of the data verification described in paragraphs 10 and 11. Only those fields listed in our technical documentation will be retained on our system. We will remove individualised files and any outputs from the 2012-13 web facility when HESA’s 2012-13 fixed database closes in 2015. 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 our web-site under ‘Freedom of information at HEFCE’.

Higher education institutions in Northern Ireland

24. For higher education institutions in Northern Ireland we produce the outputs listed in Annex A.

Further information

25. There are a number of help guides available in the FAMD area of our web-site. Some specific areas that may be of interest are as follows.

  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 under ‘2012-13 funding and monitoring data overview’.
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) is listed under ‘2012‑13 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.

26. Changes to the web facility since 2011-12 are described on the HEFCE web-site.

27. If you require any further information or guidance please contact Laura Bamford (tel 0117 931 7003, e-mail hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

 

Sir Alan Langlands

Chief Executive

Date: 15 August 2013

Ref: Circular letter 22/2013

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Laura Bamford, tel 0117 931 7003, e-mail hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk