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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Individualised Learner Record funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2012-13: Web facility

1. This circular letter notifies colleges of the release of HEFCE’s web facility for Individualised Learner Record (ILR) funding and monitoring data. This web facility is provided to colleges so that they can verify, and where appropriate correct, their 2012-13 ILR R14 data prior to signing off these data with the Data Service.

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

3. The Data Service and HEFCE strongly encourage use of the web facility, which we regard as an essential element of all colleges’ data quality processes. It will help colleges to:

  • return accurate data to the Data Service
  • 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 ILR FAMD exercise for 2012-13 (selected colleges 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 in Further Education: Students survey (HEIFES)) and the outturn position for 2012-13
  • identify errors in HEFCE funding returns.

Action required

4. Use of this web facility is optional, but we strongly encourage colleges to use it as part of their data quality processes. Past reviews have confirmed that it is an essential element of most further education colleges’ ILR data quality processes, and that colleges that do not use the facility are more likely to be selected for the reconciliation exercises described in paragraphs 23 to 27, which may have funding consequences for them.

5. HEFCE staff may query potential errors in ILR 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 HEIFES) and the outturn position for 2012-13, we expect colleges to take full account of the outputs from the web facility when preparing future funding returns. We therefore strongly encourage colleges 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 ILR 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 ilr_heifes_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. HEIFES12 re-creation.

     By 16 September 2013

  1. Indicative funding summaries:
    1. Indicative 2014-15 student opportunity allocations (to be released later in September 2013)
    2. Indicative proportions of students who may be newly exempted according to the 2014-15 SNC exemptions list.

     By 1 October 2013

  1. Other funding and monitoring data:
    1. 2014 Unistats summaries.
    2. 2014 National Student Survey (NSS) target list.
    3. 2012-13 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) target list.

9. We may release further outputs to the web facility later in the year as they become available. We will email institutions' HEIFES contacts to announce their availability accordingly.

Funding data reconciliations

10. The algorithms used to generate the re-creations of HEFCE funding returns (specifically, HEIFES12) are intended to be the same as will be used for the ILR FAMD exercise. We may, however, make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

Other derived statistics

11. We intend to publish Unistats summaries from the 2012-13 ILR R14 data in 2014. The web facility provides an opportunity for colleges to check, before submission, that their ILR R14 data are fit for publication on the Unistats web-site.

12. The 2012-13 ILR data will be used to produce a target list of students to be included in the 2014 NSS. Colleges are encouraged to use the list to start preparing the contact details for these students, so that these can be passed to the agency (Ipsos MORI) running the NSS. These contact details will need to be returned to the agency in mid-November 2013. On 26 October 2013 we will extract a final target list for the 2014 NSS from data submitted to the web facility. Colleges should therefore ensure that the most recent data submitted to the web facility on this date generate a complete NSS target list. Once we have received the 2012‑13 ILR R14 data from the Data Service (in December 2013), we will use them to validate colleges’ target lists. Further details about the arrangements for the 2014 NSS will be published in the autumn. HEFCE staff will routinely access NSS target lists generated by the web facility.

13. We will use 2012-13 ILR R14 data to produce a target list of students for inclusion in the 2012-13 DLHE. Colleges are encouraged to use the list to start preparing the contact details for these students so that these can be passed to the agency (I-Graduate) running the DLHE. These contact details will need to be returned to the agency in mid-November 2013. On 26 October 2013 we will extract a final target list for the 2012‑13 DLHE from data submitted to the web facility. Colleges should therefore ensure that the most recent data submitted to the web facility on this date generate a complete DLHE target list. Once we have received the 2012-13 ILR R14 data from the Data Service (in December 2013) we will use them to validate colleges’ target lists. Further details about the arrangements for the 2012-13 DLHE will be published in the autumn. HEFCE staff will routinely access DLHE target lists generated by the web facility.

Data verification

14. HEFCE staff may raise queries 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 student opportunity allocations
  • some indicative 2012-13 and 2013-14 targeted allocations.

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

Key assumptions

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. The version of the Learning Aim Reference Application (LARA) database that we refer to is from 5 August.

19. In the web facility calculations we have assumed that students with undetermined completion status (FUNDCOMP = 3) have completed their year of study. Colleges should note that this assumption may change after we receive final ILR 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.

20. We may request updated information regarding students reported with FUNDCOMP = 3 on the 2012-13 ILR. This would follow the same process as the ILR FAMD 2011-12 Completion Status Survey (see ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2011‑12: Funding summaries and request for updates to completion status data’, HEFCE Circular letter 06/2013).

21. When setting the SNCs for 2014-15 we will link ILR data to other data sources (other further education colleges' ILR 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 ILR data alone.

22. The web facility calculations will incorporate any ILR 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 ILR FAMD reconciliation exercise

23. We use the annual ILR FAMD reconciliation exercise to monitor colleges’ HEIFES returns using ILR data. This reconciliation exercise occurs after we have received a final copy of all colleges’ data from the Data Service, typically in the December following the web facility launch.

24. Our funding allocations are informed by the data provided by colleges. If we find, either through reconciliations with ILR or other organisations’ data, or during the course of any data audit, that erroneous data have resulted in colleges 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).

25. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from ILR student data with HEIFES12 are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2012-13 and, where relevant, all subsequent years.

26. Colleges 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.

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

Data confidentiality

28. The web facility is a tool for colleges to use. HEFCE staff will not access any data submitted to, or derived by, the web facility except in the limited circumstances described in paragraph 29. 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 we launch the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data 2013-14’ web facility 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 on our web-site under ‘Freedom of information at HEFCE’. 

29. HEFCE staff may examine outputs from the web facility in any of the following circumstances:

  • where a college explicitly gives permission
  • to study general data quality and algorithmic issues as part of the data verification described in paragraphs 14 and 15
  • to study general data quality and algorithmic issues with the Unistats summaries
  • to retrieve NSS and DLHE target lists.

Further information

30. 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.

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

32. If you require any further information or guidance please contact Edward Cross (tel 0117 931 7473, e-mail ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

 

Sir Alan Langlands

Chief Executive

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Date: 15 August 2013

Ref: Circular letter 23/2013

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Edward Cross, tel 0117 931 7473, e-mail ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk