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Dear Principal

ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2013-14: 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 2013-14 ILR R14 data before signing off these data with the Skills Funding Agency.

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

3. The Skills Funding Agency 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 Skills Funding Agency
  • verify the accuracy of the derived fields that may inform and monitor funding and student number control (SNC) allocations
  • check, before submission, that the ILR R14 data are fit for publication on the Unistats web-site
  • verify the accuracy of the National Student Survey (NSS) and Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) target list of students and to use the list to start preparing the contact details for these students
  • respond to data verification queries (DVQs) raised by HEFCE staff
  • reduce the likelihood of selection for the FAMD reconciliation exercise for 2013-14 (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 2013-14
  • 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 24 to 28, 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 monitoring of SNCs.

6. Where discrepancies occur between forecasts for within-year HEFCE funding returns (such as HEIFES) and the outturn position for 2013-14, 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 calculation and monitoring of funding and SNC allocations, in particular where these algorithms have changed from previous years. This includes the calculation of phase-out funding for old-regime students for 2015-16 onwards. Feedback should be e-mailed to ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk.

Web facility outputs

8. The release timetable for the 2013-14 web facility is as follows.

          By Friday 15 August 2014

  1. HEIFES13 re-creation.

          By Thursday 4 September 2014

  1. Indicative 2015-16 Student Opportunity (SO) allocations.
  2. Indicative 2015-16 (and onwards) phase-out funding for old-regime students.

          By Friday 3 October 2014

  1. Other funding and monitoring data:
    1. 2014 Unistats summaries.
    2. 2015 NSS target list.
    3. 2013-14 DLHE target list.

9. We may release further outputs to the web facility later in the year as they become available. We will e-mail 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, HEIFES13) are intended to be the same as will be used for the FAMD reconciliation exercise. We may, however, make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

Other funding and monitoring data

11. We intend to publish Unistats summaries from the 2013-14 ILR R14 data in 2015. 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 2013-14 ILR data will be used to produce separate target lists of students to be included in the 2015 NSS and the 2013-14 DLHE. Colleges are encouraged to use these lists to start preparing the contact details for these students. 

  1. In the case of the NSS, these will be passed to the agency (Ipsos MORI) running the survey. These contact details will need to be returned to the agency in mid-November 2014. Further details about the arrangements for the 2015 NSS will be published in the autumn.
  2. In the case of the DLHE, these can either be passed to HEFCE’s framework contractor (the Careers Group, University of London) or be used to prepare for carrying out the DLHE by other means.

13. On Monday 27 October 2014 we will extract final target lists for the 2015 NSS and the 2013-14 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 complete target lists for both surveys. Once we have received the 2013‑14 ILR R14 data from the Skills Funding Agency (in December 2014), we will use them to validate colleges’ target lists. HEFCE staff will routinely access NSS and DLHE target lists generated by the web facility.

DVQs

14. HEFCE staff may raise DVQs where we assess that potential errors in data could affect funding calculations during the data collection window. HEFCE will scrutinise data in the areas listed in paragraph 8 above.

15. Further details of this process are described in the ‘Data verification’ section of our web-site. We expect all colleges to respond to DVQs before the ILR sign-off deadline.

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 after 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 Aims Search database that we refer to is taken from 8 August.

19. In the web facility calculations we have assumed that all students with undetermined completion status (FUNDCOMP = 3) have completed their year of study. Colleges should note that this assumption is likely to 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 2015 grant announcement.

20. In the web facility algorithms we will generally assign fundability status and price groups according to colleges’ submitted 2013-14 ILR data. However, colleges should note that we may reconsider these assignments after comparisons with 2011-12 ILR data (following formal receipt of 2013-14 ILR data later this year). In particular, if we assess that there are inconsistent reporting practices between 2011-12 ILR data (the basis for the calculation of old-regime phase-out funding rates) and 2013-14 ILR data, we will look to adjust for the effect of these inconsistencies to ensure that institutions are not unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged in their 2013-14 old-regime funding allocations. The calculation of indicative 2013-14 old-regime phase-out funding allocations for the web facility may therefore change for the March 2015 grant announcement.

21. We may request updated information regarding students reported with FUNDCOMP = 3 on the 2013-14 ILR. This would follow the same process as the ILR FAMD 2012-13 Completion Status Survey (see ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2012‑13: Funding summaries and request for updates to completion status data’, HEFCE Circular letter 09/2014).

22. When monitoring SNC allocations for 2013-14 we will link ILR data with other data sources (other further education colleges’ ILR data 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 monitoring SNC allocations. We may also link to 2013‑14 Student Loans Company data to identify part-time students who were in receipt of full-time student support in 2013-14, as this information cannot be explicitly sourced from ILR data alone.

23. The web facility calculations will incorporate any ILR amendments (for 2012-13 and earlier years) and overrides to derived fields that are signed off by 25 July 2014. We do not intend to update the web facility outputs to reflect any amendments and overrides that may be signed off subsequently.

Relationship with ILR FAMD reconciliation exercise

24. 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 Skills Funding Agency, typically in the December following the web facility launch.

25. 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).

26. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from ILR student data with HEIFES13 are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2013-14 and, where relevant, all subsequent years.

27. 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.

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

Data confidentiality

29. 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 30. We will remove individualised files and any outputs from the 2013-14 web facility when we launch the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data 2014-15’ web facility 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’.

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

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

Further information

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

  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 ‘2013-14 funding and monitoring data overview’.
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) is listed under ‘2013‑14 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.

32. If you require any further information or guidance please contact Matthew Lorimer (tel 0117 931 7291, e-mail ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

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Date: 15 August 2014

Ref: Circular letter 27/2014

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Matthew Lorimer, tel 0117 931 7291, e-mail ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk