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Selected further education and sixth form colleges should return their Completion Status Survey by Friday 26 June.

Dear Principal

ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2013-14: Funding data reconciliation exercise

1. This circular letter notifies colleges of the start of the individualised learner record (ILR) funding and monitoring data 2013-14 reconciliation exercise. This exercise compares the data returned to the Skills Funding Agency with Higher Education in Further Education Students survey (HEIFES) data submitted to HEFCE.

2. A formal response to this exercise is required only from colleges that are selected due to meeting any of the selection criteria in Annex A.

3. On Friday 29 May 2015 we will email all HEIFES contacts to advise them whether or not their college has been selected for this exercise. We will also write to and email the heads of those colleges selected for the exercise. To confirm receipt of the email and letter we will phone selected colleges by Friday 5 June.

4. As described in ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2013-14: Funding summaries and request for updates to completion status data’ (HEFCE Circular letter 08/2015), we are asking colleges to provide updates to completion status information. The deadline for the Completion Status Survey (CSS) return is Friday 26 June. Last year we deferred selection for many colleges to allow incorporation of data from the CSS before assessing whether they met the threshold criteria for selection. This year however, to enable earlier selection for the exercise, we have made assumptions about the likely effect of the CSS on institutions’ data. Specifically, we have applied assumed rates of completion, derived from each college’s 2012-13 CSS returns, to students included in the 2013-14 CSS by mode, level and year of study. This has enabled us to finalise selection of colleges now, and thus provide certainty for them about the requirement on them to respond. While we will not review selection of colleges following the 2013-14 CSS, we reserve the right to carry out further data assurance work with an institution at any time where we have concerns about their data, including in the light of any other data assurance activity that we may already be undertaking.  

General information

5. We encourage all colleges to review the reconciliation outputs that accompany this exercise (see paragraph 10 for further information), as this should be an essential element of all colleges’ data quality processes. The outputs will help colleges to:

  1. identify discrepancies between forecasts in 2013-14 HEIFES data (HEIFES13) and the outturn position for 2013-14
  2. identify errors in HEIFES13.

6. Our funding allocations (including the monitoring of student number controls) are informed by the data provided by colleges. If we find, either through reconciliations with Skills Funding Agency or other organisations’ data, or any data audit, that erroneous data have resulted in colleges receiving incorrect funding allocations, we will adjust their funding accordingly (subject to any appeals process that may apply and the availability of our funds).

7. Therefore, where discrepancies occur between HEIFES13 and the outturn position for 2013-14, and these discrepancies exceed any of the selection thresholds listed in Annex A, we will request a formal response to this exercise. This response, in the form of an action plan, should explain all material differences between HEIFES13 and the re-creation from ILR student data of HEIFES13 (the HEIFES13 re-creation).

8. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliations of HEIFES13 with the HEIFES13 re-creation are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2013-14 and subsequent years.

ILR funding and monitoring data 2013-14: funding data reconciliation exercise outputs

9. The 2013-14 exercise is accompanied by the HEIFES13 re-creation output. The algorithms used to generate the HEIFES13 re-creation are the same as those used for the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2013-14: Funding summaries and request for updates to completion status data’ (HEFCE Circular letter 08/2015).

Further information

10. The ‘Funding data reconciliations’ area on the HEFCE website provides further detail regarding the reconciliation exercise (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/fdc/).

11. The set of tables that accompanies this exercise can be downloaded from the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2013-14: Outputs’ location on the HEFCE extranet (https://data.hefce.ac.uk/). The relevant group key was posted to heads of colleges and HEIFES contacts on 26 March 2015 (this accompanied the release of HEFCE Circular letter 08/2015).

12. Further guidance about the reconciliation outputs is available in the funding and monitoring area of our website (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/). Some areas that may be of interest are as follows.

  1. Extranet locations, deadlines and documentation, including technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit), can be found in the ‘2013-14 funding and monitoring data overview’ (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/latest/).
  2. 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/output/).
  3. Guidance on how to submit an action plan in response to this exercise can be found in the ‘HEIFES re-creation action plan’ guide (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/guide/heifesap/).

13. For any college selected to respond, this exercise incorporates a review of the 2013-14 HEFCE-funded student outturn data: completion status. This part of the exercise will involve:

  1. The selected college initially reviews a sample of 30 HEFCE-funded students’ completion status as returned in ILR 2013-14. We will provide details of the sample when we write to selected colleges on 29 May 2015. In identifying the sample we have focused on students with characteristics that we have found most strongly correlate to errors in identification of completion status. Having provided the sample for review, we will arrange a visit to discuss the sample and any data issues identified in it, together with the processes and systems related to returning ILR student data, and forecasting of non-completion rates in HEIFES returns. We will also take this opportunity to discuss any issues arising from the HEIFES re-creation action plan.
  2. HEFCE asks the college to review its ILR 2013-14 HE student population for any similar errors as those identified in the sample of 30 students, and correct the data.
  3. HEFCE then reviews a random sample of up to 200 HEFCE-funded students’ completion status. The college will be asked to provide data in a set format to enable us to carry out this review as a desk-based exercise. If necessary, we will make a further visit to gain the assurances we require, but this is not the expectation.
  4. HEFCE assesses the reasonableness of the forecast non-completion rates in HEIFES13 and HEIFES14 in comparison to the amended ILR 2013-14 data. Any funding implications will be implemented as part of the overall changes to ILR data through this overall process.

14. Colleges are reminded that the individualised data made available through this exercise is covered by the Data Protection Act. This data is only accessible to someone holding the HEFCE extranet key, which we have provided to heads of college and HEIFES contacts for colleges. Colleges should ensure that the extranet key is not passed to anyone without a legitimate reason to access the individualised data.

15. For further information or guidance please contact Alastair Kendall (tel 0117 931 7184, email ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Date: 29 May 2015

Ref: Circular letter 14/2015

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges
Heads of HEFCE-funded sixth form colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Alastair Kendall, tel 0117 931 7184, email ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk