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Further education colleges should return the Completion Status Survey by Friday 8 July.

Dear Principal

ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2014-15: Funding data reconciliation exercise

1. This circular letter notifies colleges of the start of the Individual Learner Record (ILR) funding and monitoring data 2014-15 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 because they meet any of the selection criteria in Annex A.

3. On Friday 13 May 2016we 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. Any institutions which we have not contacted by the end of May can assume that they have not been selected for the exercise.

4. As described in ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2014-15: Funding summaries’ (HEFCE Circular letter 08/2016), we are asking some colleges, those with at least 50 students with an undetermined completion status, to provide updates to completion status information. The deadline for the Completion Status Survey (CSS) return is Friday 8 July. When selecting colleges for the reconciliation exercise, we have made assumptions about the likely effect of the CSS on institutions’ data, by applying assumed rates of completion, derived from each college’s 2013‑14 CSS returns, to students included in the 2014‑15 CSS by mode, level and year of study. This enables us to finalise the selection of colleges now, and thus provide certainty for the selected colleges about the requirement on them to respond. We will not review selection of colleges following the 2014‑15 CSS, but reserve the right to carry out further data assurance work with a college at any time where we have concerns about its data, including in the light of any other data assurance activity that we may already be undertaking. For colleges with less than 50 students with undetermined completion status, which therefore are not required to return the 2014-15 CSS, the assumption is made that these students are completions.

General information

5. We encourage all colleges to review the reconciliation outputs that accompany this exercise (see paragraph 11 for further information), as this should be an essential element of all colleges’ data quality processes. The outputs will help colleges to identify:

  • discrepancies between forecasts in 2014-15 HEIFES data (HEIFES14) and the outturn position for 2014-15
  • errors in HEIFES14.

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 in any data audit, that erroneous data has 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 HEIFES14 and the outturn position for 2014-15, and these discrepancies exceed any of the selection thresholds listed in Annex A, we will request a formal response to this exercise, in the form of an action plan. This response should explain all material differences between HEIFES14 and the re-creation from ILR student data of HEIFES14 (the HEIFES14 re-creation).

8. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliations of HEIFES14 with the HEIFES14 re-creation are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2014-15 and subsequent years.

ILR funding and monitoring data 2014-15: funding data reconciliation exercise outputs

9. The 2014-15 exercise is accompanied by the HEIFES14 re-creation output. The algorithms used to generate the HEIFES14 re-creation are the same as those used for HEFCE Circular letter 08/2016.

Further information

10. The ‘Funding data reconciliations’ area on the HEFCE website provides further detail regarding the reconciliation exercise.

11. The set of tables that accompanies this exercise can be downloaded from the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2014-15: Outputs’ location on the HEFCE extranet. The relevant group key was posted to heads of colleges and HEIFES contacts on 19 April 2016.

12. Further guidance about the reconciliation outputs is available in the funding and monitoring area of our website. 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 ‘2014-15 funding and monitoring data overview’.
  2. Information on how to obtain data from the HEFCE extranet can be found in the ‘How to access outputs’ guide.
  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.

13. Incorporated within this exercise for any college selected to respond is a review of the 2014-15 HEFCE-funded student outturn data: completion status. This part of the exercise will involve:

  1. The selected college initially reviewing a sample of 30 HEFCE-funded students’ completion status as returned in ILR 2014-15. We will provide details of the sample when we write to selected colleges on 13 May 2016. 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 asking the college to review the ILR 2014-15 higher education student population for any similar errors as those identified in the sample of 30 students, and correct the data.
  3. A subsequent review by HEFCE of 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. An assessment by HEFCE of the reasonableness of the forecast non-completion rates in HEIFES14 and HEIFES15 in comparison with the above. 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: 13 May 2016

Ref: Circular letter 11/2016

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education 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