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Dear Principal

ILR funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2015-16: 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 2015-16 ILR R14 data before signing off this data with the Skills Funding Agency.

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

3. HEFCE strongly encourages 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
  • check, before submission, that the ILR R14 data is fit for publication on the Unistats website
  • verify the accuracy of the target list of students for the National Student Survey (NSS) and Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) and to use it 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 2015-16 (selected colleges are typically subject to considerable additional work and potential funding adjustments)
  • identify discrepancies between within-year HEFCE data returns, such as the Higher Education in Further Education: Students survey (HEIFES), and the outturn position for 2015-16
  • identify errors in HEFCE data returns.

Action required

4. We strongly encourage colleges to analyse the FAMD web facility outputs as part of their ILR R14 data quality processes. Past reviews have confirmed that this is an essential element of most colleges’ ILR data quality processes. Colleges that do not scrutinise the FAMD outputs are more likely to be selected for the reconciliation exercises described in paragraphs 20 to 24, which may have funding consequences.

5. HEFCE staff may query potential errors in ILR data that could affect future funding calculations.

6. Where discrepancies occur between within-year HEFCE data returns (such as HEIFES) and the outturn position for 2015-16, we expect colleges to take full account of the outputs from the web facility when preparing future data 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, in particular where these algorithms have changed from previous years. Feedback should be emailed to ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk.

Web facility outputs

8. The 2015-16 web facility will generate the following outputs:

  • HEIFES15 re-creation
  • ILR data for the 2017-18 student premium allocations
  • 2016 Unistats
  • 2017 NSS target list
  • 2015-16 DLHE target list.

Funding data reconciliations

9. The algorithms used to generate the re-creations of HEFCE funding returns (specifically HEIFES15) 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

10. We intend to publish data on the revised Unistats site using 2015-16 ILR R14 data in 2017. The web facility provides an opportunity for colleges to check, before submission, that their ILR R14 data is fit for publication on the Unistats website.

11. The 2015-16 ILR data will be used to produce separate target lists of students to be included in the 2017 NSS and the 2015-16 DLHE survey. 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 running the survey. These contact details will need to be returned to the agency in mid-November 2016. Further details about the arrangements for the 2017 NSS will be published in the autumn.
  2. In the case of the DLHE, these can either be passed to HEFCE’s framework contractor or be used to prepare for carrying out the DLHE survey by other means.

12. On Friday 21 October 2016 we will extract final target lists for the 2017 NSS and the 2015‑16 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 generates complete target lists for both surveys. Once we have received the 2015‑16 ILR R14 data from the Skills Funding Agency (in December 2016), we will use it to validate colleges’ target lists. HEFCE staff will routinely access NSS and DLHE target lists generated by the web facility.

DVQs

13. HEFCE staff may raise DVQs where we assess that potential errors in data could affect funding calculations during the data collection window. We will focus on data from the areas listed in paragraph 8.

14. Further details of this process are described in the ‘Data verification’ section of our website (www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/da/Data,verification/). We expect all colleges to respond to DVQs before the ILR sign-off deadline.

Key assumptions

15. The outputs generated by the web facility will, where possible and relevant, contain details of how 2015‑16 ILR R14 data is expected to be used to inform your 2017‑18 funding allocations. The algorithms used to generate the outputs are generally expected to be the same as will be used for funding calculations, subject to any changes that our Board may make to the methodology, and the outcome of the ongoing teaching funding consultation ‘Funding to support teaching in higher education: Consultation on arrangements for supporting widening access and successful student outcomes, including progression to taught postgraduate study’ (HEFCE 2016/10, www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2016/201610/). However, we may make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

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

17. The version of the Learning Aims Search database that we refer to is taken from 20 July 2016.

18. We will link ILR data with other data sources (other colleges’ ILR data and schools’ National Pupil Database data) to calculate students’ UCAS tariff points for the purposes of assigning them to risk groups for the 2017-18 student premium allocation. For data protection reasons, links to these data sources are not included in the web facility outputs, meaning that a student’s risk group assignment may change between the web facility and the calculation of 2017-18 student premium allocation for the March 2017 grant announcement.

19. With the exception of NSS, DLHE and Unistats, the web facility calculations will incorporate any ILR amendments (for 2014-15 and earlier years) that are signed off by Friday 5 August 2016. Any overrides to derived fields also signed off by 5 August 2016 will be included in all web facility calculations. 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

20. 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.

21. 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 has 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).

22. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from ILR R14 student data with HEIFES15 are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2016‑17.

23. Colleges selected to respond 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.

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

Data confidentiality

25. The web facility is a tool for colleges. HEFCE staff will access data submitted to, or derived from, the web facility in the circumstances described in paragraph 26. We will remove individualised files, submitted XML files and any outputs from the 2015-16 web facility when we launch the ‘ILR funding and monitoring data 2016-17’ web facility in 2017. Further information on how we handle personal data can be provided on request. See our website for further details (www.hefce.ac.uk/contact/inforequest/).

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

  • where a college explicitly gives permission
  • to produce early modelling of funding allocations
  • to verify HEIFES16 data
  • to study general data quality and algorithmic issues as part of the DVQ exercise described in paragraphs 13 and 14
  • to study general data quality and algorithmic issues with the Unistats summaries
  • to retrieve NSS and DLHE target lists.

Further information

27. A number of help guides are available in the FAMD area of our website (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/). 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 (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/help/howwf/).
  2. Extranet locations, deadlines and documentation can be found under ‘2015-16 funding and monitoring data overview’ (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/latest/).
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) is listed under ‘2015‑16 funding and monitoring data overview’ (www.hefce.ac.uk/data/famd/latest/).
  4. 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/).

28. If you require any further information or guidance please contact Lisa Zhang (tel 0117 931 7156, email ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

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Date: 16 August 2016

Ref: Circular letter 22/2016

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Lisa Zhang, tel 0117 931 7156, email ilr_heifes_stats@hefce.ac.uk