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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

HESA funding and monitoring data (FAMD) 2015‑16: Web facility

1. This circular letter notifies institutions of the release of HEFCE’s web facility for Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) funding and monitoring data. This web facility is provided to institutions so that they can verify, and where appropriate correct, their 2015-16 HESA student data before signing off this data with HESA.

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

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

  • return accurate data to HESA
  • verify the accuracy of the derived fields that may inform and monitor funding allocations
  • respond to data verification queries (DVQs) raised by HEFCE staff
  • reduce the likelihood of selection for the FAMD reconciliation exercise for 2015-16 (selected institutions are typically subject to considerable additional work and potential funding adjustments)
  • identify discrepancies between within-year HEFCE data returns, such as the Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey (HESES), and the outturn position for 2015-16
  • identify errors in HEFCE data returns
  • verify that the 2015-16 HEFCE-fundable full-time equivalent student numbers used in the transparent approach to costing for teaching (TRAC(T)) are suitable to inform the periodic review of the relative costs of different subjects.

Action required

4. We strongly encourage institutions to analyse the FAMD web facility outputs as part of their HESA student data quality processes. Past reviews have confirmed that this is an essential element of most higher education institutions’ HESA data quality processes. Institutions that do not scrutinise the FAMD outputs are more likely to be selected for the reconciliation exercises described in paragraphs 14 to 18, which may have funding consequences.

5. HEFCE staff may query (via HESA’s Minerva Data Quality System) potential errors in HESA data that could affect future funding calculations.

6. Where discrepancies occur between within-year HEFCE data returns (such as HESES) and the outturn position for 2015-16, we expect institutions to take full account of the outputs from the web facility when preparing future data returns. We therefore strongly encourage institutions 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 HESA data to inform the calculation and monitoring of funding, in particular where these algorithms have changed from previous years. Feedback should be emailed to hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk.

Web facility outputs

8. The 2015-16 web facility generates the following outputs.

  • HESES15 re-creation
  • 2015-16 HEFCE-fundable full-time equivalences for TRAC(T).
  • HESA data for the 2017-18 student premium allocations.

DVQs

9. HEFCE staff may raise DVQs (via HESA’s Minerva Data Quality System) 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.

10. Further details of this process are described in the ‘Data verification’ section of our website. We expect all institutions to respond to DVQs before the HESA sign-off deadline.

Key assumptions

11. The outputs generated by the web facility will, wherever possible and relevant, contain details of how 2015‑16 HESA 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). However, we may make changes where we believe these will improve the algorithms.

12. 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.

13. The web facility calculations will incorporate any HESA amendments (for 2014-15 and earlier years) and overrides to derived fields that are signed off by Friday 5 August 2016. We do not intend to update the web facility outputs to reflect any amendments and overrides that may be signed off subsequently.

Relationship with HESA FAMD reconciliation exercise

14. We use the annual HESA FAMD reconciliation exercise to monitor institutions’ HESES returns using HESA student data. This reconciliation exercise occurs after we have received a final copy of all institutions’ data from HESA, typically in the December following the web facility launch.

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

16. Any funding adjustments arising from the reconciliation of a re-creation from HESA student data with HESES15 are likely to affect the funding previously announced for 2016‑17.

17. Institutions 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.

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

Data confidentiality

19. The web facility is a tool for institutions. HEFCE staff will access data submitted to, or derived from, the web facility in the circumstances described in paragraph 20. We will remove individualised files, submitted XML files and any outputs from the 2015-16 web facility when HESA’s 2015-16 fixed database closes in 2018. Further information on how we handle personal data can be provided on request. See our website for further details.

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

  • where an institution explicitly gives permission
  • to produce early modelling of funding allocations
  • to verify Higher Education Students Early Statistics Survey 2016-17 (HESES16) data
  • to study general data quality and algorithmic issues as part of the DVQ exercise described in paragraphs 9 and 10.

Further information

21. A number of help guides are available in the FAMD area of our website. 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 ‘2015-16 funding and monitoring data overview’.
  3. Technical information (such as algorithms and problems of fit) is listed under ‘2015-16 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.

22. If you require any further information or guidance please contact Cade Dack (tel 0117 931 7473, email hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk).

Yours sincerely

Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

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Date: 18 August 2016

Ref: Circular letter 24/2016

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student data, Planning, Finance, Audit

Enquiries should be directed to:

Cade Dack, tel 0117 931 7473 email hesa_heses_stats@hefce.ac.uk