Data plays a key role in informing a number of activities run by the Office for Students (OfS), including allocating funding for teaching, Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) assessments, regulatory activity and public information to inform student choice. These processes rely on data that higher education providers supply to the OfS and partner organisations.
What data is used?
We draw on a number of data returns to use across a range of activities. These include:
- Aggregate student returns supplied to the OfS
- Individualised student data returned to the Higher Education Statics Agency (HESA) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
- The National Student Survey (NSS)
- The Graduate Outcomes survey
- Other institutional returns, for example finance, staff and estate returns.
Assessing the data
We seek to ensure that the data is fit for purpose in a mix of ways:
- Data audit - We audit statistical surveys, as well as HESA and Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data, to ensure that the rules on how to complete the returns set out in publications have been applied correctly.
- Data reconciliation - As part of our work to monitor the data that universities and colleges supply we carry out annual reconciliation exercises. These compare data returned to the OfS with HESA or ILR data.
- Data verification - We carry out data verification on HESA student, HESA student alternative provider and ILR data during the period of data cleansing before formal sign-off or submission of data to HESA or ESFA by providers. We aim to help providers ensure their data is accurate at the time of submission and fit for purpose (although responsibility for this lies with the provider). We highlight areas where data appears unusual or is inconsistent with other data sources, for example, the Student Loans Company or Pearson data, with the expectation that the provider reviews the data to ensure it is correct. This should reduce the need for changes to data post-submission, which is both costly and time-consuming for providers and for the OfS.