The data checking tool is a secure online tool to help higher education providers return accurate data.
Providers upload their data to the tool, which produces outputs that allow them to identify potential errors in their data that is used by the Office for Students (OfS). These errors can then be corrected before the data is formally submitted to either the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) or the OfS's designated data body (DDB).
The data checking tool is primarily used between August and October each year. However, we are releasing the tools in May to allow providers longer to engage with them.
This guide gives information about using the data checking tool for:
We strongly encourage the use of the data checking tool, which we regard as an essential element of all providers’ data quality processes. It will help providers to:
- return accurate data to the DDB and the ESFA
- verify the accuracy of the derived fields that may be used for regulatory purposes
- respond to data verification questions raised by OfS staff
- reduce the likelihood of selection for data assurance activity
- identify errors in or discrepancies with in-year OfS data returns.
Data verification questions
In addition to the data checks that colleges undertake using the reports and outputs, data specialists at the OfS will also examine the data, although responsibility for providing data that is fit for purpose remains entirely with the provider.
If any anomalies are found, we will raise queries with the provider, either via the DDB's Issue Management System or the OfS portal (for ILR data). Providers are expected either to resubmit data to amend these anomalies, or to provide an explanation of why these apparent anomalies are genuine.
This is an iterative process during which data may need to be submitted and reviewed several times to ensure the final submission is credible. We therefore recommend providers begin using the tool as soon as possible after release in order to resolve all queries before the submission deadlines, which are as follows:
- for ILR data, 19 October 2023
- for Student data (22056), 20 October 2023
We will only accept amendments to the data after this point in exceptional circumstances, where any data errors identified are widespread and significant and make a material difference to the our use of the data. See further information regarding data amendments.