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Use of HESA Data by Third Parties Working Group (TPWG)

In January 2012, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and HESPA jointly established a working group on the use of HESA data by third parties, known as TPWG for short.

Key areas of focus for the group are:

  • Transparency/increased understanding of HESA policy and practice

  • Improving support for HEIs during the data preview process

  • Capture and application of ‘data intelligence’

  • Promoting use of corrected data – the ‘fixed database’

  • Improving the quality of supporting information

  • Assessing how the sector might influence onward use of data

The working group has led to a number of notable achievements, including:

HESA has further developed the ‘DDS Announce Resource’. (http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/2664/). This area of the website was created to provide further support and information for HEIs in response to a number of the issues raised by the TPWG in its first year. The DDS Calendar provides an early warning of data requests to enable workload planning by HEIs, there is information about the use and purpose of the DDS system, derived field documentation, JACS subject mapping and the HESA data release policy – all of which are worth studying if you are involved in dealing with HESA data requests.

TPWG had discussed the problems and ongoing additional workload that can result when a HESA record is revised and resubmitted, but the data requests are processed using the original data. The revised data is held in the ‘fixed database’ which is used by HESA’s statutory customers (primarily the funding councils), but was not previously made available for use in preparing data for third parties. HESA has now gained agreement to use the fixed database as the standard source for all time-series data requests.

TPWG is working to develop ‘low jargon’ definitions of data items and methodologies used in calculations, aiming to capture more contextual information for non-experts.

The supply of contextual data alongside institutional data in preview form (such as sector/country totals, mean, upper and lower quartiles), was requested to help institutions understand how their data sits alongside the other data being released. HESA are now supplying this as standard, where appropriate.

The lack of transparency in league table methodologies is a recurring discussion point. Each league table compiler has HEI representatives on its Advisory Group and the membership lists for these groups are now shown on the DDS Announce Resource (http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/3092/).

A conference on league tables was held in June 2014, giving HESPA members the opportunity to engage in direct dialogue with the compilers of the three main (UK) university league tables.  The slides from this event are available in the resources section of this website and discussions arising from the event are accessible via the forums.  Key outcomes from the day that will be followed up by TPWG are an agreement from the Times that an excel version of their table will be made available for institutions’ internal analysis; potential for workshops on the technical detail of aspects of methodology; establishing a sub-group of TPWG to examine specific metrics – starting with student/staff ratios.

Membership of the group:

Sally Turnbull, University of Central Lancashire (Chair)

Alison Jones, Leeds Metropolitan University

Alison Hartrey, SOAS

Anita Wright, University of Liverpool

Ray Lashley, University of Essex

Mike Wilson, Glyndwr University

David Bryan, De Montfort University

Jackie Njoroge, Manchester Metropolitan University

Laura Watson, University of St Andrews

Jenny Walker, Loughborough University

Aash Khadia, Brunel University

Jonathan Waller, HESA

Denise Jones, HESA

James McLaren, HESA


If you would like to suggest agenda items, want further information or would like to contribute to the work of the group in any way, please contact Sally Turnbull – email siturnbull@uclan.ac.uk