HE Data Reduction Taskforce

18 May 2022      Sally Turnbull, Strategic Planning

As you may have heard, the government has launched a new task force aimed at finding ways of cutting back on “overly burdensome” data reporting in English higher education. The HE Data Reduction Taskforce (HEDRT) has been set up to “improve the efficiency of data collections, with bureaucracy rationalised and reduced”, and will report to higher education minister Michelle Donelan.

In the early days of HESPA, the biggest challenge was always getting a seat at the table to enable Planners voices to be heard. It’s a measure of how far we’ve come that we now have three seats at this particular table, with Jackie Njoroge, Dan Kidd and I all being on the group. So we have an opportunity to influence that doesn’t come around all that often, but we need your help.

The taskforce is scheduled to last for six months and will end with the production of a report to the minister which will include some clear actions and recommendations. Over the next weeks and months, we will share updates with you and we really hope that you will, in return, share your thoughts and ideas with us – the diversity of the sector is often quoted as being one of its greatest strengths and we really want to draw on this to help design solutions that will benefit us all.

The taskforce is pursuing four main lines of enquiry:

  1. Definitions: I’m sure we can all quote examples of data collected by different sector bodies that use almost (but not quite) the same definitions and/or require data at different times, which mean figures have to be re-run and we have to do a lot of internal explaining about why numbers look different. This workstream aims to surface these and explore opportunities for streamlining.
  2. Balancing the value equation: Where we can’t reduce burden, we’re looking for opportunities to increase the value to HE Providers of the activity relating to data submissions. This might be in the form of useful outputs from submission systems (perhaps summaries of key stats and how they relate to previous years / sector averages), or increased access to shared data (perhaps enhancements to Heidi Plus, or standardised dashboards) or they could be common standards about how regulatory bodies and others supply HEPs with the data they are using to make decisions/judgements.
  3. Data sharing blockages: exploring the potential for data collectors to agree a minimum dataset with a common data sharing agreement.
  4. Common governance: exploring opportunities for collectors to collaborate and reduce burden on providers.

We know that some of these things have been looked at before and we’re drawing on learning from these initiatives. We’re also being encouraged to think broadly – we know that within a HEP burden and value can be experienced very differently, depending on where you sit, so we’re looking for approaches that bring broad gains at institutional level, rather than necessarily in every area.

If you have ideas to throw into the mix, we’d love to hear from you. We have set up a HESPA Forum, which is a free one hour virtual discussion, to offer you the opportunity to feed into discussions. You can register for a place online.

If you cannot attend the forum, but wish to offer written questions, comments or feedback, please email Jen.

Now we’ve got seats at the table, please help us to make the most of these by getting involved – by making useful contributions, we will help to secure future opportunities to influence, and maybe even see some concrete change resulting.

Register here for HESPA Forum: Higher Education Data Reduction Taskforce.

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