Data audits, verification and reconciliation

We allocate funding for teaching and research in English higher education (HE). To do this we have a funding model which distributes funds to institutions by means of block grants. This funding model relies on data that universities and colleges supply, and which we assess.

The data we use

The calculation of teaching funding grants is based on data supplied by institutions in two data collection surveys. We verify these data against Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data and Individualised Learner Record (ILR) submissions.

Institutions receive funding for research activity based on the HESA data, both the student record and the finance record.

Institutions also receive funding that is not allocated based on the data collection surveys. The Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is an example of this.

In addition to this, data is becoming increasingly important in non-financial areas. Examples of this would be the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) and the Key Information Set (KIS).

Assessing the data

We ensure that data is fit for purpose in a mix of ways:

  • Data audit
    We audit statistical surveys, and in some cases HESA and ILR data, to ensure that the rules on how to populate the returns set out in publications have been applied correctly. This ensures that an institution making an invalid submission does not obtain funding to which it is not entitled. 
  • Data verification
    The Data Assurance team carries out data verification on HESA and ILR data during the period of data cleansing before formal sign-off or submission of data to  HESA or the Data Service.

    The purpose of this work is to highlight to institutions areas where data is looking to have an effect on the funding position of the institution. We aim to help institutions ensure their data is accurate at the time of submission and fit for purpose for funding. We highlight areas where data is looking odd with the expectation that the institution 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 institutions and for HEFCE, and results in additional uncertainty over funding.
  • Data reconciliation
    As part of our work to monitor the data that universities and colleges supply we carry out 'funding data reconciliations'. These aim to recreate data returned to HESA or through the ILR.

A key part of our overall data assurance strategy includes our expectation that institutional data will be subject to effective oversight by governors, managers and auditors within institutions.

We now require Audit Committees to provide their own annual assurances about the management and quality assurance of data submitted to funding bodies. Further information can be found in the Financial Memorandum and Audit Code of Practice.

We have also published guidance for Audit Committees on the scope of their work in providing data assurance.

Page last updated 10 September 2012

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