Why 21 higher education providers missed their HESA deadline

How digitisation can help ease the pain of large-scale data collection and enhance student learning experiences

As reported by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), a record number of UK Higher Education institutions missed the published 31 May 2023 submission deadline for the student return for Data Futures.

While there might be several reasons that this crucial first deadline was missed by many, 21 institutions failing to provide indicative data by the deadline says a lot about the challenges the sector faces.

Data Futures is sector-wide transformation programme that sees every Higher Education Institution in the UK report in detail on student-level data to regulators. The data collected might include the student’s highest qualification when they joined the institution, their parent’s occupation and their study location, for example. The information is then used by the Office for Students (OfS) to understand an institution’s performance, improve access and participation, ensure prospective students have reliable information, and understand trends and risks at a sector level.

Getting the HESA student return wrong causes more than reputational damage, it can impact funding, getting it right means not just staying compliant, which is often paramount to institutions, but also gaining the right level of funding to allow an institution to deliver the world-class experience that UK universities are renowned for.

It’s clear the new HESA Data Futures reporting requirements brought with them a bit of pain for many universities, many of which are feeling understaffed and under resourced, grappling with financial sustainability, and plagued by legacy systems no longer fit for purpose, with seemingly no clear plan to get to the other side.

At a time where universities are asked to deliver more, with less – less staff, less funding (given the rising inflation) and less resources overall, digitisation can help ease the pain of such large-scale data collection programmes.

Back in August 2022, the University of Lincoln successfully implemented TechnologyOne’s state-of-the-art Student Management software, as part of its strategic plan to further enhance student learning experiences and grow as an internationally recognised academic institution.

The University of Lincoln recognised that to compete in the future digital operating environment, it had to further develop its integration layer and connect data by enhancing its digital capability governance arrangements and transforming its data landscape.

In this inflationary climate, higher education institutions around the UK are faced with complex challenges. Many institutions are run on ageing systems no longer fit for purpose and information is siloed, which brings about huge internal and external inefficiencies. And while many recognise the need to address these issues, some universities might feel there are more pressing demands for limited budgets than spending on new IT systems.

But digital transformation isn’t something that can be put off and, as universities are constantly asked to do more with less, it is in fact the key to the problem.

We know that many in the sector have been calling for some time to have a reliable, credible, and modern option for the provision of student management.

When it comes to the student experience itself, most university students today are digital natives with elevated expectations of the technological and digital capabilities of their university.

A modern student management system is the foundation that allows the university to deliver all the key services that create the ideal student experience, and to run the organisation effectively. From enrolment through to timetabling, assignments, course planning and everything else, a student management system manages the entire student lifecycle.

In an ideal world, those complex systems all talk to one another seamlessly. Our Software-as-a-Service solution, which is the only dedicated software solution created specifically for the higher education sector, underpins the strategic and day-to-day operational requirements of higher education institutions with a single, integrated enterprise solution. It enables institutions to easily adapt to changing environments and operate more efficiently through end-to-end management of university operations, from financial to Human Resources and payroll, asset management and of course, student management.

Publish date

01 Aug 2023


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