Department of Student and Academic Administration

External Returns & Data Standards

Who we are?

The External Returns & Data Standards division sits in the Student Systems area within the Department of Student and Academic Administration (DSAA) and is responsible for all work associated with the submission of student related statutory returns. The University has a responsibility to provide student data to a number of external agencies, ensuring the quality and standard through monitoring and review.


What do we do?

The External Returns & Data Standards team is responsible for all work associated either directly or indirectly with the submission of student related statutory returns. The work of the team can be broken down into four key areas:

  • External Returns- Validation and submission of all student related statutory returns to the external agencies; The Office for Students (OfS) (previously Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)), Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), and the Department for Education and Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). The returns include;
    • Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey (HESES) giving an early indication, for government planning, of the student numbers studying in the academic year being reported on.
    • Student Record (SR) containing detailed individualised information in respect of all registered students on courses that lead to the award of a qualification or provider credit.
    • Initial Teacher Training in-year record (ITT) reporting, on behalf of the NCTL, student information registered on courses leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS).
    • Provider Profile (PP) showing how the teaching in academic subject areas is apportioned across departments and faculties of the University.
    • Unistats (KIS) providing appropriate information on undergraduate courses being advertised for recruitment by the university in order to allow prospective students to make a decision about what and where to study.
    • Aggregate Offshore (AO) reporting aggregated counts by country, level of study, and type of study for all students who are re either registered with the university or who are studying for an award of the university but who are studying wholly overseas for their course.
    • Individual Learner Record (ILR) reporting, to the ESFA, on the student undertaking degree apprenticeships.
  • Data Standards- The team ensures that data meets the standards as laid down by the external agencies through a continuous process of validating/verifying any student and course management system (SCMS) data that has a direct or indirect bearing on the above returns.  This includes;
    • Ensuring each year that key default data at course and course offerings is set correctly.
    • Reviewing yearly not only the Joint Academic Coding System (JACs) codes for course and units but also the academic subject cost centres for units and staff.
    • Identification and correction of any data errors and integrity warnings for student information identified through a fortnightly validation cycle.  
  • Supply of Data and Information -  We play a key role in the provision of all data and information arising from the external process to both internal departments and external requestors. This may be in the form of standard outputs produced from the process or as a result of ad-hoc requests, for example we are responsible for the accurate production of and liaison on the National Student Survey (NSS) target list fix. Similarly the HESES and HESA output files are imported into the business intelligence area to support university wide management reporting. We also lead on the production and analysis of the data/information for the various leagues tables to ensure that our external profile represents the University in a correct light. With the BI/Learner Analytics team we extract, analyse and present data and information to fulfil any informal or formal information requests.
  • Advice and guidance - Underpinning this we provide advice and guidance as appropriate to both professional service and academic departments in relation to the data and business processes that are impacted by or may impact on the external returns process.


When do we do the work?

Our approach is to view what we do as a whole year activity with the returns simply being the end process of a continuous cycle of data validation and verification. A timeline of the returns we do over a 12 month cycle can be found here.


Who is in the team? 

We are a small team consisting of:

  • Simon Walton - Student and Academic Administration Manager
  • Chris Douse - Assistant Registrar
  • Kirsty Scott - Principal Officer
  • Claire Giles - Faculty Advisor

A full list of our individual responsibilities can be found here.


Where we are?

We are located on Floor 5 Mercantile House and be contacted by email: or phone 02392 843826