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A new architecture for the information landscape.

The next talk today was by Andy Youell of HEDIIP.  You may know that the University has to provide information about our students and staff to a number of statutory bodies, such as HESA, UCAS, SFC and a host of accreditation bodies for different professions (e.g. actuaries, social workers, nurses, etc). These data returns take a lot of time to produce each year.  From my point of view they are also quite disruptive because the statutory bodies keep changing their requirements, often at short notice, and we have to respond quickly when the latest set of changes comes through.
 
If you look at the whole higher education sector, the situation is more complicated still.  There are 523 separate HE data collections (i.e. institutions) providing information to over 93 different organisations. Each of these organisations has their own data definitions and requirements.  

In 2011 the government agreed a requirement to redesign the information landscape in order to reduce duplication and meet the  needs of a wider group of users.  HEDIIP is the organisation that we created to do this and they have been working towards a standard lexicon and ideally a standard set of definitions.  They have agreed the creation of a Unique Learner Number to identify each student and a Personal Learner Record with some basic fields.  There is far more to do but at least some steps are being made.

In Scotland, we already have a student identifier for the SFC, so HEDIIP are working with the SFC to try and define a mapping between the two.

HEDIIP are also working towards a revised set of subject codes, which will be based on a detailed requirements analysis which will be published this month.

In response to a question about ownership of data, Andy explained that HEDIIP are following the bottom-up, consultative model that was used by NHS Scotland in a previous exercise.  He contrasted this with the well-publicized problems of the top-down exercise attempted by the NHS in England

There is a long way to go because there is not yet any agreement between the various agencies regarding the data definitions that they use, even though there is a considerable overlap between the different agencies.  If HEDIIP can make this work, it would certainly simplify the work we have to do.  The scheme would require governance to manage data changes; apparently the FE world have similar governance structure in place.

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