HESA and Jisc Business Intelligence Project update

News for August 2015


Welcome to this first edition of our project newsletter, which aims to update you on the progress of the HESA and Jisc Business Intelligence project.

HESA and Jisc have joined forces (www.business-intelligence.ac.uk) to develop new business intelligence services that will enable the UK education sector to make more informed, evidence-based business decisions. There are two aspects to the initiative:
1. A new generation data analytics service to replace Heidi (www.heidi.ac.uk) called Heidi Plus (www.business-intelligence.ac.uk/heidi-plus).
2. A research and development project known as Heidi-Lab (www.business-intelligence.ac.uk/heidi-lab).

The project team have been very busy behind the scenes over the past few months and felt that now would be a good time to tell you about what we’ve been up to, and share some details on the emerging services and our next steps.

In this newsletter we will be providing updates on the development of Heidi Plus including:

  • key dates for releases
  • how we propose to handle data protection issues
  • the roles and responsibilities required of our customers
  • training opportunities
  • and also giving a brief overview of Heidi-Lab activity

Key dates for Heidi Plus releases

To help us gather initial feedback on the service before the full production release, a phased ‘Beta release’ approach is being adopted as follows:

Beta Phase 1 release – late July 2015 to early September 2015

The initial Beta release of Heidi Plus is being made to a small group of organisations representing the Heidi Stakeholder Group and other organisations that have expressed an interest in taking part. The main focus of this Beta release is to gather early feedback on the developing service in the following areas:

  • information security and contractual agreements
  • data source usability and structure
  • visualisations and dashboards
  • system performance and maintenance
  • training and support materials

The Beta Phase 1 release includes three years of HESA Student Record data, Finance Record data and Aggregate Offshore Record data.

Beta Phase 2 release – September 2015 to October 2015

In late August, we will invite all main contacts at organisations currently subscribed to Heidi to participate in Beta Phase 2, which will be released towards the end of September.

This second stage incorporates feedback from Beta Phase 1. Further feedback will be gathered and we’ll continue to work on migrating the remaining Heidi data sets into the new service before production release. We’ll look to see if any improvements can be made to the data structures to deliver greater flexibility to our users, as well as develop innovative visualisations to provide new insights for Heidi Plus’s users.

Production release – late November 2015

Heidi Plus will officially be released as a production service in late November 2015. The current Heidi service will continue to be available until around November 2016, giving users a year to move over to the new service.

Heidi Plus – a first look

To give you a flavour of how the service is shaping up, here are a few screen shots of the current Beta Phase 1 release. Please note that the appearance will change and evolve as the system continues to develop;

Heidi Plus home page;


The HESA dashboard project area, where all users will be able to access dashboards and visualisations created by HESA;


An example of the new mapping functionality;


We look forward to sharing more with you over the coming months.

Data protection

The software product we have chosen as the platform for Heidi Plus is not capable of applying the same approach to disclosure control (rounding of numbers) as current Heidi without severely limiting access to the interactive data sets that we want to deliver. We have therefore needed to find an alternative approach to minimising any risk to the confidentiality of data on students, leavers and staff.

Clearly HESA takes data protection extremely seriously and we have therefore consulted one of the top specialist data protection barristers in the UK to ensure that our data protection approach to Heidi Plus provides a high level of compliance with data protection legislation and Information Commissioner’s Office Guidance.

Detailed data on students and staff will be anonymised within Heidi Plus, but at the level of disaggregation provided present a theoretical risk of disclosure of personal information if combined with other information which could be already held by a user. Therefore we must treat the data as if it were personal data. To enable HESA to be lawfully able to grant access to these detailed data HESA needs to ensure that it has completed an appropriate level of due diligence on Heidi Plus’s subscribers and that it has put in place appropriate contractual terms for all users and provided appropriate training for lead contacts (a new role that replaces main contacts and local administrators). Set out below is what this advice means in practice for individuals and organisations:

Information security questionnaires – organisations will need to complete an information security questionnaire and return it to HESA. The questionnaire has been designed based on the advice of our specialist barrister. The questionnaire will seek to confirm that appropriate information security policies and practices are maintained in relation to the use of Heidi Plus and its data content, and to ensure that access and control of any data extracted from the system is also appropriate and compliant with the terms of usage agreements. We will treat the content of these questionnaires in strict confidence.

Contractual arrangements – to enable ‘expert’ users to be able to have access to the detailed data on students and staff our contractual agreement for subscribing to Heidi needs to be more detailed than the current subscription agreement. Therefore we will put in place an organisational agreement together with individual agreements for users depending on the extent of data access they require.

The current designation of ‘expert’ and ‘standard’ users in Heidi will be replaced by three levels of access:

  • Bronze users will have access to pre-configured dashboards of data in which all counts of students, leavers and staff will be rounded (as in current Heidi).
  • Silver users will additionally have access to the detailed data sets which do not have any confidentiality implications, such as Finance Record data, Estates Record data, data from the HE Business-Community Interaction survey (HE-BCI) etc.
  • Gold users will have access to all of these but will also be able to access the detailed data sets on students, leavers and staff.

The individual Heidi Plus user agreements will be increasingly stringent in the terms and conditions of use as we progress from Bronze up to Gold. Assignment of access levels to individual users will be made on the recommendation of each organisation, based on the users required uses of the service.

Roles and responsibilities

The new service will bring some significant changes in terms of administration and access as compared to the current Heidi service.

As many of you will be aware, Heidi currently has two levels of administration: the main contact and local administrator. Heidi Plus will reduce this to one level of administration: lead contacts (of which there will be a minimum of two) whose responsibilities will be:

  • Ensuring that Heidi Plus users at their organisation comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 whilst using Heidi Plus
  • Assist users to decide on the appropriate level of access to Heidi Plus and authorise their role types
  • To provide Data Protection training to Gold users

We will be inviting each organisation to nominate their lead contacts in due course. The roles of main contact and local administrator will continue for the current Heidi service until the service is decommissioned in November 2016.

Training update

The HESA Training Team are excited to announce that a new range of training materials will be made available (from Beta 2) to support the introduction of Heidi Plus to the sector.

A new Heidi Plus support centre will provide access to training videos, help notes, user guides, exercises. For the first time, users will now also have the option to attend live webinars. Initially these live webinars will be used to deliver ‘Data Protection training for Gold users’ to Lead Contacts and ongoing to provide bite size sessions on the new features of Heidi Plus to all users.

Following the launch of Heidi Plus (planned for late November) we will run a series of free half-day workshops across the UK including London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Belfast, covering both data protection and system functionality. Spaces will be limited and further information will be made available very soon. If you’re not a lead contact and still keen to attend a Heidi Plus training course, please email [email protected] to express an interest in being kept informed of exciting news coming soon on our new dedicated Heidi Plus training programme.


Heidi-Lab is an exciting new national analytics experimentation project. As we identify business questions we’re unable to address through Heidi-Plus, we’ll prioritise and short list candidates for further investigation in Heidi-Lab. Successful experiments will be considered for migration to Heidi-Plus (or alternative means), meaning the service offer to all our customers, regardless of their capability, is regularly refreshed with new features and data driven insights.

The initiative is underpinned by a Jisc Business intelligence experts group comprised of over 70 individuals from more than 60 UK university planning departments. The graphic below describes a single cycle of the Heidi-Lab process. We envisage running three cycles over 12 months as follows; autumn/winter 2015, winter/spring and spring/summer 2016.


Each development cycle begins with a meeting of the Jisc business intelligence experts group where we develop user stories – descriptions of real world information needs for decision making. Next the group identifies a ‘wish list’ of data sources likely to yield insights to address these. Jisc, HESA and HESPA then attempt to secure access to data sources for experimentation purposes. The Experts group then devolves to form short lived institutional development teams whose members undertake analysis, create dashboards and visualisations along with supporting narrative in the Jisc Heidi-Labs environment.

Future developments include exploration of institutional data upload (safely, securely and ethically), supporting improvement in sector efficiency through the submission and analysis of professional services cost benchmarking data.

Contact details and routes to more information

To stay up to date with our Business Intelligence project please join our email mailing list. If you wish to add your name to this mailing list please visit the web page at www.jiscmail.ac.uk/JISC-HESA-BUSINESS-INTEL, click on ‘Subscribe or Unsubscribe’ and provide your name and email address.

Specific questions relating to Heidi Plus may be sent to [email protected].


1 comment on “HESA and Jisc Business Intelligence Project update”

  1. Pingback: Timeline revealed for Heidi Plus data analytics service - Efficiency Exchange

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