FUNDCOMP: the saga continues

It's gone. Possibly.

David Kernohan is Acting Editor of Wonkhe

There’s only really been one news story today – and that’s the surprise removal of FUNDCOMP from 2022-23’s HESES returns.

Pretty much my entire timeline on Twitter has been talking about the surprise release of “Changes to 2022 student data surveys to inform funding: notification of changes” this morning. There’s nothing student records and registry staff like more than sudden changes to data collections, and the slow torturous progression towards Data Futures has been a particular delight for this very reason.

Ironically, it’s the new shiny world of Data Futures that has caused the FUNDCOMP issue. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

FUNDCOMP

FUNDCOMP (Funding completion) is the number of student completions within a StudentCourseSession. Basically, when you get to the end of a “chunk” of a funded course (usually but not always a year) you are eligible to be returned as FUNDCOMP. In the past HEFCE used this to calculate how much funding a provider was due – with the demise of most funding council funding is always felt rather vestigial.

HEFCE (and OfS) used to check the validity of this submitted data via reconciliation with HESA data. The HESA-HESES reconciliation letters were greatly feared by providers back in the day, and often led to funding clawbacks.

But because the new Data Futures process makes this recreation of HESES data difficult, and because we no longer use FUNDCOMP in funding calculation, OfS has decided we can have a little respite from burden. If you are a higher education provider, you will not be returning FUNDCOMP to OfS this year (FE colleges, sixth forms, and academies still get the joy, albeit only in limited circumstances).

About that burden

Arguably, the whole reason we have a HESES is because of the time-lag built in to HESA Student. If we got real-time, or near real-time, data from this process we could ditch the whole thing.

And that may be the plan. Or it may not be. We are told that:

As set out in our response to part one of the consultation on Data Futures and data burden, we anticipate consulting on proposals to reform our funding approach, including revising the volume measure. We will include proposals that would allow us to remove HESES. We expect to launch this consultation in the next academic year.

This document, though not a consultation itself, sits between two documents that are and in the middle of the movable feast that is Data Futures implementation. It is a moment in time at least in which decisions are made, set, and communicated. It’s not long term clarity, but it is clarity. Of a sort.

Or it might come back next year. Like all the cabinet members that resigned today.

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