My first AP Return – what I learnt

My new role as Data & Compliance Manager has a large component of dealing with all the data returns to HESA that are required for the organisation. I did my first one in the first week I was here, which was the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. This one was pretty straightforward, as we did not have a huge number of responses to collate.

Next up was the Unistats return, which requires data on all the courses we offer. I fixed some issues on the 17-18 return, as there had been some missing data items, and completing the 18-19 return wasn’t too daunting as there were only 9 programmes to report on. 

However, next up was the big one – the AP return. This is a data return with details about all students on your programmes for the previous academic year, although this is currently significantly smaller than the return expected for publicly funded Universities. I have almost completed this return, and I wanted to make some notes on what I have learnt from this experience to help me (and maybe others) in the future.

  1. Start early, no matter how good you think your data is. You won’t be able to complete everything early, but what you can complete will make life much easier later on
  2. Use the data validator early on – it won’t catch all your mistakes but it’s much easier to fix things in this and re-run them through than having to do it online
  3. Use the report from the previous submission to check you have all the expected returning students – this caused me some delays as there were some missing
  4. Read the notes on the data items page carefully, and any rules associated with them
  5. Choose carefully when to extract your working data – too early and you will end up having to duplicate any updates to the data, too late and it might get confused with data for the next session
  6. Don’t panic if you get a lot of errors when you upload. I had 623 in my first submission (a lot when you have less than 500 students), but a fix to the course data dropped it down immediately to a much more manageable 136
  7. Don’t panic if your errors suddenly spike after an upload – read the errors carefully, it is likely to be something simple
  8. Don’t panic.