HE Data Festival, University of Huddersfield

Last month, I attended the Festival of HE Data at the University of Huddersfield.  This one-day event had a number of speakers in the morning and an afternoon session in which various Universities (including Edinburgh) and other services demonstrated some of their projects and services.

“Data” is rather a broad topic and the emphasis of the day was on how to use data to enhance University services, providing dashboards for staff and for students.

Matt Hiely-Rayner explained how the Guardian’s university guide determines its “value-added” score,and described how Kingston University used this understanding to improve their score, while simultaneously improving the outcomes for a particular group of students. He noted that students’ final results tend to be correlated with the qualifications when they arrive at University.  The value-added measure looks for progress beyond this correlation, i.e. how many students who were less well qualified on entry go on to achieve good results on graduation.

Marian Hilditch explained how she instituted a programme to improve the data quality in Teeside University’s HESA return.  I was very interested in her talk, because we need to improve data quality in general at Edinburgh.  While the details of her work don’t necessarily translate directly to our situation, it was useful to see the approach Marian has taken.  An emphasis on community support seems key.

Andy Westwood emphasis the importance of communicating data and meaning.  In summary: first frame the presentation – what is your question?  Then explain the meaning, giving it a narrative, not just a bunch of figures

The data behind the Teaching Excellence Framework provided the basis for the University of  University  to improve their services.  Paul Youngston explained how they rebuild the TEF data set at an individual level, identifying for each student their probability of dropping out, of being satisfied, and of getting a job when they graduate.  They use this information to set benchmarks for each school and course, and to identify problem areas (including for particular sub-groups of students).  Liz Bennet followed this up with a discussion about how students respond to receiving information about themselves via dashboards.

Simon Jennings set out nine rules of data, not as hard and fast rules but to stimulate discussion.  For example, his first rule of data is that you don’t talk about data (i.e. you talk to the business about their issues and concerns).  This was an entertaining and interesting talk, both for what Simon said and for how he presented it.

Overall, this was an interesting day and I would like to thank the University of Huddersfield team for arranging it.

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