Information on Data Protection
HEA Statistics Section – Data Protection
Section 1 – Why does the HEA collect Student Data?
The Statistics Section of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) is responsible for compiling reports from data collected from Higher Education Institutions in Ireland in order to fulfil its legislative requirements to develop and promote higher education policy in Ireland.
The HEA is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The Mission Statement of the HEA is "To foster the development of a higher education sector which is accessible to all potential students and which is recognised internationally for the high quality of teaching, learning and research and which has the capacity to address the changing needs and challenges in our society".
The HEA is empowered by various legislative provisions to meet these requirements. Section 13 of the HEA Act 1971 states that:“An tÚdarás may institute and conduct studies on such problems of higher education and research as it considers appropriate and may publish reports of such studies.”And in section 11 that: “An institution of higher education shall supply to An tÚdarás all such information relative to the institution as An tÚdarás may require for the purpose of performing its functions.”
Within the Statistics Section of the HEA, the data sought and research underway is being conducted to fulfil the HEA’s responsibilities, as the various legislative Acts obliges us to do. Were the HEA Statistics section not to collect data from the institutions, the HEA could not meet its obligations regarding the policy development of higher education in Ireland.
In respect of the HEA statistics section, data protection legislation must also be interpreted with reference to the legal functions and obligations of the HEA statistics section as referenced above and specified under various legislative acts including:
Higher Education Authority Act, 1971
The Universities Act 1997
The Equal Status Acts 2000 & 2004
The Disability Act 2005
The Institutes of Technology Act 2006
SI 142 of the 2007 Social Welfare Act
Social Welfare Act 2005 Consolidated Act – Section 266 relating directly to the HEA
What are the Statutory Functions of the HEA?
The HEA Statistics Section uses the information it collects on students to advise/inform national policy.
The HEA Student Record System supports the work of a number of government departments and agencies connected with furthering the development and enhancement of education in the Republic of Ireland. This includes:
• Department of Education and Skills
• Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
• Department of Social Protection
• Third level Institutions (including Universities and Institutes of Technology)
• Central Statistics Office
Your HEA record may also be used by the Central Statistics Office in order to carry out their statutory functions of measuring population levels and monitoring public expenditure. It will not otherwise be used in any way that affects you personally.
The HEA Statistics Section uses the HEA student record to produce anonymised aggregate data in various statistical publications. These include some National Statistics publications, online management information services and publications relating to statistical overview of higher education in Ireland.
Research, equal opportunity, journalism, other legitimate interest/public function
The HEA also supplies anonymised aggregate data to third parties for the following purposes:
• Equal opportunities monitoring - the HEA student record may contain details of ethnic group and disability. This data is only used where it is needed to promote or maintain equality of opportunity or treatment between persons of different racial or ethnic origins, or different states of physical or mental conditions
• Research - This may be academic research, commercial research or other statistical research into education where this is of benefit to the public interest.
Anonymised, aggregate data for the above purposes may be supplied by HEA to the following types of user:
• Local, regional and national government bodies who have an interest in higher education
• Higher education sector bodies
• Higher education institutions
• Academic researchers and students
• Commercial organisations (e.g. recruitment firms, graduate employers)
• Non-governmental organisations and charities
• Journalism, where the relevant publication would be in the public interest (e.g. course numbers, student enrolments etc.)
It is important to note that Individuals cannot be identified from this anonymised aggregate data. No names or addresses of individuals are provided.
What are the outputs of Data Collection by the HEA Statistics Section?
The outputs from the data collected and compiled by the HEA Statistics section are as follows:
• To inform higher education policy development and strategic planning
• To respond to Parliamentary Questions on higher education activity
• To meet reporting obligations to international bodies (OECD, EUROSTAT, UNESCO)
• To respond to queries from the public, other education agencies and partners
• To produce timely statistical publications for general consumption
• To demonstrate higher education accountability to the Irish public
Does the HEA transfer information about me outside the State?
The HEA provides aggregate anonymised (no student ID, CAO number or PPSN) data to certain international organisations outside the State. This includes bodies such as the OECD, UNESCO and Eurostat. Individual student records are never transferred. All external data supplies to non-statutory customers are supplied subject to a data protection risk assessment. Data is supplied under strict contractual terms and conditions in an anonymised aggregate format thereby ensuring that no individuals can be identified from the data reports.
Section 2 – What Student Data is collected by the HEA and how?
What are the main sources of data that the HEA Statistics section holds?
The HEA Statistics Section processes its information from three main sources of data:
1. Student Record System (SRS)
2. Equal Access Data Survey
3. First Destination Report (FDR)
This data then forms the source material from which the HEA Statistics Section delivers its various publications and reports thereby supporting the HEA in fulfilling its duties under the various acts of legislations. The Statistics Section draws on student records to produce anonymised aggregate data in analysis.
What is the Student Record System (SRS)?
The Student Record System (SRS) is the Higher Education Authority’s in-house database of students. The database contains a record of every registered student in a HEA funded institution (with the exception of the National College of Ireland and Tipperary Institute) in any given academic year. The SRS was established in 2004. At that time, the seven Universities, St. Patricks College Drumcondra, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Mater Dei Institute of Education, National College of Art and Design and RCSI began submitting individual student records. In 2007, the fourteen Institutes of Technology, National College of Ireland and Tipperary Institute joined the system. The SRS allows the HEA to collate information provided by HEIs and provide statistical data on higher education in Ireland. In 2007, the SRS was expanded to include data collected under the Equal Access Survey.
The Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) upload 4 files to the SRS of the HEA Statistics Section:
o Programme File
o Course File
o Survey File
o Access Survey File
An individual record for each student registered in the participating Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is uploaded to the SRS on two census dates every academic year. November 01st is the provisional return and March 01st is the final return.
What is the Equal Access Survey Data Collection?
Since 2007, all publicly funded higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland have gathered additional Equal Access information, as part of student registration, on the socio-economic, ethnic/cultural and disability background of new entrants to the sector. Collecting this information is an important activity for both the HEA and institutions. It advises essential research and statistical analysis underpinning the provision and funding of services and support for students, both at a local and a national level. It also supports the HEA and institutions in fulfilling their core equality functions as set out in legislation.
How is this Equal Access data returned by the institutions to the HEA?
The HEA has developed Implementation Guidelines for institutions outlining the processes and procedures involved in gathering and uploading the Equal Access Survey data to the HEA Student Record System. An Information Leaflet for students has also been developed by the HEA to support the fair gathering of this data. Copies of this leaflet are available to all students.
What is the First Destination Report (FDR)?
The First Destination Report (FDR) is based on an annual survey of graduates six to nine months after graduation. This survey presents a snap shot of the labour market or further study situation of students who graduated in the previous academic year, having completed a full-time course of study. HEIs forward the questionnaires to all their graduates and the students return the completed questionnaires back to their Institutes. The completed information is then sent by each institution to the HEA in an anonymised electronic version and the HEA Statistics section runs a report from the information collected.
This report examines the employment, further study, and training patterns of graduates on the 30th of April each year. Information is broken down by institution, level of award received, area of study, information relating to the pattern of first destinations, composition of the graduate labour market, employment sector and occupational classification, region in which employment was found in Ireland and overseas and salary is also presented.
How does the HEA Statistics Section get this data?
The SRS data is provided to the HEA Statistics Section by all HEA funded Higher Education Institutions plus the National College of Ireland and Tipperary Institute following collection at student registration. Each HEI is required to send to HEA Statistics section two returns every academic year on November 01st (Equal Access Data is not returned in a provisional format) and March 01st containing a record for each student that they have registered. Information is uploaded to the SRS. Individual names and addresses are never provided.
What data does the Statistics Section of the HEA hold on me?
The Statistics Section holds your individual electronic student record if you are or have been a registered student since 2004 in the following Institutions:
• University College Cork (UCC)
• University College Dublin (UCD)
• National University of Ireland (NUIG)
• National University of Ireland(NUIM)
• The University of Dublin (TCD)
• The University of Limerick (UL)
• Dublin City University (DCU)
• Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI)
• National College of Art and Design (NCAD)
• Royal Irish Academy (RIA)
• Mater Dei Institute of Education
• Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
• St Patrick's College, Drumcondra
• St. Angela's College of Education, Sligo
And since 2007, a registered student in the following Institutes of Technology:
• Athlone Institute of Technology
• Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown
• Institute of Technology, Carlow
• Cork Institute of Technology
• Dundalk Institute of Technology
• Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
• Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
• Letterkenny Institute of Technology
• Limerick Institute of Technology
• Institute of Technology, Sligo
• Institute of Technology, Tallaght
• Institute of Technology, Tralee
• Waterford Institute of Technology
• Dublin Institute of Technology
• Tipperary Institute
• National College of Ireland
The Department of Education and Science at the time of the development of the SRS incorporated the HEA and the Higher Education Institutions as bodies authorised under the remit of the Social Welfare Acts to seek students’ PPS numbers. While contact details (names and addresses) are never held, the following pieces of information are retained as part of your individual student record:
Mode of Study
Grade by graduating student
Date of Birth
Non-EU fee Payment
Receipt of DES Grant
Previous Academic History
Leaving Cert Points
Leaving Cert Year
Last Institution attended
The following pieces of information are held in your individual student record if you completed the Equal Access Survey:
• Disability Indicators
• Socio-Economic Background
• Social Class
First destination of Graduates data is returned to the HEA by the participating institutions in the summer following graduation. The HEA data checks and loads the data records into the First Destination Survey database.
The following pieces of information are held in your individual student record if you completed the First Destination Survey of Graduates:
Country of Origin
Date of Birth
Primary Award Title
Further Award Code
Further Institute Code
In the case of both datasets aggregate tables only are released to the public and data is never reported in cell sizes of less than five. The HEA never publishes data on an individual level.
How do HEIs transfer Data to the HEA?
All HEIs are given detailed instructions and information in order to report and upload their data to the HEA in a consistent format cognisant of their obligations under the Data Protection Acts and aware of best practice. A similar format and procedure is followed in each institution in order to ensure consistency of information. The process is outlined as follows:
• Institutions upload their data directly using a secure encrypted internet link
• Each Institution has a unique login and password
• Each institution has access ONLY to their own data
• It is HEA Statistics Section policy not to load an individual institution’s data
What does the HEA do with this information and what is the data used for?
The information is used to provide an overview and monitoring of the activities, inflows and outflows to the Irish Higher Education System. The data provided enables the HEA Statistics Section to:
• Monitor inflows and outflows to the Irish higher education system
• Monitor student demographics
• Monitoring efficacy of access measures
• To inform funding allocations by government and the Department of Education and Skills
• Monitor institution performance (retention, completion, quality)
• Monitoring international participation
• Monitor subject choice and provision
• Monitor flows between institutions and NFQ levels
Contact details (names and addresses) are never held as part of your HEA student record nor are they ever furnished to the HEA by the Institutions or any other agencies.
The HEA also holds aggregate paper records on enrolments and graduates from some private colleges and other aided colleges.
Section 3 – How is my Data Protected?
INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS
What is Data Protection?
Data Protection is the safeguarding of the privacy rights of individuals in relation to the processing of personal data, in both paper and electronic format. The terms of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 lay down strict rules about the way in which personal and sensitive personal data are collected, accessed, used and disclosed. The terms of the legislation also permit individuals to access their personal data on request, and confer on individuals the right to have their personal data amended if found to be incorrect.
The Statistics Section of the HEA continues to review and update its data protection policy and best practice on an ongoing basis in order to ensure full compliance with data protection legislation. It is required to process certain personal data in order to fulfil its purpose and comply with its legal obligations. Above all, the Statistics section of the HEA will process such information and data in accordance with the underlying principles of the Data Protection Acts as per Section 3 of the 2003 Amendment Act amending Section 2 of the Principal Act:
“The data or, as the case may be, the information constituting the data shall have been obtained, and the data shall be processed, fairly,
(b) The data shall be accurate and complete and, where necessary, kept up to date,
(i) shall have been obtained only for one or more specified, explicit and legitimate purposes,
(ii) shall not be further processed in a manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes,
(iii) shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they were collected or are further processed, and
(iv) shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes,
(d) appropriate security measures shall be taken against unauthorised access to, or unauthorised alteration, disclosure or destruction of, the data, in particular where the processing involves the transmission of data over a network, and against all other unlawful forms of processing.”
What is the definition of personal data as per the Data Protection acts?
As per the definition of the 1988 Data Protection Act, personal data is defined as data “relating to a living individual who can be identified either from the data or from the data in conjunction with other information in the possession of the data controllers.” In the case of the HEA Statistics Section, examples of personal data we hold on file include: CAO numbers, Student ID numbers, PPS numbers. Student names and addresses are never collected.
The 2003 Act further amends “personal data,” to mean data relating to a living individual who is or can be identified either from the data or from the data in conjunction with other information that is in or is likely to come into the possession of the data controller. (E.g. in this instance, the HEA Statistics Section)
What is the definition of sensitive personal data?
Sensitive personal data as per the definition of the 2003 Data Protection Amendment act means personal data regarding:
(a) The racial or ethnic origin, the political opinions or the religious or philosophical beliefs of the data subject
(b) Whether the data subject is a member of the trade union
(c) The physical or mental health or condition or sexual life of the data subject
(d) The commission or alleged commission of any offence by the data subject, or
(e) Any proceedings for an offence committed or alleged to have been committed by the data subject , the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings
The Student Record System hold disability and ethnicity data both classified as sensitive personal data.
Rules of Data Protection for the HEA Statistics Section
There are eight rules of Data Protection, which govern the processing of personal data. When processing personal data, the following procedures apply:
1. obtain and process the data fairly;
2. keep only for one or more specified and lawful purposes;
3. use and disclose only in ways compatible with the purposes for which it was initially given;
4. keep safe and secure;
5. keep accurate and up-to-date;
6. ensure that it is adequate, relevant and not excessive;
7. retain no longer than is necessary for the specified purpose or purposes;
8. provide a copy of his/her personal data to any individual, on request
The HEA Statistics Section upholds these principles and is subject to audit by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
What is the HEA’s DP retention policy?
All student records are held indefinitely since they are used to monitor higher education participation over time.
Can I make a Data Protection request to the HEA?
Under the Data Protection Acts 1988 & 2003, you may make a data protection request to the HEA Statistics Section:
To make a Data Protection request to the HEA Statistics Section, you must:
Apply in writing/fax/email to make an appointment with the HEA Statistics Section.
Present yourself at the HEA office with a photographic ID (Passport / Driving License) and a form of student ID / Social Security card with your PPSN
For further information, please contact:
HEA Statistics Section
Brooklawn House, Crampton Ave.,
Telephone: +353 – 1 - 231 7100
FAX: +353 - 1 - 231 7172
What is the charge?
The HEA Statistics Section reserves the right to charge an optional Access Fee as per the provisions of Sections 4 of the Principal Act. This fee cannot exceed €6.35.
Is the HEA required to register with the Data Protection Commissioner?
Yes we are. Under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, certain categories of data controllers and data processors must register their details with the Data Protection Commissioner. As per the terms of the legislation, the HEA is required to register on an annual and ongoing basis with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Our reference number is 1483/A. You are able to view the Public Register of bodies registered with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. To access the registry details for the HEA, please click here>>>>>>>
GUIDANCE FOR INSTITUTIONS
The HEA has produced a document 'Data Protection Guidance for HEI Institutions', which aims to provide supporting information for those in HEIs dealing with data protection issues. Please also see the HEA Collection Notices which HEIs must provide to their students and staff. These documents are updated regularly.
Higher Education institutions must provide the HEA Student Collection/ Access Leaflet notice to their students. Section 2 of the Data Protection Act requires the HEA and all HEIs to collect, use, disclose and keep personal data in a fair manner.
In order to satisfy this principle, the HEA supplies text for use by HEIs that has to be furnished to students in any of the following formats and areas:
• Providing the text with the registration form and the HEI's own Data Protection statement
• Including the text on a website with the HEI's own Data Protection information
• Including the text in a student handbook or other reference source for students.