Seven in 10 students are concerned by rumours universities face data security issues and less than half are confident their personal data is secure, a new survey has suggested.
The statistics were released by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) following a survey of 1,000 undergraduates by YouthSight.
Students are clear they want this data to be kept confidential between them and their institutions
– Michael Natzler, Hepi
Just 45% of students were confident their institution could keep their personal data secure and private, and 65% said they would be less likely to apply to a university that had a poor security reputation.
The survey also revealed that only a third of students are aware of how their higher education institution (HEI) handles their personal data. Only a third felt their HEI had explained how their data would be used and stored.
Ensuring the security of personal data and university intellectual property is a key focus for institutions.
Earlier this year, a joint Jisc and Hepi report said there had been a 12% increase since 2018 in the number of higher education institutions engaging the help of Jisc’s computer security incident response team, which supports universities who suspect they have been targeted by cyber criminals.
In a blog post, Jisc’s chief regulatory advisor Andrew Cormack said the agency was working hard to help universities to use data-intensive technology but warned: “students must be fully aware of what data universities need from them and the benefits that data analysis can offer. And HEIs must do their bit to ensure that data is safe.”
Cormack said the survey “reveals concerns about how student data is used, particularly around the handling of information that identifies students as individuals and data confidentiality”.
Jisc is also working with the Information Commissioner’s Office to write guidelines for universities using student data to support wellbeing and mental health.
Michael Natzler, Hepi’s policy officer, said: “Students are generally willing for their data to be used anonymously to improve the experience of other students, for example on learning and mental wellbeing. Around half are even happy for information about their health or mental wellbeing to be shared with parents or guardians.
“However, when it comes to identifiable information about them as individuals, students are clear they want this data to be kept confidential between them and their institutions. It is important that universities keep students’ data private where possible and are clear with students when information must be shared more widely.”