The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) and the HE tech provider Jisc are considering a merger, a statement from the firms revealed.
The merger, should it go ahead, would unite “the expertise of both organisations to create a resilient, joint capability for delivering the sector’s data and digital needs”, a joint statement said.
If the merger is realised, Hesa would cease to exist, subsumed within the structure of Jisc. In that eventuality, the role of Designated Data Body (DDB) for higher education in England, fulfiled by Hesa since 2018, would be vacant.
The Office for Students (OfS) announced it was inviting expressions of interest in becoming the DDB. The regulator cannot switch the DDB unilaterally.
The change may not prove consequential: Jisc has already said it would respond to that OfS invitation. Once the OfS compiles a list of interested organisations, the regulator will consult the sector in England on the suitability of the nominees for DDB. Commanding the trust of the HE sector is a crucial requirement for any would-be DDB.
Suitable organisations must have knowledge of the sector and the regulatory landscape, and experience of data handling and protection. They must also be cost-effective custodians, independent of ministers and universities. Expressions must be made in writing by 11 March, the OfS said.
In 2019, a Hesa data analytics team merged with Jisc to form a new data-analytics directorate, “offering enhanced data analytics for the sector”. The integration came after the Jisc-Hesa “successful delivery of several collaborative data analytical products and services over the years”, like Heidi Plus, Analytics Labs and Community Dashboards.