Information needed Response
Title and link to statistical output Higher Education Provider Data: Business and Community Interaction
Name of producer organisation HESA - Higher Education Statistics Agency

Name and contact details of person dealing with report Rebecca Mantle
Name and contact details of Head of Profession for Statistics or Lead Official Jonathan Waller
Link to published statement about the breach (if relevant)
Date of breach report 28 July 2021

Information needed Response
Relevant principle(s) and practice(s) Principle T3: Orderly release Practice T3.4: The circulation of statistics in their final form ahead of their publication should be restricted to eligible recipients, in line with the rules and principles on pre-release access set out in legislation for the UK and devolved administrations
Date of occurrence of breach 9 June 2021

A person in receipt of pre-release access to the publication (and properly specified within the published pre-release access list) at the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) shared their access to a press release document about the publication with an internal data and analysis group which contained 13 members of HEFCW for whom pre-release access had not been requested nor granted.

The person who shared their pre-release access to the press release did not fully understand the conditions under which access was granted and believed the embargo related to HEFCW as a whole rather than specific named individuals.

There were no specific impacts. Those staff at HEFCW who were provided access outside the terms of the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order did not share their access any further nor use their access for inappropriate purposes. Additionally, as one of HESA’s statutory customers, HEFCW had embargoed access to a copy of the raw dataset upon which the publication was based. Any member of the data and analysis group could have accessed internal analysis of that raw dataset and gained an indication of the trends within the data. However, pre-release access outside the terms of the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order clearly has the potential to undermine public trust in statistics.

The person who shared their pre-release access inappropriately was informed of their error and the conditions of pre-release access to Official Statistics were explained to them. HESA has strengthened the guidance delivered to all those granted pre-release access, to make it abundantly clear that pre-release access is granted to specified individuals only and not all individuals of an organisation.

HEFCW have put in place procedures to prevent this from happening again. For each relevant statistical release, they will circulate the agreed pre-release access list for their organisation with all persons on that list to ensure all members are aware of who has been granted access. In each case this communication will repeat the full conditions of access and stress the importance of compliance with the conditions.