From 20 October 2020 the Office for Students (OfS) has collected data on coronavirus (COVID-19) from Higher Education Providers (HEPs) on behalf of the Department for Education through their COVID-19 reporting tool.
All English HEPs registered on the Office for Students Register as at 20 October 2020 were asked to make a return, with the exception of further education colleges. HEPs registering with the OfS after 20 October were not invited to submit during the period covered by this report. Of the 237 HEPs in scope, 212 have made at least one submission. This includes all of the larger traditional universities as well as newer, specialist or private HEPs. The HEPs who have not made a submission are small.
HEPs are asked to provide information on:
- Numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases known to them.
- Staff and student headcounts.
- Estimates for numbers of students known to be self-isolating at the time of each submission.
- Further contextualising information including the current DfE higher education tier of restriction. These items are defined in the terminology section in the annex.
The data return is not compulsory and the number of HEPs returning each week varies. This was a particular issue at the start of the Spring term as term start dates differ across HEPs. In addition, the first submission by a HEP in the Spring term includes any confirmed cases covering the winter break period (where known to the HEP). This first submission for the term therefore inflates the weekly figures. 113 HEPs made their first Spring term return in the week to 6 January, 64 made their first Spring term return in the week to 13 January, and 6 HEPs made their first Spring term return in the week to 20 January. This issue did not arise in the Autumn term because HEPs submitted a separate ‘baseline’ return for their first return (see ‘Baseline data’).
HEPs individually collate known confirmed cases for staff and students and report these to DfE using the Office for Students COVID-19 reporting tool. It is possible for staff and students to report more than 1 positive test result and it is not clear if HEPs carry out any de-duplication when they report the data. No further de-duplication can be carried out once the HEP has returned their data.
HEPs are asked to report all confirmed cases known to them. Where HEPs have operated their own testing programmes and recorded positive results, these cases will be included in these statistics. Where individuals do not report the results of tests to their HEP (for example, those taken at community centres or at home) any positive cases identified will not be included.
HEPs were asked to provide baseline information in their first return. This covered headcounts for staff (academic and non-academic), students and total confirmed COVID-19 cases known to each HEP between 1 August 2020 and the date of their first submission.
Ongoing data submissions
Following their initial submission, HEPs were asked to submit daily, Monday to Friday, returning information relating to the previous day, with Monday’s return covering the previous Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From 1 February HEPs have been asked to submit information twice weekly. In these returns HEPs submit on Monday (covering the previous Thursday to Sunday) and Thursday (covering the previous Monday to Wednesday). If a HEP fails to submit on one or more scheduled days, their next return should include the total of all known confirmed cases since their last return.