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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

What can HE learn from the use of data by regulators in other sectors?

Date 26/02/2018

Data is a powerful tool for regulators assessing risk, particularly when combined with the analysis and judgement of experts, says new research commissioned by QAA and authored by Roger King and John Brennan.

The report looks at four UK regulators - the Care Quality Commission, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Food Standards Agency, and HM Revenue and Customs - and how each of them uses data to regulate their industries. 

The approaches uncovered include the analysis of sentiment on social media to inform regulation. The Care Quality Commission and the Food Standards Agency use this analysis to identify patterns of risk. For HMRC, it supports modelling to predict who might miss key tax submission deadlines, 'nudging' to submit before more serious - and resource-intensive - regulatory interventions become necessary.

The analysis poses questions for higher education policymakers on how a move to a more data-driven regulatory system will work, including:

  • What are the data governance requirements?
  • How can data-driven approaches support transparency, broader understanding and accountability?
  • To what extent will the increased use of data and indicators reduce the cost of regulation? 
Commenting on the report, QAA's Paul Hazell said: 'Business, organisations and governments the world over are embracing the potential of data to help target resources and make their practices more effective and efficient. 

'Higher education, particularly higher education regulation, is no different. This report showcases some of the lessons we can learn from other sectors. 

'In drawing their conclusions, King and Brennan highlight the value of human expertise in data-driven regulation. Data-driven approaches, at their best, enhance and support that expertise.'