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How Heidi Plus data helped The British Academy to empower the humanities and social sciences

Effective representation of higher education (HE) students, staff and their university courses is increasingly drawing on high-quality data to make well-informed, evidence-based decisions. The British Academy – the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences – underpin this approach by using the HE data available within Jisc’s business intelligence platform: Heidi Plus to inform their work. I recently sat down with The Academy’s Senior Policy Advisor, Safia Mizon Thioune to look at the impact of their work on the sector and the contribution of Heidi Plus as a robust evidence base. In this blog, I look at how data can give professional bodies and those they represent in their subjects a louder, more empowered voice.

Providing the right evidence to inform effective policy

I’ve worked with Heidi Plus for many years as a higher education data analyst and have always appreciated the insights available. They’re split over many years which allow meaningful conclusions to be drawn. What my conversation with Safia added was context of how important this data is for monitoring the health and growth of an entire professional discipline.

“The platform enables rich time-series across datasets. This is particularly crucial for our monitoring work in the observatory, our growing evidence-based policy function which seeks to better understand – and therefore support – the health and development of our disciplines.”

Safia Mizon Thioune, The British Academy

Safia also pointed out that The British Academy regularly have questions that they use Heidi Plus to find the answer to such as:

  • What are the proportion of researchers on fixed-term contracts?
  • How many students take up a year abroad?
  • What is the gender study gap in a particular discipline?

It fills me with immense pride that Jisc are providing objective answers to these important questions and informing wider policy debates. The key point is that high-quality data offers insight into what’s really going on in a subject area, and adds evidence that professional bodies can use to monitor them effectively and speak up for their discipline.

Improving access and understanding for stakeholders

One of my favourite Heidi Plus features is its data visualisation capability which translates raw data into graphical insight. This offers flexibility and allows our users to present the data in a way which their audience will find most accessible. I know people who are very visual and benefit significantly from this approach. Safia highlighted the advantage of a flexible approach to data presentation when communicating with different types of stakeholders:

“Heidi Plus enables us to access and analyse sector trends, and translate them into different visualisations. This is useful as we communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including policymakers and practitioners, and so can easily tailor the data to our audience.”

Safia Mizon Thioune, The British Academy

This really speaks to me as a content creator as the audience must always come first. They need to understand what you are presenting to them, and it needs to be accessible. Safia told me how they also use Heidi Plus data in The British Academy’s subject reports which is yet another way of improving understanding and delivering important insight for the humanities and social sciences. With better understanding, decision-makers are more likely to hear your voice and take resulting action.

Image showing Heidi Plus data visualisation options and the data being used in a British Academy subject report.
Heidi Plus data visualisation options and the data being used in a British Academy subject report.

Making a data-driven difference in society

Something both Jisc and The British Academy aim to do is make a positive difference for people in society. My conversation with Safia reaffirmed the importance of giving people within the HE sector a voice and how voices are most empowered when they have strong evidence supporting them. Through Heidi Plus, Jisc offers some of the strongest UK HE data available and its contribution to The British Academy’s work is clear to see.

“Heidi Plus has helped us to develop and inform our work and, in turn, our impact – not just in the HE sector, but on a broader societal level. This includes our work to boost language capacity in the UK, to advocate for continued participation in important global study programmes and to understand the picture in a certain discipline – such as our Theology and Religious Studies Report, which gained a lot of media attention and galvanised the disciplinary community.”

Safia Mizon Thioune, The British Academy

The impact of this work shouldn’t be underestimated in how it’s shaping the future for those in the humanities and social sciences. The data provided through Heidi Plus is creating knowledge, helping to develop insight and driving decision-making across the projects.

Read more about data-driven subject representation

If you want to find out more about data-driven subject representation in action, or The British Academy’s use of Heidi Plus, you can read the case study in full.

About Heidi Plus

Jisc’s data analytics and visualisation platform Heidi Plus hosts a range of valuable higher education datasets. It is widely used by UK universities and is also accessible for those organisations who support the sector such as professional, statutory and regulatory bodies, HE sector bodies and government departments, agencies and public bodies. These datasets include information on students, staff, finances, graduates, business and community interaction and much more. The data can be visualised easily using the cloud-based Tableau environment and provides outstanding insight. Contact us if you’d like to subscribe to Heidi Plus and let us know in the form comments that you found it through this content.

Author – Matt Clarke, Content insight manager, data analytics, Jisc

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