New Poll Reveals Students Want Clarity on How Universities Use Their Data

HE Thinking, Press and Announcements | 08 Jan 2020

We've worked with the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) to publish new research about students' views on data security. 

Higher education institutions collect and hold huge amounts of data on students, whether for regulatory purposes or to gather information about students’ experiences. In the full report HEPI explores students' views on data security, learning analytics and the information universities hold and share on students’ health and wellbeing. 

The full report is available to read here.

Rachel Hewitt, HEPI's Director of Policy and Advocacy said:

Students are required to provide large amounts of data to their universities, including personal and sensitive information. It is critical that universities are open with students about how this information will be used.

Under a third of students feel their university has clearly explained how their data will be used and shared under half feel confident that their data will be kept secure and private. Universities should take action to ensure students can have confidence in the security of their data.


Michael Natzler, HEPI's Policy Officer said:

Students are generally willing for their data to be used anonymously to improve the experience of other students, for example on learning and mental wellbeing. Around half are even happy for information about their health or mental wellbeing to be shared with parents or guardians. 

However, when it comes to identifiable information about them as individuals, students are clear they want this data to be kept confidential between them and their institutions. It is important that universities keep students’ data private where possible and are clear with students when information must be shared more widely.

Key Findings

  • Only 32% of students agree they are aware of how their institution handles their personal data, compared to 45% who disagree and 22% who neither agree nor disagree
  • Just 31% of students feel their institution has clearly explained how their personal data are used and stored, compared to 46% who disagree and 24% who neither agree nor disagree.
  • When students were asked whether they are concerned about rumours of universities facing data security issues, 69% of students stated they are concerned. Around one-fifth of students (19%) are unconcerned and 12% are unsure.
  • 65% of students say a higher education institution having a poor security reputation would have made them less likely to apply, compared to around a third (31%) who say it would have made no difference and 4% who said it would have made them more likely to apply.
  • Only 45% of students feel confident that their institution will keep their personal data secure and private, while 22% are not confident. A third (33%) are unsure.
  • 93% of students agree they should have the right to view any personal information their higher education institution stores about them, 5% neither agree nor disagree and only 2% disagree.
  • When it comes to sharing health or wellbeing information with a student’s parents or guardians, almost half (48%) of respondents say it would be fine for institutions to do so. A further 19% said they neither agree nor disagree and a third (33%) disagree.
  • Comparatively, only a third (35%) of students were supportive of parents or guardians being contacted about academic performance issues at university, compared to almost half of students (48%) who are opposed and 17% do not take a stance on this issue.


Read More

YouthSight and HEPI have been working together since 2015 to produce ground-breaking insight for the higher education sector. Our regular monitor series reports on topical issues/opportunities affecting the sector and is a must-read for anyone working in HE. 

HEPI / YouthSight Monitor Series >

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