Frequently Asked Questions

What is data protection?

When you give your personal details to an organisation or individual, they have a duty to keep these details provide and safe. This process is known as data protection. We refer to organisations or individuals who control the contents and use of your personal data as ‘data controllers’ (see for more information).

The main Irish law dealing with data protection is the Data Protection Act (2018).

What information do you hold about me?

All publicly funded higher education institutions in Ireland send data about all of their students to the HEA twice a year (through a provisional return in November and a final return in March). For more information, please see:

The HEA also asks the HEIs to conduct a survey asking recent graduates what they are doing nine months after leaving higher education. This survey, known as the Graduate Outcomes Survey, is linked to the student record. Participation in this survey is optional. For more information, please see:

Full lists of the data fields collect each year can be found in the Student Record System (SRS) codebook 

What happens to the information the HEA holds?

The Student Collection Notice [insert link] describes the various uses of the HEA records. Once data has been submitted by HEIs to the HEA, it is audited and processed into a form suitable for reporting at sectoral level. For further information on our publications, please see:


Why collect unique individual identifiers if records are never looked at individually?

Collection of individual identifiers is essential both to aid the collection process and to allow the HEA to carry out its functions effectively. These include the tracking of students in HEIs to produce accurate progression and participation statistics.


Why are student names collected?

Student names are needed to ensure the data collection process runs smoothly. Actual names are supplied to HEA for record linking and in support of audit processes. Names within the HEA Student Record are not used to make direct contact with students. Access to names within the HEA is restricted only to essential staff who have received appropriate training in data protection.


For the Graduate Outcomes Survey, the HEA does not require access to graduate contact details and therefore, student names are not submitted to the HEA.



Why are the HEA allowed to collect this information?

The HEIs collect data on behalf of the HEA so we can perform our statutory functions under the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971.

The HEA uses this data for fact-based statistical analysis to help understand the real needs that higher education should meet, to promote equality of opportunity in higher education and to assist the government in developing future higher education policies and investment.  The HEA does this by linking data from the Student Records System, information from the Equal Access Survey and information from the Graduate Outcomes Survey through student ID number and/or PPSN for more accurate statistical analysis to help improve education services and policies.

The HEA use student records to produce anonymised aggregate data in annual statistical publications.