Research Microdata Files (RMFs)


HEA Data is available at aggregate (summarised) level on the HEA website. Additional data may also be provided to members of the public in response to ad-hoc data requests. Public in this context means all potential data users – individuals, or organisations (including media organisations). In these cases, statistical controls (e.g., rounding) may be applied to prevent the identification of data subjects.

In addition, the HEA is committed to supporting the re-use of student and graduate data for analytical and policy-making purposes in a secure, efficient, and transparent way, in line with the Public Service Data Strategy 2019-2023 and the National Statistics Board Strategic Priorities for Official Statistics –2021-2026. Therefore, in limited circumstances, unit level datasets or microdata may be shared as Research Microdata Files (RMFs). By providing access to microdata, the HEA aims to support the research community and to ensure that maximum usage is made of the student and graduate data collected by the HEA.

What is Microdata?

Microdata refers to data that is collected and collated at unit level, containing information referring specifically to an individual, household or organisation, and is typically organised by a unique identifier for each individual record. In the context of HEA data, microdata refers to individual students enrolled in or graduating from Higher Education Institutions, or individual respondents to the Graduate Outcomes survey.

Because of the level of detail available, microdata has several advantages. It permits analysis beyond descriptive statistics; Researchers can apply inferential statistical techniques such as bivariate, multi-variate regression analysis or machine learning techniques to explore the statistical relationships between variables, and test hypotheses deriving from questions of interest to researchers. However, the presentation of data at unit level increases the risk of identification of individual data subjects, in contrast to the data published and disseminated at aggregate level, which prevents identification of individuals.

Apply for Access to RMFs

Research Microdata Files (RMFs) are unit record files that do not contain direct identifiers but the risk of disclosure through indirect identification is nevertheless considered to be significant. Therefore, all researchers wishing to request access to such data must follow the RMF process, which includes a detailed application form outlining requirements and necessity, as well as a data deletion form.

Before applying for access to microdata, the researcher should first consider if they require data at that level of detail. Their research question may be answerable using aggregate data, available either on the HEA website or in response to a custom data request. Related data at aggregate level and in some case as AMF may also be available at other locations online, for example the website of the CSO, ISSDA, or Eurostat.

If the researcher does wish to proceed with an application, they should first consult our Policy on Access to Research Microdata Files:

Policy on Access to Research Microdata Files

Examples of Research Using HEA Microdata

Determinants of Degree Quality in Ireland (Paul J. Devereux, UCD)

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