Frolicking with Finance

Hiatus over…..Team #VisualisingHE breaking the drought with some fun with HE Provider Financial data.

Back in March 2019 HESA ‘sprung’ a never-before-public release of HE provider institutional finances. Prior to 2019 this level of institutional data has been available to key contacts within institutions through HEIDIPlus platform within institutions – and paying customers. However as part of HESA’s open data programme we can access and visualise more than ever before.

Finance data release

HESA’s new release of Finance data, is the first time HESA has released its full Finance record as open data, freely available for re-use under the Creative Commons 4.0 licence. As well as income and expenditure analysis the release includes HE providers balance sheets, cash flow and capital expenditure.

What do HESA collect from Providers?

HESA collect financial data (submitted in the winter of each academic year in templates provided by HESA) from universities , colleges, and other HE providers in the UK and covers income, expenditure, balance sheets, statement of gains and losses, capital expenditure, senior staff pay and Key Financial Indicators. details on what is collected under each of these broad terms are on HESA’s definitions pages.

Where to start?

Team #VisualisingHE have pondered this data release for some months, and whilst there is a whole lot of juicy figures to dive into, by way of introduction to the HE Finance data, we thought that we should focus some of this post on ‘introducing’ the finance data and the first publication of the Key Financial Indicators (presented as a three year time series).

Key Financial Indicators or KFI’s for short, are compiled using information provided to HESA as part of the HESA Finance record. The KFI’s defined and shown below are a set of ratios extracted from the finance record. They are not performance indicators and take no account of provider-level characteristics such as the range of subjects taught or the types of provision provided.

What are the 9 KFI measures?

  • Days ratio of Total net assets to total expenditure
  • External borrowing as a percent of total income
  • Net cash inflow from operating activities as a percent of total income
  • Net liquidity days
  • Premises cost as a percent of total costs
  • Ratio of current assets to current liabilities
  • Staff costs as a percent of total income
  • Surplus/Deficit as a percent of total income
  • Unrestricted reserves as a percent of total income

For definitions of the KFI’s detailing the numerators/denominators see here

What have team #VisualisingHE done?

Team #VisualisingHE have focused on trying to present these data as simply and cleanly as possible. A #TableauKISS you might say.

Adam came come up with a KFI scorecard, heavily critiqued by both Elena and Dave to settle on the dashboard below, where a single provider can be chosen, the benchmark be selected (sector, country or region) and the dashboard simply presents a provider overview of indicators:

  • Current (2017/8) figure
  • Year on year percent change
  • Provider vs Benchmark comparison trend
  • Sector distribution (and percentile on tooltip)

KFI OverviewV2_final.png

Interactive Viz: Key financial Indicator (KFI) Scorecard

Dave decided to have a ‘rustle’ around the ‘Russell group’ to see what he could find…..

Whilst playing around with the income and expenditure data we were struck by how much Russell Group institutions dominated with nearly half the income going to the small number of Russell Group institutions compared to the large number of non Russell Group institutions. These is also increasing over the time period.

HESA Finance Russell Group and the rest

Interactive Viz: “The Russell group and the rest – Income in UK Higher Education”

Additional resources

My go to: WONKHE gives HE data a timely on the button exploration of data releases. Here David Kernohan put together an excellent first exploration of this data within moments of this data being released for the first time and is always my go to for initial headlines and points of analysis. HESA institutional finance 2019 release: KFI is going to rock you published in March 2019.

Thanks for reading, and as always we would love to hear your thoughts and critique.

We love to viz, write and discuss all things HE, but most of all we love to learn, so let us know what you think.

Adam, Dave and Elena.


A tour around the Estate….

A bit of background…

This blog post comes straight off the back of a well-attended and thoroughly enjoyable HETUG (Higher Education Tableau User Group) Conference this week held at the University of Nottingham, at which Dave and I were lucky enough to present our wares.

Dave gave a fantastic presentation of his work on an approach to a ‘Matrix of Metrics’ – a topic whereby the key is in the ladders!!! He discussed how through engagement in data he has embedded targets and solid awareness of sector performance through clear and informative dashboards.

Myself, I wanted to demonstrate first and foremost the wealth and quality of information held by HESA accessible to HE providers through the HEDIPlus service. The HEIDIPlus service is a resource which enables a much-needed access to benchmarking data at provider level on many and varied HE topics – an enabler for providers to set appropriate targets for continued improvement in their strategic goals.

A key thread to my presentation was to highlight the flexibility Tableau (as a data visualisation tool) offers for enabling creative approaches to gaining engagement from non-data-savvy users and therefore facilitating the sharing of insights to a wider audience. My approach floated the notion of developing data awareness and building a data driven decision making culture through more infographic style visual dashboards.

And so, to this month’s post..

In this month’s post we celebrate a few nuggets from my explorations into, for many, the under explored HESA Estates Management Record (EMR) data set. What a treasure trove of figures this is, calling out for a bit of #VisualisingHE attention!

The freely available data broadly includes information about grounds and buildings, water and energy usage, waste management, transport and other environmental measures.

Within these broad areas hide some 228, YES, that’s 228 measures of estates related loveliness! In this post we have taken a few measures that caught the eye, and have given them a #VisualisingHE makeover.

First up is an interactive viz which presents a visual of the TOP30 providers in England boasting the highest number of buildings on their estate. This viz was inspired by Simon Beaumont after seeing something he knocked up for a #MakeoverMonday viz some months ago [Wk22 – world most expensive prime property], whereby he visualised the property as a city skyline. After stumbling over this no. buildings stat I thought I would apply a similar visual to this Estates dataset as a potentially approachable way to contextualise the volume of buildings a provider is maintaining on their estates.

In this viz each bar line denotes a provider and the height of the bar denotes the number of buildings a provider has. This viz simply uses a dual axis chart: one a simple bar chart and the other –  a custom shape to give the ‘buildings’ a top. A darker colour = more buildings.

Which Providers boast the highest number of buildings..

No. Buildings[Interactive Viz]

Next to peek my interest was the desire to understand the size of the estates providers manage. The visualisation below attempts to provide visual cue to area, by using a tree map chart type to express the area.

The top chart shows the sum of area in hectares by UK region, the one below displays the total site area by provider. You can click each region in the top chart and an action will filter the provider chart to provide an overview of the distribution of estate by provider in the selected region.

Total site area…

total site area

[Interactive Viz]

The viz below is the viz I used in my presentation at the #HETUG. This viz focuses on the total water consumption used in 2016/17 – overall and by provider. I have chosen to create this viz because the environment is a very topical issue and water consumption plays a significant part in the impact on the environment. I wanted to express and try to contextualise the seemingly vast consumption of water the UK HE sector consumes in a potentially engaging infographic.

Water Consumption…

Water consumption_Coffetable[Interactive Viz]

In the spirit of encouraging the ‘green’ ethos I thought I would wheel in a cheeky viz of the number of cycle spaces UK providers have installed on their campuses/estates to facilitate safe parking and encourage green and healthy commuting for both their staff and student bodies. The viz below highlights the TOP10 providers provision.

Build the ‘Cycle’ spaces & they will come…

no of cycle spaces

[Interactive Viz]

And finally for this months blog we focus on a key by-product of all the amazing stuff HE providers do in their cycle and that is waste mass! Question is what do we do with it all?

Tonnes of waste mass by type…

As part of Cole Knaflic’s monthly #SWDchallenge (June) she challenged the community to explore the use of slope charts (SWD’s June blog). For this I pulled together a viz on the UK HE’s total waste mass in tonnes by type between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

UK HE Waste mass by type

[Interactive Viz]

Let me know whether these visualisations encourage you to take a closer look at the data available on how UK HE providers manage their estate.

Many thanks for reading!

Adam and the #VisualisingHE Team

Shining a light on business and community interaction in HE

One area of UK higher education which is not much talked about is the work that is undertaken working with businesses and the community, whether that be through research, consultancy or training.

The lovely people at HESA collate all the terrific detail of this work through the annual Higher Education Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey.

The data and associated visuals produced by the splendid people in Cheltenham are here: Lovely data and visuals.  For this post team #VisualisingHE focus on just a couple of aspects.

HE Market Leaders

Firs is Dave’s take on the business and community services provided by HE provider. He looked at which institutions are providing the bulk of activity (and, therefore, the income) in this area, and how it is changing over time.

HEBCIS - Market Share

The interactive visualisation shows the data in quadrants and allows the user to split the data by the type of service and also the type of organisation that the HE provider was working with.

The size of the square is the total income for the selection and the colour provides shows the region of the provider.

The main takeaway from this visualisation:

In all the categories there are only a few HE providers who dominate the area (Oxford for Contract Research, University of Leeds for Facilities and equipment) with the exception of Consultancy which is shared a bit more across the sector.

Engagement with the General Public

The second take on the HE-BCI data is Elena’s interactive visualisation that shows how universities engaged with the community in the 2016/17 academic year in one of 5 categories.

HEI Social Engagment.png

The screenshot above shows details just for free Museum education type of events. Each HEI is plotted in the scatter and is coloured based on the region it belongs to. For consistency, Dave and Elena used the same colours for the regions. T

he scatter plot shows the scope of the HEIs’ activities measured by number of attendees and number of staff days. The totals for the entire sector can be seen just above the scatter.

The main takeaway from this visualisation:

The main insight can be seen when switching between the different types of events: usually universities are clustered quite closely and very few outliers can be seen in any of the categories.

Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed exploring our visualisations.

Dave & Elena


‘Non-continuation’, ‘continuation’, ‘retention’, ‘drop out’, ‘no longer in HE’… blah blah blah. There are many words for it and they are all slightly different but they basically come down to how good is the sector and higher education institutions (HEI) at keeping students in the system so that they can flourish and achieve.

One of the most established metrics in this area is used in the UK performance indicators which is produced annually by HESA (full details here).  This metric focuses on the extent to which the students have been retained within the system (i.e. have they left but gone to another institution) and looks at not only if they dropped out throughout the year but also if they returned following the summer.  There is also allowance given for the fact that going to University itself can present challenges for the stufents so those that leave in the first few months are not counted in the metric.

For this post we focused on two simple but key questions (HESA provide a lot of additional insight on their site)

How have things changed over time?

How do the very different HEIs perform?

For the first question Adam looked at the full time, first degree, first year, non-continuation trend in the sector as a whole over the last 10 years. In particular, the visualisation focuses on the UK domiciled entrants enrolled on a full-time mode and shows how the rate is different for young and mature students.

Interactive viz here!

Non Continuation rate_UK HE 20067-20156

For the second question Dave focused on just the latest year’s data.  When producing the metric HESA also arrive at a benchmark which takes into account the make up of the particular HEI student body.  It is a nod to the fact that not all HEI have the same challenges when it comes to retaining students.

It’s a long one! This visualisation lists all the HEIs with the non continuation rate (lower is better) coloured by the variance to benchmark and the width of the line showing how many students make up the non continuation.

Interactive viz here!Non Con HEI Summary

I hope that was of interest and please do dig into HESA’s analysis.

Dave, Adam and Elena

Students in HE – some interesting bits..

Hey up – it is a new year and at Visualising HE towers we made a new year’s resolution that we would keep up with the latest HE data releases. So we were pleased that HESA provided us with an early new year present in the form of some summary student statistics loveliness.

The lovely people in Cheltenham have taken a slightly different tact with this release with an approach guiding the reader through the analysis and allowing the draw down of the data that supports each chart so that you can revisit the story for additional insight.  This approach has not had universal acclaim (a superb WonkHE article on the subject) but it gave us rich pickings for our Visualising HE fun.

So where to start? With all the discussions around Brexit and the widening discussions around the value international students have on the UK economy it was felt that looking at where the students come from would be worth a peak.

Take 1: UK vs. Non-UK Enrolments

The first viz uses data from figure 6 and focuses on Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and to what degree their enrolments come from the UK against non UK enrolments.

UK vs Not UK (1)

The interactive viz is here and the vispiration came from the great Ben Jones blog post.

The main takeaways from this is that (unsurprisingly) the number of UK enrolments is quite spread with most HEI taking in sizeable cohorts.  When looking at non UK enrolments there are many HEI taking small amounts then a few taking in the larger numbers.

In terms of interesting HEI the University of Manchester stands out just through its sheer size both for UK and Non UK enrolments where it is among the largest in both categories. Imperial College has a slightly different balance with nearly as many non UK enrolments as UK.  Then the reverse of that is Sheffield Hallam who have a large UK cohort and a small non UK cohort.

Take 2:  UK, Other EU and Non-EU 1st year enrolment Trends

The second viz uses data from figure 8 and builds onto the international question by separating the EU and Non-EU entrants to deliver a quick insight into the general trends across the sector. Figure 8_visualisingHE

The interactive viz is here.

The main takeaways from this visualisation are the predominance and continued growth of UK domiciled students entering at first degree in UK HE in 2016/17, and the continued proportional decline of the Non EU first degree postgraduate research (PGR) and postgraduate taught (PGT) student populations.

The filters on the top right of this dashboard allow us to delve further into the data set and see the trends at country level. It appears that the the decline of the Non EU entrants at a postgraduate level is most prominently observed at HEIs in Wales, where first year enrolments on both PGT and PGR programmes have experienced the sharpest decline during the last four years.Adam's UK-EU-NonEU Enrolmentspng.png

Take 3: Subjects’ Popularity and the Gender Gap

The third viz uses the data from figure 12 and presents an overall view of the new enrolments in the sector with a slight focus on the subjects’ popularity (science vs. non-science enrolments) and the gender gap (male vs. female enrolments).


The interactive viz is here.

The main takeaways from this dashboard are that enrolments in the science subject areas, represented with blue diamonds, have increased more than enrolments in the non-science subject areas, shown as grey circles, since 2012/13.

A further insight is available through the in-built #VizInTooltips available on hover. From these we can see that first year enrolments on ‘Computer science’ related programmes have increased at both First degree and Postgraduate Taught (PGT) levels.

Summary - Computer Science.png

The dashboard also highlights that the ‘Business & administrative studies’ appear to attract similar numbers of male and female students. All of the subjects dominated by male enrolments are from the science field. However, the gender gap has been gradually decreasing for some of them: ‘Architecture, building & planning’ is a good example where the difference has decreased from 28 to 20 percentage points.

Summary - Architecture.png

Take 4: Top 10 Non-EU Domiciles

The last take on HESA’s SFR for 2016/17 uses data from figure 11 and is the colourful  #Coffetableviz style visualisation of the Top 10 Non-EU Domiciles for First Year enrolments in the UK.

Non EU international dom first year enrolments to UK HE_white

The interactive viz is here.

The main takeaways here are the solid first position for enrolments from China and the fact that the top 10 domiciles have remained the same since 2011/12. Other more noticeable changes include Nigeria’s decline from 4th to 6th position (shown in orange) and Hong Kong’s rise from a steady 6th to a 4th position from last year (shown in light green).

That’s it for now from us. Thank you for reading and we hope you enjoyed exploring our data visualisations!


Dave, Adam and Elena

Universities in UK: From Research to Patents

Higher Education Providers (HEPs) in the UK pride themselves with delivering excellent teaching and world class research, but here is a question: how can we measure how ‘innovative’ these institutions are? One way to look at this is to see how many patents each institution has using data from the Higher Education Business Community Interaction (HE-BCI) return. Though this is nowhere nearly as comprehensive a method as are the numerous rankings, league tables, and other excellence framework exercises, it is still a simple way of showing who invests in protecting their intellectual property.

What are the caveats?

First, this is not a sign of research strength or quality but rather shows what the universities choose to do with their intellectual property.

Second, whether universities have a large patent portfolio or not depends on a range of factors: some universities do not focus on research as much as others do (e.g. some HEPs are traditionally research focused whilst other, more recently established ones, put more emphasis on teaching); some areas of research are less likely to be commercialised (e.g. research in the social sciences and humanities subjects would less frequently lead to practical inventions as would research in the applied scientific subject areas); some universities may choose not to file any patents if they do not seek to commercialise their inventions, and so on.

These are only a few out of many possible explanations, so keeping this information in mind, have a look at the insights.

The Size of UK’s Patent Portfolio:

In 2016 the 162 UK higher education providers held a total of 18,723 live patents! 18% of those, or 3,357 were owned by a single institution: the University of Oxford. What is also striking is that the university with the second largest patent portfolio, the University College London, has approximately half the number of patents that Oxford has.


By applying the Pareto principle to the data we see that 80% of the patents were owned by the top 15% of institutions (or the top 24 out of 162 HEIs). If you would like to find out more about the Pareto principle, have a look at this article:

The Region Split

London is the region with the largest number of patents overall – 5,152 followed by the South East with 4,265. Whilst London has twice as many HEPs than the South East (38 vs. 19), the region only has 20% more patents.


Another interesting region is Northern Ireland – whilst there are only four HEPs, only two of them held any live patents as of 2016. These were the ‘Queen’s University of Belfast’ and the ‘University of Ulster’.

The Management of Intellectual Property

The last set of charts do not focus solely on patents but rather, on the overall management of the intellectual property generated by an institution. This may include any licenses, designs, and trademarks, etc. When comparing whether the management of IP is dealt-with in-house or outsourcing, it is clear to see the difference between the top 24 institutions and the remaining institutions with at least one active patent. Amongst the top 24, the most preferred method is through a combination of both in-house and outsourcing the expertise whilst amongst the remaining universities, outsourcing is the most popular choice.


One very interesting observation from the data is that amongst the 97 HEIs that held at least 1 patent in 2016, all but two have disclosed that members of staff whose research generate the intellectual property are rewarded in some form. Although it is not easy to compare what these rewarding methods are, remember that you can still find out more about them by clicking on an institution in either of the charts.

Is This All the Data Could Tell Us?

Absolutely no. The data is very rich and it allows for a great depth of analyses which may be covered in other #VisualisingHE projects. Some of the questions that weren’t answered due to limitations of the data include:

  • any 5-10 year trend analyses (not all data for the last 10 years is made freely available by HESA).
  • any cost-revenue insights (this topic explored patents in particular and the cost-revenue analysis available in the dataset is for the entire intellectual property of an institution);
  • any breakdown of the science field in which patents are held (a topic that may be explored with data from the UK patent office, if such open dataset exists).

Link to interactive viz:!/vizhome/UKHEIsIP/IP



The wonderful world of finance

It may be said that Finance data doesn’t always attract the big crowds in the world of HE. The HE main stage is often reserved for hotter topics like the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), Research Excellence Framework (REF) and external media focus from league tables often focus on the academic and student outcomes, rather than the support system sitting behind it. In our experience financial data struggles to get visualised and has a reputation for being dull and wedded to excel data tables. Cue #VisualisingHE…

We thought it would be a great idea to focus this post on the wonderful world of finance. We merrily went off and downloaded years of finance returns from HESA and combined them into a wonderful big data set, pulled on our finest Tableau viz gloves, poured a large coffee and readied ourselves to create some tableau masterpieces. We were thinking; small multiples, exploratory box plots and even the odd map.

All was going well until Adam pointed out:


Having just two years of data just made it a whole more tricky to do something interesting.  Most of the ideas we had fell by the way side.  The exploratory viz survived and Stephen joined the conversation and looked at mapping. Searching for ideas and filling a long string of twitter messaging, conversations took a bizarre twist with references to BANs. Dave was transcended back to his younger days where ‘just for fun’ he was tasked to build spreadsheets for his Dad in Supercalc – Adam felt it would be rude not to pay homage to this fond memory and attempted a retro spreadsheet viz to bring the memory back to life:


HESA Finance: 2014/5 & 2015/6 IN THE STYLE OF: SUPERCALC

On this finance focused folly we have honed in on Income, Expenditure and Surplus deficit, and here are the headline BANS:

Total income was £34.7 billion during the financial year to 31 July 2016. Overall expenditure was £33 billion in 2015/16. The surplus of income over expenditure was £2.3 billion in 2015/16, or 6.8% of total income.

The hard hitting stat (KFI) in the wonderful world of Finance, is Surplus deficit as a percent of total income, so our vizzes mainly explore this key financial indicator.

Below is an exploratory viz encouraging the viewer into the relationship between income, expenditure, surplus or deficit between providers, mission groups and years.

surplus deficit_explorartory.png

Link to viz: HESA Finance 2014/15 – 2015/16

The number of HE providers reporting a surplus was 142 out of 163 in 2015/16. Deficits in the financial year 2015/16 were reported by 20 providers.

So plenty of stuff there – one last roll of the dice…

Shape – the vizzes so far were great at looking at the providers and how they were performing but we wanted to have a play around and see if we could find something that shows the shape of the sector and a bit of how it has changed.

Income Expenditure Surplus

Link to viz: Income, Expenditure and Surplus for the UK HE Sector

Does it work?  Sort of we can see that the sector has made slightly more surplus in 2015/16 and we can see that only a few institutions make the bulk of the surplus.  We can also see that as a sector there has been a better financial performance with less providers having a negative KFI (Surplus/deficit as a % of total income).

There are definitely more effective ways of representing this (such as the exploratory view above) but we enjoyed trying something new.

Hopefully you have managed to get to the end and we have managed to convince you that it is possible to visualise HE finance data and find some useful insight.

Provision of cycle spaces – HESA Estates Management Record

Having spotted the cycle spaces tab on the HESA Estates Management Record I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a go at visualising this comparatively simple data set.

The intial question

Q1 – How do providers stack up in the provision of cycle spaces?

TOP10 HE Cycles spaces
TOP10 HE Cycles spaces

This initial viz doesn’t have much by way of interactivity, it’s an info-graphic to introduce the user to the topic and hopefully pull the viewer into the subject in question, a term i’m coining #coffeetableviz.

This TOP10 HE Cycle spaces viz also has a secondary tab (not many people publish a second tab in a tableau publisphere, and that’s because……. no one really looks at the second tab! (The ‘why’ is probably best left for a different post) however go on take a peek..!

For me this headline visual falls a little short, simply ranking an institution based on the absolute volume may be misleading, and may just favor the larger universities, or those in particular regions that are naturally more likely cycle due to locale factors. So to address this I combined the staff and student fte data provided in Estates management record with the cycle space data. Cue Q2…

Q2 – What is the total number of spaces as a ratio of the population at a provider?

FTE per cycle space
FTE per cycle space

Anything else?

It would seem a shame if i didn’t combine this cycle space viz with my first post focusing on method of commute, therefore my Q3 evolved to be something like this:

Q3 – What is the realistic likelihood of me getting a cycle space if I worked or studied at provider ‘X’…….

Take an explore of the exploratory viz below for insight into higher education providers; provision, volume and likelihood of grabbing one of the prized cycle spaces. Thus, avoiding security staff issuing parking infringement warnings, or worse still confiscating your bike because its parked inappropriately.

Furthermore…. Could this be the first in a data driven plot for a Hollywood blockbuster sequal to Field of dreams, where university ‘X’ struggling for student numbers, builds an extraordinarily large number of cycle spaces, convinced that if we build it he will come…… would the question of correlation or causality be scrutinised too heavily in a blockbuster plot?

create the spaces and they will come.png

Create the spaces and they will come

Hope you enjoyed this second #VisualisingHE post focusing on Estates Management data 2014/5.


Method of Travel – HESA Estates Management Record

About the data set 

Data about Environmental Information for UK higher education providers is collected by HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) annually as part of the Estates Management record. This free table includes information about each UK provider, covering a variety of environmental information including;

  • Grounds and buildings
  • Water and energy usage
  • Waste management
  • Transport
  • Other environmental measurements.

For this post I have used the 2014/5 submission, which is the most up to date publication available at the time of writing. For those not so familiar with HESA time frames you might feel it’s a bit odd that data relating to the academic year 2014/5 is the most up to date given we are in March 2017….  however HESA collect data relating to a reporting period of 01 August in year 1 to 31 July in year 2 and publish the results annually after the submission window.

Finding a topic

Having had a bit of a play in the excel file, Transport info caught my eye, so I decided I would begin my journey into #VisualisingHE Estates Management data with the following question:

Q1 – How do staff and students commute to university?

First off, I wanted to understand the distribution of different modes of travel taken by staff and students, provider by provider. The viz below shows how staff and students from the University of East Anglia commute to work or study. You can explore all providers on my Tableau Public dashboard ‘How do you commute‘. An iphone version is also available so that I can see it on my preferred device.

Method of travel single provider overview
Method of travel single provider overview

In summary, it is probably no surprise that traveling by car is the most common method of travel overall, but I hope, that visualising the data in this way helps understand provider locale and method of travel trends regionally and which providers are leading in what method.

Take a look at the exploratory dashboard on Tableau Public:

Method of travel_RegionRegional method of travel

Thanks for reading.