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In its recent report on the OfS, the Lords Industry and Regulators Committee called for the Department for Education Data Reduction Taskforce to be reconvened.

This recommendation – which is addressed directly to the DfE rather than the OfS – echoes the recommendation made by Universities UK in its recent study on regulatory burden and by GuildHE in the recommendations of its recent Regulation Briefing Series.

The issue of data burden seems to have been on the agenda for ever and yet it feels no closer to resolution now than it was thirty years ago. How did we get here, and what would it take to make real lasting progress on this perpetual problem?

Funders and regulators have always used data to inform funding and policy; universities have always complained about the burden of supplying this data. In the early 1990s a senior vice chancellor told me that setting up HESA as a sector-owned agency would enable the sector to push back on “all these wretched demands for data”. In the 2000s the debate around data burden was wrapped up in the broader issue of regulatory burden as HEFCE ran a series of three Accountability Reviews. These were followed by the Better Regulation Task Force and then the HE Data & Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) which launched ten years ago.

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