37,000 students respond to UCAS’ Applicant Data Survey
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37,000 students respond to UCAS’ Applicant Data Survey

University and college applicants see benefits in personal data sharing but say they want to be asked first

A majority of UCAS applicants agree that sharing personal data can benefit them and support research into university admissions, but they want to stay firmly in control, with nine out of ten saying they should be asked first.

In total 37,000 students responded to UCAS' applicant data survey (attached) published on 8 October. This supports UCAS’ policy of sharing personal details outside of the admissions process only with active and informed consent.

Respondents said they trusted UCAS with their personal data. Some 78% have ‘high trust’ in UCAS – higher than for other organisations included in the survey for comparison. However, 90% of respondents said they wanted to be asked for their consent before their personal data is provided outside of the admissions service. This mirrors the findings of other recent studies examining public attitudes to data sharing.

62% of applicants think sharing their personal data for research is a good thing, and 64% see personal benefits in data sharing.  But most applicants say they should be asked first, regardless of whether their data is to be used for research, or to speed up their applications for student finance or accommodation.     

Over half of those responding also said that their trust in UCAS would be reduced, and 8% would consider not applying to higher education at all, if UCAS were to share their data with researchers without asking them first. 

To maintain the trust of applicants whilst helping those who want the benefits of data sharing, UCAS will be putting 2016 cycle applicants in control of their personal data. Starting in February 2016 we will ask undergraduate applicants who they want to share their data with, and invite them to allow access to their data by researchers through the secure Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) as soon as the admissions cycle closes.

UCAS Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook said: “The proper functioning of the UK’s unique centralised admissions service relies on students continuing to trust UCAS with their personal data. Our new policy puts students in control of their data whilst opening up new opportunities for research.

“It’s encouraging that many students recognise the social benefits of sharing data to support widening participation. Students who choose to provide their personal data for research can be confident that it will be managed in a secure setting.”