The ULN in HE

Adoption of a UK-wide student identifier

HEDIIP initiated a project in July 2014 to develop a blueprint for the adoption of the Unique Learner Number (ULN) in Higher Education. The ULN is an identifier that is present in schools and Further Education across England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not currently extending into HE.

The project worked with colleagues across the sector in order to explore the issues around adoption of the ULN in HE, understand requirements, benefits and concerns, and identify options for implementation.

HEDIIP published the ULN Blueprint Report in July 2015, outlining project findings and recommended next steps. The report identifies the need for a UK-wide solution that includes the ULN and that works in Scotland where the Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) is well embedded in the school and FE sectors. The adoption process therefore refers to a UK-wide student identifier, recognising that there will need to be interoperability between the ULN and a Scottish identifier.

ULN_Report_Image  ULN_Report_Exec_Sum_Image          ULN Blueprint Report (Full)                               ULN Blueprint Report (Exec Summary)

Key Report Findings
One of the most significant findings of the project was the complexity associated with delivering change in this area. To achieve the benefits of a widely-used student identifier a number of organisations will need to make coordinated changes. Different administrations of the UK have different initiatives and priorities in terms of student/learner data and improving the student experience; adoption of a UK-wide identifier will therefore need a degree of alignment with these initiatives.

Despite this complexity, what is recognised by the sector is a considerable opportunity for tying together a number of datasets with an identifier that extends across the education landscape and is also the key to a complete online learning record for students.

There are many benefits to be achieved by adopting a UK wide student identifier and the greatest of these benefits will be realised once this identifier is universal and ubiquitous. The report proposes that changes are addressed in a number of phases with the opportunity for ongoing review of the business case before progressing to the next phase. In the initial phase the focus is on relatively low risk and low cost adoption of the ULN to achieve tangible benefits. Later phases will address some more challenging elements, subject to business case approval for each phase. This approach is outlined below (click to enlarge):ULN Roadmap

Working with implementation partners and key stakeholders, an Adoption Management Plan was produced to coordinate the adoption process. Implementation partners have taken ownership of their work packages and will continue to progress this work beyond the HEDIIP Programme.

If you have any comments or questions on the report, or on the adoption of the ULN in HE, you can contact the HEDIIP Programme office at [email protected]

A background to the Unique Learner Number and the work undertaken on the ULN by the HEDIIP Programme to date can be found here.

Useful links
Unique Learner Number guidance
Personal Learning Records – useful information for learners and parents