Privacy Statement

1.       Introduction

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (“ISSE”) is intended to ensure that students’ own perspectives on your experience of higher education are used to inform practice and policy in Irish higher education. Results are used mainly to inform enhancement and improvement activities within institutions, but national policy discussions will also be informed by the data.

ISSE values your privacy and recognises the need to process your personal data in a fair and lawful manner in accordance with the legal obligations as set out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Irish Data Protection Acts 1988-2018. Student confidentiality is a central principle of implementation of the ISSE. This privacy statement is intended to provide you with information about the personal information we collect and how that information is used and shared.

Your participation in the survey is entirely voluntary, although participating institutions will actively encourage their students to take part.

2.       Management of ISSE

ISSE is managed as a national collaboration of higher education institutions, national agencies and the Union of Students in Ireland. The project is co-sponsored by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Irish Universities Association (IUA), Technological Higher Education Authority (THEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

3.       Data Controller

The Higher Education Authority (“HEA”) is the data controller for ISSE.

The HEA is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA is empowered by various legislative provisions to meet these requirements. The HEA Act 1971 states in section 11 that: “An institution of higher education shall supply to An tÚdarás all such information relative to the institution as An tÚdarás may require for the purpose of performing its functions”. Section 13 states that “An tÚdarás may institute and conduct studies on such problems of higher education and research as it considers appropriate and may publish reports of such studies.”

The Statistics Section of the HEA continues to review and update its data protection policy and best practice on an ongoing basis in order to ensure full compliance with data protection legislation. It is required to process certain personal data in order to fulfil its purpose and comply with its legal obligations.

Higher Education Authority, 3, Shelbourne Buildings, Crampton Ave., Ballsbridge, Dublin, D04 C2Y6.

Tel: +353 01 231 7100


4.       Data Processor

The survey is conducted by an external survey company (“survey company”) that has been contracted by the HEA in order to conduct the survey. The company currently contracted to conduct the survey is a company called i-Graduate, which is based in the United Kingdom. The survey company operates under contract (as a Data Processor) with the HEA (as Data Controller). This contract contains a Data Processing Agreement for this work.

Implications of Brexit

The UK Data Protection Regulator (ICO) has legislation (“The Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019”) for transfer of data from Ireland to the UK. The guidance provided by the ICO states that:

o            Transfers from the UK to the EU:  The UK government has stated that, when the UK exits the EU, transfers to the EEA from the UK will not be restricted. This means that the survey company will be able to continue to send personal data from the UK to the EEA without any additional requirements.

o            Transfers from the EEA to the UK (post Brexit): Where the survey company receive data from Universities in the EEA, the university will need to comply with EU transfer provisions. This means the sender will need to make sure there are adequate safeguards in place, or that one of the exceptions listed in the GDPR applies. If the EU makes a formal adequacy decision that the UK regime offers an adequate level of protection, there will be no need for specific safeguards to be introduced. An adequacy agreement would recognise the UK’s data protection regime as essentially equivalent to those in the EU. It would allow data flows from the EEA and avoid the need for organisations to adopt any specific measures. But any such adequacy decisions will not be in place before the UK leaves the EU. If on exit, no such adequacy decision is in place, the current survey company have committed to implementing the appropriate safeguards by putting in place standard contractual clauses (SCCs) to cover the transfer, if these have not already been put in place by the time the UK exits the EU.

5.       How we obtain your personal data

The HEA regularly collects a range of data from institutions under its remit. Students in participating institutions are presented at registration with the HEA data collection notice which explicitly mentions ISSE.

Some contextual non-sensitive demographic data, collected by the individual institutions for the purposes of (among others) sharing with the HEA for the Student Record System, is sent by the institutions to the survey company. This transfer happens in a formalised way using a secure data transfer platform.

Students who fall into the categories being included in the survey (e,g. students in first year, students in final year) are invited to take part in the survey by means of an email invitation sent by the survey company on behalf of your institution. Participation is voluntary but it is encouraged by the participating institutions.

Students who choose to participate in the survey may click on a personalised link from the email to a purpose-built website. Alternatively, you may access the survey through a general link on the website and enter some identifier information. These steps are taken to ensure each student’s demographic data are matched to their responses.

Students may then complete the survey. Responses are saved regularly. This allows you to complete part of the survey at one time and complete it at another time. It also facilitates collection of data even if you does not finish the survey.

6.       The information we process about you

The linking of responses with contextual demographic data means that you are not required to input additional information when responding to the survey. The demographic data used to deliver the survey is limited to the following non-sensitive demographic data:

  • Student ID [removed before the data are returned]
  • Institute Code – the institution you attend
  • Course Code – the course you are studying
  • Date of Birth [removed before the data are returned]
  • Sex – male or female
  • Student Code – categorised as new entrant, re-enrolled, repeat or transferred from another course/ institution
  • Mode of Study – categorised as Full-time, Part-time, Distance learning, E-learning, or in-service education
  • Programme Type – categorised as Undergraduate General Degree, Undergraduate Honours Degree, Undergraduate Diploma, Undergraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, or Masters Taught (Postgraduate)
  • NQAI Classification of Programme/Level of Study – categorised as Higher Certificate HETAC and DIT/Advanced Certificate (FETAC), Ordinary Bachelor Degree, Honours Bachelor Degree/Higher Diploma, or Masters Degree/Postgraduate Diploma
  • Non Standard attendance – categorised as Exam-only, Postgraduate Qualifier, Visiting/Occasional/JYA 1 Term, Visiting/Occasional/JYA 2 Terms, or Visiting/Occasional/JYA Full Year
  • Exchange – categorised as Erasmus/Life Long Learning Programme outgoing, or Other Exchange outgoing
  • Course Title
  • Field of Study – the course is categorised into one of the ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) categories
  • Year of Study
  • Domiciliary of Origin – country of birth/ where you came from before studying in Ireland
  • County – current address by county
  • Postal Code – if county is Dublin, further refined by postal code
  • Residence – categorised as College Accommodation (includes off-campus), Not Specified, Other Accommodation, Own Home (house, apartment), Parental Home, or Rented Accommodation.

7.       How your information is used

Student demographic data are uploaded into the survey to reduce the length of the survey for you and to later facilitate anonymised high-level analysis after the survey is completed.

Your participation in this research, together with your individual responses to the questions, will be kept strictly confidential in the resulting database by the survey company.

Data that could be used to identify individuals (i.e. student ID, date of birth) are removed by the survey company before any data are returned to institutions or the national project. This means that only anonymised data are used for analysis.

The results of the survey will be used as follows:

  • Institutions will make use of this anonymous data to explore the experiences of different groups of students (for example, studying different subjects/ full-time or part-time students) to inform actions to improve the experience of their students.
  • Institutions and students’ unions will use the results to help them to identify what is working effectively and, also, how they can make improvements.
  • The central project management team produce a report of the findings of ISSE on an annual basis.
  • These results may include the text of any comments that students provide as part of the survey. You will be advised at the point of completing the survey to avoid making comments that could enable you to be individually identified, that name individuals or that make references that could identify an individual. Also, any information which could possibly identify an individual in the free-text responses is removed by the survey company before data are returned.
  • Occasionally a third party, e.g. a researcher, will apply for access to anonymised data collected through ISSE for research purposes. A high level group called the ISSE Steering Group, which represents the co-sponsoring organisations and the institutions participating in ISSE, considers each of these requests. Any additional requests to use the data will be considered by this group, taking account of the objectives and intent of the national survey project. In the case of an application being accepted, only anonymised and aggregated data will be released to that third party. They will also be required to sign a Data Sharing Agreement. This Steering Group also oversees general data protection and data respect policies for ISSE.

The results of the survey WILL NOT:

  • Identify any one individual student or small group of students
  • Be used for marketing
  • Be sold
  • Be passed on to any third party without the consideration and consent of the ISSE Steering Group.

8.       Data retention

ISSE will hold anonymised data indefinitely for the purposes of longitudinal analysis.

9.       The website

This website collects the bare minimum information from visitors’ devices (such as country). Comments are disabled by default so names, email addresses and similar data are not collected.

10.   Security

We are committed to ensuring that your personal data are secure with us and with the data processors who act on our behalf. We are continuously taking technical and organisational steps to better protect your information.

11.   Questions and Complaints

The ISSE co-sponsors are committed to continuously improving the ISSE. Should you have a question, comment and/or complaint about this research, please contact your local student union, local institution representative, or the ISSE project manager:

You may make a data protection request to the HEA Statistics Section. To make a Data Protection request to the HEA Statistics Section, you must:

  1. Apply in writing/email to make an appointment with the HEA Statistics Section.
  2. Present yourself at the HEA office with a photographic ID (Passport/Driving License).

You also have the right to submit a complaint to the Data Protection Commission.

Changes to this Privacy Statement

We will update this privacy statement from time to time.  Please visit this page periodically for updates. Updated on 26 February 2019.