Universities and Colleges

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Scottish Universities and Colleges[edit]

A summary of open data provision by Scottish Colleges and Universities. Part of the larger Data Sources section.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency publishes a range of potentially useful-looking Open Data under a CC-BY-4.0 licence. This is data about institutions, courses, students, etc - and not data published by the institutions themselves.

Universities[edit]

Below is a list of the fifteen Universities in Scotland.

Organisation URL Datasets Type Notes
University of Aberdeen URL 331 O
Abertay Uni URL 20 O Copyright Elsevier?
University of Dundee URL 50 O
Edina (Edinburgh Uni) URL 1210 O
University of Strathclyde URL 1070 O
UBDC (Glasgow Uni) URL 1033 0
  • Glasgow Caledonian
  • Heriot-Watt
  • Napier
  • Queen Margaret
  • Robert Gordon Uni
  • St Andrews
  • Stirling
  • University of Highland and Islands
  • University of West of Scotland

The following comments date from Feb 2020 unless specifically noted as later.
Abertay in a rather confusing page notes that

“Universities are therefore not generally required, under current information legislation, to participate in the Government’s Open Data initiative.”

It does link via several hops to what it says is open data (above) but is on a webpage with a universal “Copyright 2020 Elsevier BV” footer. Similarly it links via intermediate pages to the UniStats website which refused to load for me on the first day I looked at it. A day later, and it was back online. There appeared no way to find out what data it had, for example on Abertay, nor to download it as data, and, of course, no open licence for re-use although it was possible to request to re-use certain bits of data. Herriot-Watt Uni had almost exactly the same page pointing to the same web pages off site.

Aberdeen University has a page Open Data At The University of Aberdeen. But this is a policy doc not a list of data published. Pages such as these are frustrating as they lack any dates of publication or updating, so one can’t tell if this was introduced since the last review. (This page has vanished Aug 2020)

Queen Margaret University have a eData repository but the site is silent on the licensing of the data and any attempts to download any of the data to assess it (eg this failed with a single page listing the number of files and byte size but no way to access the data.

In searching for any open data published by the Robert Gordon University, while I found no open data, I came across this gem from 2014. I had been interviewed for a research project in 2013 and was quoted as “E-Government Manager, Organisation A”:

E-Government Manager, Organisation A mentioned that “…there isn’t a cohesive approach from the Scottish Government at the moment and other councils” and that statement is also supported by the Web Manager of Organisation B who said “Scotland is a bit behind whereas you can in England, you have a central government and character approach to publish finances and they have to do that, there is no choice”.

Not much has changed in 7 years!

St Andrews University has some guidance on how to publish research data openly, but no sign of any data published about the operation of the University itself.

Stirling University, in a similar way to Abertay and QMU, a page on open data as part of its Publication Scheme. It lists some seven assorted external platforms on which researchers have published data. It also point to HESA, UniStats, and SFC for statistical data on students.

On searching for the University Of West of Scotland’s open data, I could find none.

What jumps out from this is where is the data about the day to day operation of each institution?

Further Education colleges in Scotland[edit]

There are listed below twenty FE colleges in Scotland. I have found no open data from any of them.

  1. Ayrshire College
  2. Borders College
  3. City of Glasgow College
  4. Dumfries and Galloway College
  5. Dundee and Angus College
  6. Edinburgh College
  7. Fife College
  8. Forth Valley College
  9. Glasgow Clyde College
  10. Glasgow Kelvin College
  11. Glasgow School of Art
  12. Leith School of Art
  13. New College Lanarkshire
  14. Newbattle Abbey College
  15. North East Scotland College
  16. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  17. Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  18. South Lanarkshire College
  19. West College Scotland
  20. West Lothian College

According to Ayshire College’s Guide to Information Nov 2018 you can request both their open data publication plan and the datasets themselves: “This information can be requested by email to – foi@ayrshire.ac.uk”! Needless to say, I did that. I received a reply on 27 March 2020 to say that the Open Data Publication Plan “has not been created or published and as a consequence is not currently available.”, and “These data sets, metadata and links are not currently available” and inviting me to respond. I did - pointing out that the above doc from 2018 is therefore erroneous and suggesting that they update it. * Update August 2020 * The doc is still there suggesting you ask for their open data plan and data. Go ahead! :)

City of Glasgow College has a publication scheme with a filename indicating it is from Dec 2019 - even if the doc is labelled 2017 - which at Class 9 (“Page 38 of 36”) shows clear intent to create a single point of entry for a range of data to which links are provided. At present the data is in reports and the licensing, where available is not open. But the ambition to do it right is clear.

Dumfries and Galloway College’s publication scheme uses a similar model. At the foot of page 2 states “The MPS set out eight broad classes of information” then lists nine classes. The section for class nine is missing from the end of the document.

Edinburgh College is quite clear:

“The College does not currently have an open data publication plan.”

Forth Valley College is also clear in a different way in 2016 that

“Pursuant to Section 27 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 please note that this information is intended for future publication within the next three months.”

Four years later and I could find no open data.

Glasgow Kelvin College goes into some detail about management reports without actually providing any open data. It does also link to the SFC which, under 2018-19, produces some PDFs and 5.8MB XLSX file which appear to be covered by their site-wide copyright. This file contains a great deal of data but navigation, and side by side comparisons don’t appear to be possible and even if data reuse were permitted, it looks like it would take some effort with locked sheet(s), hidden data ranges etc.

Glasgow School of Art publication scheme has a link to their ‘Open data policy,’ which isn’t that and doesn’t mention Open Data as such at all. There is also a link to RADAR their research portal. A quick search turned up no open data, but some references to papers about open access.

New College Lanarkshire in their Publication scheme (Feb 2019) gamely state that:

The College does not currently publish any datasets in relation to open data, but is currently reviewing where it may be able to do so in line with the Scottish Government’s open data strategy and the expectation that all public authorities will publish and release open data by 2017.

Similarly, the SRUC states in its undated publication scheme that:

By 2017, all public authorities in Scotland should be publishing their data in a format of 3 star or above. 3 star data is data which is made available online, with an open license, in an open and machine-readable format. SRUC is currently working on reviewing its data sets to ensure compliance with the Scottish Open Data strategy

South Lanarkshire simply have a blank line against open data in their publication scheme.

West Lothian College in 2018 takes a very similar position to New College and SRUC.

Of all the colleges, while none produces anything that might be classed as open data, and few have anything beyond intentions, perhaps City of Glasgow College not only comes closest, but does link to some sources of info and data.

In conclusion[edit]

Lumping universities and colleges together, one might expect properly structured and licenced Open Data on:

  • courses
  • modules
  • events
  • performance (perhaps some of this is on HESA and SFC sites?)
  • physical assets
  • environmental performance
  • KPI targets and achievements etc.

But I could identify none of that.



Errors and Omissions[edit]

If you spot an error - or missing data - please fork this repo and submit a pull request, as four others have kindly done!

Alternatively email me at ian@codethecity.org with an update.