Office for Students: Data Protection

Department for Education written question – answered on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether confidential personal information relating to (a) Higher Education personnel and (b) students may be provided by the Office for Students to (i) Pearson Limited, (ii) the HMRC, (iii) student loans company and (iv) other persons prescribed the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018.

Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Education)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018, what data the Office for Students will be able to pass on to trading standards (weights and measures); and for what purpose that data will be used.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Higher Education), Minister of State (Education)

The purpose of Section 63(4) is to enable the Office for Students (OfS) to provide information to other specified bodies for the purposes of their own important functions, such as investigating fraud. Section 63 does not place limitations on the type of information that may be provided, and therefore it could include personal data. These regulations allow data sharing, they do not oblige it. In practice, the OfS considers that it is unlikely that personal data would routinely be shared with non-government bodies under these regulations. They are in place for circumstances where the OfS or the organisation has identified serious concerns (such as fraud or malpractice) by a provider or its students.

The provision of any personal information must be in accordance with data protection legislation, (such as the General Data Protection Regulation) which imposes strict conditions on the processing of personal information.

We understand that the OfS will publish its collaboration agreements with other bodies on its website and these will set out how the organisations will work together and whether there is also a data sharing agreement in place.

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