Opening Pandora's box: implementing a standards-based approach to the management of course information in UK higher education

Gill Ferrell, Janette Hillicks


Course information lies at the heart of university and college business processes and providing information about learning opportunities to existing and prospective students is a fundamental part of delivering the business of higher education. Despite the essential nature of this information, the management of course data remains a complex, and costly, process and evidence suggests that prospective students find it difficult to access reliable information about certain types of provision.
Jisc has been working for some time on the development of common data standards to facilitate the exchange and presentation of this type of information (in particular through development of a standard for course advertising known as XCRI-CAP: eXchanging Course Related Information Course Advertising Profile which influenced the European Metadata for Learning Opportunities - Advertising standard).
From September 2011 through to March 2013 Jisc funded a sector wide programme, the Course Data Programme: making the most of course information, to support improved management of course information. 93 universities and colleges participated in stage one of the programme to review their readiness for standardising their approach to course information and to develop an implementation plan and 63 of those continued into stage two of the programme to implement their proposals and deliver 'feeds' of course information for external use. This paper looks at the experiences of those institutions in trying to make the most of one of their most important data assets.
At a casual glance, the scope of the programme may seem quite limited and strictly technical in nature. The requirement on HE institutions could be stated quite simply as:' The production of a machine readable 'feed' of course information in a standardised format'. This does however mask the considerable distance many universities and colleges needed to travel in order to be able to collate and present their data in this way. The overall intention of the programme was always to expose the wider issues around the management of course information and to offer a standards-based approach as a common way for the sector to move forward.
This paper focuses on techniques applied and lessons learned that may be of value to other EUNIS members and highlights open source products and guidance materials that are openly available for others to use.


advertising; archi; archimate; business process; course; data; data feed; enterprise architecture; information management; key information set; MLO-AD; modelling; process map; process improvement; standards; Unistats; XCRI-CAP

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Beetham H. (2009) Baselining the institutional processes of curriculum design. Report produced for Jisc. Available at

Ferrell, G. (2012a) JISC Course Data Programme: early experiences of implementing standardised course advertising information. Report produced for Jisc. Available at:

Ferrell, G. (2012b) Feast or famine: progress in implementing standardised course data feeds. Report produced for Jisc. Available at:

Higher Education Statistics Agency (2011) What is a Course? Report produced for Jisc. Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2012].

DOI: 10.7250/eunis.2013.031


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EUNIS 2013


ISBN  978-9934-10-433-6 - online