Some clarification, new information and new developments have emerged since I posted about HESA’s gender statistic fail yesterday.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is currently revising a number of data collection fields. The changes are not yet set in stone.
Two new fields (student.SEX and student.GENDERID) will effectively replace the one existing field (student.GENDER) which is currently used to collect data on gender within higher education institutes (usually universities) in the United Kingdom.
The existing student.GENDER field has the following categories*:
In regards to “Indeterminate”, HESA note that:
“Code 9 ‘Indeterminate’ means unable to be classified as either male or female. It should not be used as a substitute or proxy for ‘Not known’. The term ‘indeterminate gender’ is intended to identify those who are ‘intersex’ and is not related in any way to trans-gender.”
However, in practice a number of institutions have effectively mapped answers such as “other” and “prefer not to say” onto this third category within enrolment/re-enrolment forms in order to provide non-binary, genderqueer, intersex and other students to effectively “opt out” of the gender binary.
The new, compulsory student.SEX field has the following categories:
The new, optional (for institutions) student.GENDERID field has the following categories:
98 Information refused
A brief analysis of the harm in these changes can be found in my previous post.
It appears that HESA have received a number of queries and complaints from trans people: it’s uplifting to see so impressive and rapid a response!
The agency initially responded by noting that the changes were the result of “consultation with [the] HE sector and ECU“. Commentators noted that this consultation seemed to at no point involved actual trans students.
However, in the last hour HESA have provided the following statement from their Twitter account:
“Thanks for queries re. sex and gender in next year’s HESA record. Your input will help us get this right.”
The tweet links to correspondence conducted between HESA and trans activist Emma Brownbill – if you have the time, it’s worth a read!
Some key points include the following:
“The phrase ‘legal’ sex is only currently used in the Staff Record. The intention in the Staff Record is to match the data requirements of HMRC, which for tax and pension purposes only accept Female or Male.
The final coding manual and guidance for the Student Record in 2012/13 has not been published. From your own and other queries about the provisional guidance and consultation documents it is clear that the terminology of ‘legal’ sex may not be appropriate for the Student Record.
Similarly the binary choice of Female or Male, originally intended to match the Staff Record, is now the subject of further discussion with regard to the Student Record.”
So let’s keep at this – we’re really getting somewhere!
Also, thanks to everyone who commented on the previous post, your contributions were greatly appreciated.
Edit: the story has now hit Pink News.
*The numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 9, 98) are used within statistical analyses.