HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 c435W
Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in developing a unique student identification number. [97488]

Mr. Wicks

The National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, chaired by Lord Dearing, recommended in July 1997 that works be undertaken over the medium term on the creation of a framework for data about lifelong learning, using a "unique student record number".

Since then a number of important developments have taken place—notably the introduction this term of a national system of "unique pupil numbers" to facilitate the statistical tracking of pupils through the school system. The potential for extending the use of the unique pupil number (or some alternative) beyond school needs to be reviewed, not only in relation to the Dearing recommendation, but also in the light of developments in post 16 education and training policy as a whole.

The contribution of a unique student record number to the creation of a framework of data on lifelong learning (the real aim of the Dearing recommendation rather than the unique student record number in itself) would however take a great many years to materialise, because the number could be used only to reference learning episodes occurring from that point on. As an interim measure, we are therefore carrying out a technical evaluation of the possibility of accumulating data on individuals' learning experience by means of so-called "fuzzy matching" based on (for example) names and dates of birth. This approach too has its limits, given the increasing incidence of name changes with age. The aim in the first instance is to cover learning up to age 21, with a view subsequently to extending that up to age 25.