Data policy and protocols

Data protocols

Under its contractual obligations, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) is responsible for the circulation of research findings and survey results of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY). In fulfilling its contractual obligations, NCVER adheres to the following principles:

  • to contribute to the improvement of the quality of information gathered to ensure that they are suitable to support research;
  • to observe the highest professional standards;
  • to protect the privacy of individuals and suppliers of information;
  • to disseminate data in ways that are transparent and aid better decision making in key policy issues and priorities;
  • to support external data users; and
  • to uphold the credibility and independence of NCVER.

NCVER staff are bound by protocols covering the privacy and confidentiality of data and the release of information. On appointment, staff are required to sign an undertaking which gives effect to these protocols. External data users are also required to show how they will comply with the protocols before access to unit record data is granted.

Privacy and confidentiality protocols

The purpose of these protocols is to allow statistical analysis to be undertaken using NCVER data holdings - LSAY - in a way that protects the privacy of persons and organisations about whom information is held.

  • Information about persons and organisations is held in NCVER data holdings at unit record level. It is necessary to collect the data at this level so that it can be disaggregated in different ways to meet the needs of policy makers, researchers and other data users.
  • Access to NCVER data holdings at unit record level is permitted to staff and contractors of NCVER via a secure computer server. Staff and contractors are also required to sign an undertaking regarding appropriate usage of data.
  • External users are only granted access to NCVER data holdings at unit record level where they have demonstrated to the satisfaction of NCVER that they have a research interest in information at this level and that the data would be securely protected. External users must also sign an undertaking to preserve the confidentiality of the records. More information about data restrictions for external users are detailed in the next section.
  • NCVER data holdings do not contain the names or addresses of persons. The names of schools and training providers are also excluded from NCVER data holdings of LSAY information.

Protocols covering release of information

The key objective here is to aid better policy making and practice in the transitions of young Australians and promote more informed choices on the part of students and parents. In principle the data should be fully accessible to all users and information provided in a way that suits a variety of user needs, so long as access is consistent with the privacy and confidentiality protocols.

  • Any person or organisation with an interest in the transitions of young people and longitudinal data may request information from NCVER and use this information publicly, provided that the source is properly acknowledged.
  • In its publications NCVER will ensure appropriate clarification, explanations and caveats are included to promote understanding and interpretation. However, it is a generally accepted principle of research that the possibility of misinterpretation should not be used as a reason for suppressing or withholding information.
  • The release of confidentialised unit record files for external users is to be managed through the Australian Data Archive (ADA) and NCVER. Any published work based on the data provided must acknowledge the source of the data and include a clause that the views expressed can be attributed only to the authors.

Protocols covering data restrictions

External users are also bound by the following protocols covering data restrictions on use of LSAY data:

  • Data is restricted for research purposes only and is not to be used for commercial or financial gain.
  • LSAY data users must also agree to refrain from reporting student achievement information by school sector for the 2003 and 2006 cohorts. This reflects permission requirements agreed at the time the data were collected.

Further conditions of use are outlined in the LSAY User undertaking form which is available from the ADA LSAY information page.


As the national agency for Australian vocational education and training statistics, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) strives to ensure the accuracy of its published statistics. To promote this public confidence, NCVER has put stringent quality assurance procedures in place. These comprise the following elements.

Resolution of data queries

NCVER thoroughly reviews data before using it for any output. We also raise any queries directly with the field contractors, document any revisions made, and can replicate these changes if required.

Automation of data output

NCVER produces its regular statistical output and most data requests without having to manually manipulate data. This process reduces the possibility of human error. We have developed carefully checked software codes and data cubes to provide these services.

Cross-checking of data output before release

NCVER cross-checks all data before it is published. A person other than the originator of the data always cross-checks the output and signs it off as appropriate. Where possible, we also cross-check data using different means from those used to generate it initially.

Documentation of sources, concepts and caveats

NCVER gives information in all publications on how the data were collected and what they cover, defines key terms and notes any issues.

NCVER encourages staff and users to report errors in its published statistics if they do occur. We then correct the public record as soon as possible and review our quality assurance procedures to prevent the error recurring. Specifically, we undertake the following measures:

  • revise any publications and tables on the NCVER website and clearly indicate where publications or supporting tables have been changed;
  • include an erratum with remaining hard copies;
  • advise relevant stakeholders and, where necessary, issue a media release to correct the public record; and
  • institute an internal review to identify how the error occurred and refine our quality assurance arrangements as necessary.