Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS) Platform Redesign: An Overview and an Update

September 15, 2022

We hope this finds you well. The following is offered to provide an overview and update regarding the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 HEADS Data Services Project.


During the 2019-2020 academic year, the Boards of Directors and Executive Committees (as appropriate) of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST), and the Trustees of the Council of Arts Accrediting Associations (CAAA), which includes the Presidents and Vice Presidents of NASAD, NASD, NASM, and NAST, explored and discussed the possibility of enhancing the current HEADS system to include the availability of longitudinal reports. Subsequent to these meetings, the National Office staff began work with representatives from our existing external third-party vendor, the same vendor that several decades ago created, and now maintains on an ongoing basis, the current system. At the conclusion of the period of comprehensive review conducted by the National Office staff and as advised by representatives of the third-party vendor, it was found that the platform upon which the then-current HEADS system was built was not sufficient to support desired changes, and that the programming necessary to create longitudinal reports within the current system 1) could not be confirmed to be or remain stable, and 2) would be cost prohibitive. It was also confirmed that, due to the age of the current system, ongoing maintenance and support could not be assured. It became clear that the then-current HEADS system would need to be replaced within 1-2 years if traditional operations were to be maintained, and more swiftly if longitudinal studies were to be made available to the memberships.

Redesign Purpose:

Given this reality, the National Office staff worked with staff members of the third-party vendor to design a system that would mimic the existing features of the HEADS Data Survey and HEADS Data Summaries, incorporate the features of HEADS Special Reports, and offer users the ability to create user-defined annual and multi-year reports populated by historical data collected through the HEADS Data Survey tool.

Original Timeline and Challenges:

These considerations and many others guided and informed the exploratory phase of the project. Work to design the new platform began in earnest upon the signing of a contractual commitment with the existing third-party vendor in September of 2020. Delivery of the redesigned but functionally similar HEADS Data Survey instrument to the National Office staff for review was slated for early fall 2021 with release for use on November 1, 2021. Delivery of the anticipated navigable dashboards to the National Office staff for review was slated for December 2021 with release for use in March of 2022.

Challenges have plagued the build of and migration to the new system. Among them include a change in the upper management of the third-party vendor during the winter of 2021, a breach of the vendor’s system resulting in the cessation of the project for six weeks during the spring of 2022, and, as experienced by many during these last months, an ebb and flow of available vendor staff support.

Planned Timelines:

At this time, delivery of the 2022-2023 HEADS Data Survey to the National Office staff for review is imminent; launch is anticipated on November 1, 2022. Many, but not all, of the issues experienced and evident in the 2021-2022 HEADS Data Survey have been addressed. Staff continues to work with the vendor to polish the HEADS Data Survey tool. Since September 1, 2022, all four navigable dashboards sets have been delivered to the National Office staff for review – the fourth just this week. Detailed feedback pertaining to two of the four sets in hand has been returned to the vendor; feedback pertaining to the third and fourth sets will be sent to the vendor within days.

We apologize for the delay in the provision of information regarding the HEADS Project. It is only at this time that the positive activity experienced would appear to indicate that prospects appear promising for the release of the navigable dashboards (Art/Design, Dance, Music, and Theatre) to the respective memberships.

The National Office staff will continue its work with the vendor to bring the new platform’s first year to a productive close. It is our hope that all 2021-2022 navigable dashboards populated with data from 2016 through 2022 will be made available this fall.

We look forward to the launch of the 2022-2023 HEADS Data Survey on November 1, 2022, and to providing the 2022-2023 navigable dashboards encompassing data from 2016 through 2023 by March of 2023.


Thank you for the feedback offered to date. Please do not hesitate to continue to share your ideas and observations with the staff.

We extend deepest appreciation to you for your kind patience and your continuing support as we work to polish this new system, one which we hope will be immensely helpful to the accredited institutional members of NASAD, NASD, NASM, and NAST.

Thank you.