Student Loans Company

March 30, 2007

In case anyone from the Student Loans Company reads this, let me explain something.

A file of data in comma separated values format (CSV) is just that: a text file containing data items separated by commas, one record per line. On a MS Windows machine it is conventionally named with a file extension of .csv, for example student.csv. Here is a sample of some student data in CSV format showing surname, student number, date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd style):


If you are running MS Windows and if you have MS Office installed, files with the .csv extension are associated with the Excel spreadsheet application. That is to say that if you double-click the file’s icon, the application used to open the file will be Excel. This does not mean that the file is in “Excel format”, only that the file is in a format that Excel understands.

Furthermore, if one or more of the data items in the file looks like a date, Excel is clever at recognising them and will display them in your chosen date format, whatever its format actually is in the file. For example the file might have the date as 2007-03-30, but Excel will display it as 30/03/2007 if that is the format you have chosen for dates. Thus you cannot rely on Excel to show you exactly what is in the file.

Even furthermore, if you open the file in Excel and then save it under new name (providing that you keep the .csv extension), the dates in the new file will be in Excel’s display format. In other words it has changed what was in the original file.

The fact that a file is named with a .csv extension does not mean that you have to open file with Excel, even though that might be the default action on your Windows/Office PC. You are free to use any other application. If you don’t use Windows and/or Office you would have to use something else (yeah, alright, you could have Excel on a Mac). If you have a student records system that has been programmed to read such a file, it can do that without you having to open the file in Excel and save it again, and hence without having Excel mess with the date formats.

So if you write a specification for a data transfer file in CSV format and in that document you specify a format for the date items, you can’t trust Excel to tell you if you got it right in the final output. You need a text editor, like Notepad, which doesn’t lie to you about the contents of your file. Try right-clicking the file, click Open With, then Choose Program…, then select Notepad from the list. Now you shall see the truth.

Is that clear?


2 Responses to “Student Loans Company”

  1. Michael Says:

    Hi! I am doing an interview for an Systems Administrators position supporting the SITS:Vision application, can you answer a few questions for me? Feel free to reply by e-mail if you dont want to publish the answers on the http://WWW...

    1. How does SITS:Vision integrate with UCAS in the University of Brighton environment. i.e. it is .csv files, XML documents or can it be defined by the 3rd level institution? Also what is the transfer method for data, is it Secure FTP or is a 3rd party B2B application such as WebMethods used.

    2. How is the e-Vision Portal published in the University of Brighton is it via IIS , do you know of any other web servers supported by SITS:Vision

    3. there are 5 modules that make up SITS:Vision are all these standard with the SITS:Vision solution or can businesses select which module(s) they require for there business?

    4. For the module S:V Programmes there is the ability to calculate module results, is it customisable depending on the grading techniques used in different institutions i.e. some instutions may use European baccalaureate while others may use Grade Point Averages.

    5. For the module S:V Students… does this enable self-registration by the student via a web portal? Also for invoicing does this get integrated with the institutions finacial applications and if so how? i.e. is it dependent on the financial application used e.g. if SAP or Oracle were used data maybe sent in different formats…..

    6. Under the module S:V System Tools workflow and Automation are named, can you give an example of how this is achieved. An example that I would imagine is for direct entry applications can these be automatically loaded via a spreadsheet to SITS:Vision

    7. What RDBMS are supported by SITS:Vision

    Thanks in advance!


  2. Here’s the stuff I don’t think is confidential:

    1. ODBC-Link, see UCAS don’t support file transfer any longer.

    2. Secret squirrel.

    3. Some are optional as stated by the product overview at

    4. Not my area, but I believe very customisable.

    5. Yes, self-registration is supported. Fee-wise, interfaces are provided for most common financial applications.

    6. Workflow: the most common example is course approval where several people or committees need to do certain things in a certain order to bring about a new course. Automation: how about student withdrawal, where statuses on several records may be affected, as well as fees, etc.

    7. Secret squirrel.

    Hope that helps some!


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