TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) is the standard methodology used by higher education institutions in the UK for costing main activities, namely Teaching, Research and Other. The funding councils, research councils, the Training and Development agency for Schools, and Department of Health all use TRAC to inform their policy and funding requirements. It helps them to make the case to the government for the funding they manage, and more generally the existence of a consistent national costing system gives them reassurance about the good management of funds in higher education which is essential to their role in the continuance of such funding.
From 2005, as a result of the Government's reform of the dual support system for funding university research, all institutions applying for research council grants calculate TRAC full economic costs (fEC) of undertaking research projects. Under FEC methodology, all higher education institution in the UK are required to identify all direct and indirect cost for each research project.
When research grants proposals are prepared the costs are broken down into 3 types, namely: Directly Incurred and Directly Allocated and Indirect costs.
- Directly Incurred costs cover all expenditure directly incurred for the project and can include costs such as salaries of research assistants or project-specific technicians, equipment purchases, travel, consumable etc.
- Directly Allocated costs cover costs of services used by the project; where such services are shared by other activities and projects. DA costs can based on estimates or standards and can include: salary costs of investigators, pooled technician and other staff, charges for use of major or small research facilities.
- Indirect costs, which are the final cost type necessary to fulfil fEC research costing requirements, represent support costs for the project and include costs of central admin and support, use of space, insurance, depreciation etc.
The purpose of the Time Allocation Schedule Diary for Technical staff is to establish the proportion of time and thus cost attributed to Research under either the Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated or Indirect cost headings.
Completing a TAS Return
During each academic year, the University will ask all technical staff in academic departments to complete a series of time allocation schedules based on a randomly allocated week. The purpose of the survey is to gain robust estimates of time spent on Teaching (T), Research (R) and Other (O) activities. All staff who are required to complete TAS return will be asked to record activities relating to University business in a diary based timesheet (24 hours per day, 7 days per week). To facilitate the process of recording time, the Time Allocation Schedule Diary System was created and is made available at TAS Diary.
In order to submit data for the Time Allocation Schedule, staff should log into the Diary System using their University login and password. The Electronic Diary, which uses two worksheets to break down each day of the collection period into 15 minutes intervals, is equipped with drop down menus to assist in allocating time to the relevant TRAC activity and category.
- Activity Classification
The TAS return requires you to allocate time spent on university business during each reporting period across the three pre-determined activities (T/R/O) and then to various sub-categories.
Please note that only time spent on university business should be recorded.
What is TAS Tech?
TAS Tech is an online based diary system for technical staff used to:
- Collect information on staff activities across teaching, research and other categories in accordance with the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) guidelines.
- Ensure that the University of Aberdeen complies with the audit requirements of research funders and government.
Why TAS diary system was introduced?
Under TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) the University is required to record all technical staff activity across teaching, research and other categories. Furthermore, time spent in support of research must be further allocated across Directly Incurred, Directly Allocated Infrastructure and Directly Allocated Pool categories. This technician activity information was previously gathered by means of an annual survey, which has not proved to be sufficiently robust to provide information to the degree of accuracy required.
Do all technicians have to complete the survey?
All technicians other than those in central departments (IT and Estates) will be required to use the system. The staff groups excluded from using the system have been identified as permanently assigned to one specific category. They were also excluded from the previous annual survey. Therefore, the survey should be completed by all technical staff in academic departments. We have defined the group to be surveyed at the University of Aberdeen by the nominal codes to which the costs are charged.
How often must I complete a timesheet?
The method of data collection samples small group of technicians each week. The data collected will be used at an aggregated level so we are looking for a representative sample across the whole group rather than at individual level. Currently each technician is allocated with 3 weeks (one week in term, exam and non-term periods) in each financial year (Aug-Jul).
Where is the link to the TASTech Diary and what's my login and password?
Here is the link to the TASTech Diary, and to log in you use your standard University network login details, i.e. the first login ID and password you use each day.
How long will it take to complete a timesheet?
The TAS Tech was introduced to ensure that the University has a system in place which will allow us record the percentage of activity time spent on Teaching, Research and Other and to justify the expenditure on technician time which we are claiming on project funded by the Research Councils.
The diary is designed to allow efficient data input and in the vast majority of cases the burden of keeping the diary should be minimal. The system is equipped with a range of features designed to assist with the completion process; these include intuitive drop down menus, “As above” or “Set of Annual leave” functions etc.
Will all time have to be accounted for?
Only time spend on activities relating to University business should be recorded.
What should I put for Holidays, Bank/Local Holidays and University Closure Days?
You should record your normal daily contractual hours under the “Authorised Leave” Category in the “Other” menu (for most full time employees this will be 7 or 7.5 hours) for each day that you are recording as either local/public holiday, holiday or university closure day in your allocated week.
What if I am already keeping paper timesheets due to EU project commitments? Do I now have to complete both?
As the EU projects timesheets have their own specific format, in the majority of the cases you will be required to complete both. However the Tech TAS Diary system is set up with a specific activity relating to European projects that you can record time for.
What happens to the information stored in the system?
The information on the system will be securely stored in accordance with Data Protection Act requirements. The information is being gathered only for the purpose of satisfying FEC guidelines. The data obtained from the survey will be aggregated and used to assign technical staff activity across teaching, research (directly incurred, directly allocated infrastructure, directly allocated pool) and other categories as part of the annual TRAC return and to calculate the rate to be included for technical support by the University of Aberdeen.
Questions and Helpdesk
We will be pleased to respond to any queries. Please contact us by email or phone.