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.