What is TRAC?

TRAC is an activity-based costing (ABC) system designed to measure the cost of delivering research, teaching and other activities in a higher education institution in a way that is appropriate in its academic culture.


What does TRAC do for us?

  • Additional funding for research

Both QR and fEC funding were increased to make research more sustainable.

  • Capital grants

TRAC evidence contributed to the case for reform of capital grants funding – leading to SRIF and Learning and Teaching Capital, and now the Capital Investment Framework.

  • Teaching funding

Funding councils in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have access to Subject-FACTS data which can help to ensure teaching funding is informed by real costs, and cost differentials.

  • Sustainability

TRAC helps institutional management to plan for stronger and more successful institutions.


What does TRAC do for funders?

  • Assurance

TRAC gives funders the assurance that institutions know their costs and can provide value for public investment

  • Accountability

TRAC helps funders to make the case for continued public funding.

  • Information for policy development

TRAC informs various policy initiatives and investigations including:

  • The reform of the dual support research funding
  • The use made of QR
  • The benchmark prices for teaching contracts with the Department of Health and Training and Development Agency for Schools
  • The costs of new types of provision (Widening participation, off-campus learning, employer engagement, partnership working)


What is fEC?

Full Economic Costing (fEC) is a methodology for calculating the full cost to an Institution of undertaking a project/activity in a sustainable manner. All direct and indirect expenses are identified which include costs for all staff working on the project (including PIs, technical and administrative staff), equipment (new items or charge-out rates for research facilities), consumables, travel, estates costs (University space used during project), central service department costs, utilities, depreciation, insurance and net Infrastructure adjustment.


Why is fEC important to us?

fEC allows us to quantify the total costs of our activities which is what the national funding councils want for accountability purposes and at the same time this enables us to received more money from them. This also allows improved cost recovery from other funders, thereby putting us in a stronger position to invest is necessary infrastructure and therefore attain long term sustainability.


Will all research projects be funded at fEC?

The proportion of fEC recovered depends on the sponsoring body:

  • Research Councils fund 80% of the fEC
  • Government departments should normally pay 100% of the fEC for non-competitive research projects
  • Commercial contracts are expected to pay 100% of fEC.
  • Charities and EU sponsors are likely to fund a proportion of the fEC, or alternatively may exclude some of the eligible costs from research proposals

Additional QR (RAE-related) grants are awarded by the SFC to subsidise the "funding gap" between the funds received and the actual cost of the research.


How can the University improve its long-term sustainability of its activities?

The TRAC guidelines suggest that Institutions need to do five things to achieve long-term sustainability:

  1. Establish and recognise the full economic costs of all activities
  2. Manage its activities strategically
  3. Secure better prices for research from sponsors
  4. Improve project management and cost recovery
  5. Invest in the University’s infrastructure


Why is it necessary to fill in Time Allocation Schedules?

The University has current information on individual staff salaries and the total annual salary costs. However, a key part of calculating individual project/activity costs on a fEC basis is obtaining specific data on how staff allocate their time between teaching, research and other activities. This information can then be used in conjunction with the salary details to calculate the actual allocation to each project/activity. In addition, the relationship between core and support drives the calculation of the institution's indirect cost rate which we charge to forecast the full cost of research projects.


Will all staff have to fill in time allocation schedules?

No, only academic members of staff are required to fill in the time allocation schedules mainly because the academic staff time makes up the largest single element of costs in the accounts. To determine where this significant resource is being directed, a process of robust allocation of academic effort is essential.


How often will I be asked to provide this information?

Guidelines for TRAC require time allocation data to be collected at least every 3 years.