Finance Division


TRAC : Transparent Approach to Costing and FEC : Full Economic Costing

Annual TRAC

Annual TRAC is a system that takes the costs from the audited annual financial statements, and then attributes them between four activities:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Other (includes consultancy and student residences)
  • Support

Support activities cover central services, information services, estates, two cost adjustments, and Support activities carried out in academic departments. Support costs are then attributed to the three main activities. All costs are attributed to academic departments. These attributions are made through robust cost drivers, such as staff time surveys, reviews of estates use, staff numbers and student numbers.

All universities must submit an annual TRAC return to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in order to provide information to the Government on the full economic costs of teaching, research and other activities. The UK funding councils require all universities to allocate annual costs across the range of activities that they undertake. 

TRAC provides a valuable and influential source of data which informs the decisions of Government concerning funding for research in higher education

Academic Time Survey

In order to comply with the TRAC costing methodology, all Universities are required to carry out a time survey across all their eligible academic staff (All Academic staff on 'AT' grades, i.e. those who potentially undertake a mixture of teaching and research are required to complete the survey). The results obtained from this survey must be robust and representative as they form a key part of the calculation of FEC overhead rates. To facilitate the process of recording and analysing time, a staff time survey system has been created and made available through Sussex Direct, under the 'Personal' tab.

Information about these surveys, including definitions of time categories are available at:
Definitions of Staff time Categories [PDF 35.82KB]
Pro-forma Academic Time Survey form [XLS 30.50KB]

Queries about the time definitions should be directed to: Marc Eames (Resource Controller) Ext: 7989 Email: Technical problems using the Time Survey system should be directed to the I.T.S Sussex Direct Helpdesk Ext: 8090

TRAC - T (teaching)

Three main aims:

  • To enable higher education institutions (HEIs) to understand their own costs better, so that they can use cost information for planning, decision-making and management;
  • To inform HEFCE's allocation of funds for teaching;
  • To assist in understanding the total costs of sustainable teaching.

The Annual TRAC-T return is due to be return annually at the end of February each year to HEFCE.

The objective for institutions is to derive their full subject-related costs of teaching a typical student in each HESA academic cost centre at every institution. This is called Subject-FACTS (Subject-related Full Average Costs of Teaching a Student) This information is being benchmarked, and will therefore provide two valuable outputs:

  • For institutions, benchmarked costs of teaching across 41 HESA subject areas which provides management information to support (for example) planning, pricing and portfolio management, for both internal and external comparisons;
  • For HEFCE, information which will enable it to review the price group structure in its funding method for teaching, and if appropriate to develop new price groups and price group relativities, informed by the full economic cost of these subjects.

Full Economic Costing (FEC) and Project Costing and Pricing Tool (PCPT)

From 1st September 2005 all new research proposals must be costed on a consistent FEC basis.

All applications to external funding bodies for research funding (e.g. large project grants, research leave, fellowships, small grants, etc) must be costed using the Project Costing and Pricing Tool (this can be found via the Sussex Direct login, chosing the Research Tab and selecting Costing Pricing Tool) and authorised through the Research Pre Award team before they are submitted to the sponsor.

The PCPT has been developed because Universities are now required by HEFCE to provide a way of calculating the full economic cost of a proposed research project. The tool calculates the full cost of the project and, from that, the bid price to sponsors.

From 20th October 2008 A more streamlined process will operate for bids below £5,000 There will still be a need to record such bids via the PCPT.

PIs can do this in one of two ways; as shown in the Low value bids flowchart [PDF 30.86KB]

Overhead Rates

The research overhead rates are calculated at the same time as the TRAC and form part of the annual benchmarking return. The rates are applied from 1 February each year and reviewed /approved at the earliest opportunity by the Vice Chancellors Executive Group each year along with the TRAC benchmarking group.

They comprise the following and with the exception of major research facilities are a £ per FTE:

  • Indirect
  • Estates
    Non Laboratory
  • Technicians

The Major Research Facility is charged out using a suitable measure of activity.


The TRAC/FEC team are located in Sussex House, Room 207