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Funding Assurance Programme

UKRI Funding Assurance undertake assignments either as visits to research organisations or as desk-based reviews.

UKRI Funding Assurance continues to function as best as possible and we hope to be able to do so for the foreseeable future.  However, in the light of the extraordinary circumstances affecting the country at present, we are suspending all assurance assignment visits to research organisations. Where these have been planned, we are intending to convert these to desk-based reviews. This will replicate much of an assurance visit but will be conducted remotely.

We recognise that this will remove the opportunity for the face to face contact that can be so valuable for both parties, but circumstances make this impossible at present.  We will continue to arrange desk-based reviews with research organisations over the coming months, utilising teleconference and video conference facilities as required.

If there are specific circumstances at your research organisation that render it difficult to meet our proposed deadlines, we will treat these sympathetically. Otherwise, we will progress our assignments on a business as usual basis, as best we can.

The Funding Assurance Programme provides assurance to the UKRI Accounting Officer that public funds destined for research are properly safeguarded and used for the purposes intended by Parliament.

This is achieved by examining compliance with the terms and conditions which accompany research funding across four “pillars” of assurance:

  • Research Grants and Fellowships
  • Doctoral Training funding
  • Transparent Approach to Costing
  • Non-Financial terms and conditions

Enhanced scrutiny is afforded to the research intensive research organisations who should expect assurance activity approximately every three years.

The memoranda of understanding between the former bodies RCUK and HEFCE agreed a protocol for the exchange of institutional risk information. This is an efficient way of promoting institutional accountability and easing the regulatory burden on HEIs. 

The Funding Assurance has set the 2017-18 dispensation rates for use by eligible higher education institutions and independent research organisations.

    Independent Research Organisations:

    UKRI Funding Assurance is responsible for validating Full Economic Costing (FEC) rates for IROs who may either elect to use dispensation rates or their own, if validated by UKRI.

    For further information please see the Assurance Programme contacts in the contacts area.


    With effect from 2013-14 (i.e. reporting on academic year 2012-13), the threshold at which UK universities and colleges are eligible for dispensation from the need to comply with the full Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) requirements was increased to £3 million per annum of publicly-funded research income, calculated as a five-year rolling average. This reduced the administrative burden of TRAC for research organisations that have low levels of publicly-funded research.

    All Research Organisations are required to submit annual TRAC and TRAC(T) returns for accountability purposes, but those eligible for claiming dispensation are not required to comply with the following requirements:

    • Obtain time allocation data from academics (heads of department could, for example, provide this information)
    • Use more than four to six cost drivers to allocate indirect costs
    • Identify space use across the whole institutions
    • Calculate laboratory technicians and research facility charge-out rates, and apply these separately from estates rates
    • Calculate indirect costs rates and estates rates
    • Robustly calculate staff FTEs

    Eligible Research Organisations wishing to comply with full TRAC requirements may still do so.

    Since 2011 the dispensation rates have been set at the sector lower quartiles, which for 2019-20 are:

    Indexed rate expressed as £ per staff FTE

    Based on 2017-18 data indexed for two years

    TRAC upper quartile

    rates for the sector

    TRAC lower quartile

    rates for the sector

    Indirect cost rate



    Laboratory estates rate



    Non-laboratory estates rate



    Where a higher education institution has an indirect cost rate or estates rate above the upper quartile of the sector rates, or below the lower quartile of the sector rates, they may be requested by a sponsor to justify the rate. Dispensation rates continue to be set at the sector lower quartiles.

    Further guidance on Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) and full economic costs (fEC) project costing is provided in the TRAC guidance. 

    The TRAC guidance for 2018-19 submissions is available on the TRAC website: https://www.trac.ac.uk/tracguidance/

    (Previous guidance is available from the TRAC guidance archive: https://www.trac.ac.uk/tracguidance/archive/)

    Dispensation rates are issued by UKRI.  For further information on the dispensation rates and eligibility to apply them please see the UKRI web-site (https://www.ukri.org/about-us/policies-and-standards/funding-assurance-programme/) or contact Andrew Dicken on 01793 485074 or andrew.dicken@ukri.org.

    For further information on the quartile rates please contact the TRAC Support Unit at trachelpdesk@kpmg.co.uk or phone on 0115 935 3400.

    Applicable from 1 April 2019