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Funding assurance programme

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

Currently, we have suspended all assurance assignment visits to research organisations due to COVID-19 restrictions. If visits have been planned, we will 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, using teleconference and video conference facilities as needed.

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

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.

The most research-intensive research organisations should expect assurance activity approximately every three years.

UKRI and the Office for Students have signed a collaboration agreement confirming how the two organisations work together on shared priorities across research and teaching. The collaboration agreement establishes protocols for sharing information related to TRAC compliance and governance.

Dispensation

The threshold at which higher education institutions (HEIs) are eligible for dispensation from the need to comply with the full transparent approach to costing (TRAC) requirements is £3 million per annum of publicly-funded research income, calculated as a five-year rolling average. Being eligible for and applying dispensation reduces the administrative burden of TRAC for HEIs that have low levels of publicly-funded research, but applying dispensation is an institutional decision. Being eligible for dispensation does not preclude HEIs from deciding to fully comply with TRAC-requirements and to calculate their own rates.

HEIs that are eligible for, and claiming dispensation, while being required to submit annual TRAC returns for accountability purposes, do not need to comply fully with all the requirements of TRAC. Institutions eligible for, and claiming dispensation:

  • do not have to obtain time allocation data robustly from academics (for example, heads of academic departments could provide this information)
  • do not need to identify space usage robustly across the whole institution
  • do not need to take into account the type of space when allocating space costs
  • are not permitted to calculate and apply laboratory technicians and research facility charge-out rates
  • do not need to calculate staff full-time equivalences robustly
  • should apply the lower of their own indirect charge-out rate, or the dispensation indirect charge-out rate, to research council and other government department cost-based research projects
  • should apply the lower of their own estates charge-out rate, or the dispensation estates rate, to research council and other government department cost-based research projects.

For more information about dispensation, read Annex 1.2b of the TRAC guidance.

The dispensation rates are updated annually and are set at the sector lower quartiles, which for 2020-21* are:

Indexed rate expressed as £ per staff FTE (based on 2018-19 data indexed for two years) TRAC upper quartile rates for the sector TRAC lower quartile rates for the sector
Indirect cost rate £55,650 £45,662
Laboratory estates rate £15,696 £10,258
Non-laboratory estates rate £8,715 £5,658

(Information published 1 July 2020)

*The 2020-21 dispensation rates are applicable immediately from the date of publication until they are replaced with the 2021-22 rates in spring/summer 2021.

Full economic costing (FEC) rates

Independent research organisations, research institutes and public sector research establishments can use dispensation rates (if they meet the eligibility criteria set out above) or can calculate their own rates for validation by UKRI Funding Assurance.

Further Information

You can find further guidance on transparent approach to costing and full economic costing in the TRAC guidance available on the TRAC website. Historical guidance is available from the TRAC guidance archive.

Annual TRAC 2018-19: sector summary and analysis by TRAC peer group data are published by the Office for Students.

For further information on the dispensation rates and eligibility to apply them, contact Andrew Dicken on 01793 413 224 or email: andrew.dicken@ukri.org

Contact the TRAC support unit on trachelpdesk@kpmg.co.uk or phone 0115 935 3400 for information on the quartile rates.

Last updated: 27 October 2020

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