Review of Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC)

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The scope of a review into the effectiveness of the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) system has been agreed.

TRAC is a UK wide, activity-based costing system. It is designed to collect consistent, periodic and high-quality data on the costs of higher education research, teaching and other activities at universities.

It was established in 1998, designed with the higher education sector, and since then has evolved alongside sector developments.

The scope has been agreed by:

  • Office for Students (OfS)
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • higher education funding bodies for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The OfS, UKRI, and the higher education funding bodies for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will work collaboratively to oversee this review through the Regulators and Funders (Financial Sustainability) Group. This follows the announcement made in September 2020 for UKRI to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

Improving the TRAC system

The review will focus on understanding the burdens associated with the TRAC system and to evaluate this in relation to its benefits. It will aim to identify improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the system in meeting the needs of the multiple stakeholders and users.

The review will look at ways to provide better information and utility from the TRAC system that can support higher education providers in delivering high quality teaching and research. It will encourage efficiency and value for students and taxpayers.

A key element of this review will be the engagement of the many interested stakeholders. It will seek to understand the information needs of stakeholders and any concerns that they have about burden. Conscious of the pressures facing higher education providers at this point in time we will ensure that any engagement is timely and necessary.

Project delivery

The joint UK funders and regulators have appointed KPMG to deliver this review. KPMG will make recommendations on how burden could be reduced while enhancing the benefits of the TRAC activity-based costing system.

The aim is to complete the review by June 2021.

The Regulators and Funders Group will oversee this review. Key membership of this group includes the following:

  • Nolan Smith, Director of Resources and Finance, OfS
  • Neil Phimister, Director of Risk and Assurance, UKRI
  • Bethan Owen, Deputy Chief Executive, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • Lorna MacDonald, Director of Finance, Scottish Funding Council
  • David Rooney, Head of Quality and Governance, Higher Education Division, Department for the Economy, Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland.

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