Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC)
The Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC), introduced in 2000, is the standard methodology used by higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK for costing their activities. It was established as an approach to identifying the Full Economic Costing (FEC) of all activities to improve the accountability for the use of public funds and inform institutional decision making.
Full economic costs include direct costs plus a share of support costs, together with two sustainability adjustments to reflect the replacement cost of the institution's infrastructure and the return required for financing and investment.
Go to the HEFCE website for further information on TRAC.
Governance of TRAC
TRAC is governed through two tiers that cover high level areas of policy and its broader development.
Financial Sustainability Strategy Group (FSSG)
The FSSG is a high level forum established to consider the strategic, policy, cultural and technical issues around the use and development of TRAC.
Go to the HEFCE website for further information on the FSSG group.
TRAC Development Group (TDG)
The group considers developmental issues and supports the use of TRAC in understanding and managing financial sustainability.
Go to the HEFCE website for further information on the TDG group.
Go to the HEFCE website for detailed guidance for TRAC.
TRAC Support Unit
The TRAC support unit provides a range of support services for TRAC. KPMG has now taken over responsibility for running the TRAC Support Unit.
Go to the HEFCE website for further details of this service.
Annual TRAC data
TRAC data is collected annually from HEIs.
Our Call for Information SFC/CI/06/2016 requests data for 2015-16.
Our Call for Information SFC/CI/10/2015 requested this information for 2014-15.
Open TRAC 2014-15 [PDF].
Operating surpluses have improved for some institutions in 2014-15 due to one-off Research and Development Expenditure Credits (RDEC) from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) totalling £49.9 million being recognised in the financial statements. Universities were able to claim RDEC on 2012-13 and 2014-15 expenditure but are unable to claim on expenditure incurred after 1 August 2015. This has impacted on the TRAC figures for 2014-15.
The summary TRAC results for the Scottish HEIs (including the one-off RDEC income) can be found in Tables 1 to 4, which include comparison with the overall UK position.
The sustainability gap on tables 1 and 2 is derived from a comparison of the target surplus required to cover full economic costs against the actual surplus achieved by the sector in 2014-15. The sustainability gap in 2014-15 is 2.5% of income (4% if RDEC claims are excluded) compared with 3.9% in prior year.
Tables 3 and 4 show the recovery of full economic costs by activity. This indicates that, overall, the sector is recovering 97.5% of the full economic cost of its activities compared to 96.3% in the previous year. This is broadly in line with the UK position of 98% recovery (96.6% in the previous year).
Table 5 shows the build up of full economic costs from the two TRAC adjustments which are in line with last year.
Table 6 outlines research income and costs by research sponsor type. Overall, this shows an improvement in recovery of FEC on research activities from 81% in 2013-14 to 84.8% in 2014-15. Excluding the RDEC claims, the recovery rate would be 81.5%.
TRAC 2013-14 [PDF]
Margin for Sustainability
Further improvement is planned whereby the basis of the TRAC adjustments will move to an institution-specific measure called the Margin for Sustainability and Investment (MSI). Currently we expect the move to the MSI to happen for the TRAC reporting on academic year 2015-16.
MSI is derived from HEIs’ own assessment of sustainability and investment needs, and the method for deriving it has been designed and piloted by the HE sector as part of the FSSG’s work to develop an approach to assessing institutional sustainability.