TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing)
Annually the University is required to make a TRAC return to the Office for Students and Research England. TRAC broadly analyses University costs and income, between:
- teaching activities
- research activities
- other income-generating activities
Here you can find useful definitions and examples of the three main TRAC Activities.
This analysis provides both the regulators and University with information on the financial sustainability of our activities. Another crucial output of TRAC is the setting of cost rates used for the pricing of most publicly funded research; i.e. TRAC has a direct impact on the amount of cost the University is able to recover from its externally funded research output.
SWARM data is a key input to the TRAC process as it enables academic colleague cost analysis between activities.
For the TRAC sign-off process, academic colleagues are requested to review their workload percentages for the current academic year (2022/23) and confirm that they are broadly representative of relative workload across the activity areas of teaching, research, other income-generating activity, and support for these duties. The signed-off percentage data is used to allocate salary and on-costs to activity categories for use in the TRAC process at discipline/department level. Signing-off SWARM data for TRAC does not impact workload allocations going forward in any way.
Using a simple submission page in SWARM, academics will be asked to select one of two options:
a) 'Submit my data': agree that their workload percentages are reasonably representative of how their time has been allocated during the 2022/23 academic year; OR
b) 'Query my data': query the percentages shown in the TRAC workload summary with their Faculty’s Workload Planning Administrator, if they believe there to be a substantial misrepresentation in their percentage allocation which requires correction. For TRAC purposes a substantial misrepresentation means that a change of 5% or more to at least two workload categories is required, noting that the total must always sum to 100%. If this option is chosen, the Workload Planning Administrator will work with the academic and Faculty management to correct the data so that option a) can then be selected to complete the TRAC sign-off process.
TRAC sign-off for the current academic year (2022/23) will open on 11 May 2023. Academics employed before 1st April 2023 will be emailed on that date to remind them to review and sign-off their workload percentages.
• Click here to login to SWARM using your normal university username (abc123 format) and password.
• SWARM will open on your 'Home' page. Click on the blue box 'Go to the TRAC submission page' to go straight to the TRAC tab which shows your workload percentages and allows submission of your data.
• Alternatively, clicking on 'My details' displays both the Workload tab (in which you can view your workload hours) and also the TRAC tab, so that you can easily move from one to the other. If you cannot see the TRAC tab, please contact your Faculty Workload Planning Administrator.
• Once you have reviewed your data, on the TRAC tab please select 'Submit My Data' if you agree that your workload percentages shown in the summary are reasonably representative of how your time has been apportioned during the current academic year (2022/23).
• If, however, you feel there is substantial misrepresentation in the percentages, you can select 'Query My Data'; this will open a blank email addressed to your Workload Planning Administrator in which you can alert them to the data requiring amendment for TRAC purposes. For TRAC purposes a substantial misrepresentation means that you require a change of 5% or more to at least two workload categories, noting that the total must always sum to 100%. Once the data has been amended by the Workload Planning Administrator you will be asked to login to SWARM once more and then select 'Submit My Data'.
Below are a series of frequently asked questions related to TRAC. Should you experience any issues with the sign-off process or have any further questions please contact your Workload Planning Administrator, details of which can be found on the contact us page.
TRAC rules require us to analyse our costs (as published in our financial statements) by activity (teaching, research and other income-generating) for reporting to regulators (the Office for Students and Research England) and to enable research pricing mechanisms for public funders. To do this we need information on how academic colleague time is spent across those activities so that we can apportion colleague costs to activity appropriately. For more information on TRAC and costing, click on the University Costing Insight link on the Finance webpage.
Workload data in SWARM is a convenient source of data to provide this activity analysis; if we didn’t use SWARM data we would have to ask academic colleagues to complete time allocation surveys each term. However, SWARM is primarily a workload planning tool, and TRAC requires analysis of how time (and therefore cost) was actually spent each year. TRAC also requires audit evidence of all data inputs. Therefore, towards the end of each academic year, we ask academic colleagues to review their workload plan for that year and confirm, by sign-off, that it broadly reflects their proportional actual workload, so that there is an audit trail to assure the regulatory review has taken place and that the data used in apportioning costs by activity is reasonably accurate.
TRAC uses SWARM data to apportion salary costs across headings (teaching, research, other income-generating activities, and support for those activities). It is a mathematical exercise which therefore requires a means to split 100% of salary cost across activities, hence the need for percentage workload data.
No. The TRAC sign-off is a separate exercise to usual in-year workload planning and management practices – it is just the most convenient way to capture data on academic activity required for regulatory reporting, without adding to academic burden by asking you to complete separate termly time allocation surveys.
TRAC is fundamentally a mathematical costing exercise which requires us to allocate colleague cost across activities.
As an example, for an academic with a salary of £50,000, we need to allocate 100% of this cost to the activities which have been carried out by that colleague. The cost would be £50,000 regardless of whether this colleague actually worked 1650 (“standard” or “target” hours) or, say, 2000 hours. We cannot allocate more or less than 100% otherwise we would not be allocating the correct cost of £50,000.
This is the mathematical TRAC view, which of course does not address the management issue around the fact that 2000 is considerably higher than 1650 target hours and the related concerns over recognition, equity and wellbeing. These concerns are addressed through University workload management processes.