Full Costing

Due to rising non-generic funding, sustainable costing of research became important in the 1990s and the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) was established centrally in England.[1] It includes an annual reporting process (annual TRAC) on the basis of which indirect costs can be calculated as well as a full costing approach (TRAC fEC, introduced in 2004) in which these indirect costs are then added to direct and directly allocated costs in order to arrive at the full costs of a project.[2]

Research councils fund at a rate of 80 %, while other public non-generic funding is provided at 100 % of full cost. With regards to non-public funding, prices are negotiated individually or the funders have their own funding rules. However, TRAC fEC provides HEIs with knowledge about the full costs which they can take into consideration.[3] TRAC is said to have led to more sustainable financial arrangements and is being extended beyond research and the data collected is to be utilised for cost cutting.[4] However, there has also been criticism from research councils pointing out that projects have become much more expensive than predicted and academics complaining that their projects themselves do not seem to be better supported, but that the additional funding is ‘disappearing into the university’.[5] Third sector organisations simply refer to their mission statements in denying paying full costs and private sector companies try to use their negotiating power to cut prices.[6] There is thus a real, if residual, danger that private research is not funded at least at full cost levels and that public resources are, therefore, used to make up the difference.

  • [1] J M Consulting Ltd 2005 (last updated 2012), executive summary para 2 seq, Part I, sectionA para 1 seq, Estermann and Claeys-Kulik 2013, p. 51 seq; HEFCE (2015) History of TRAC.http://www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/finsustain/trac/history/. Accessed 5 August 2016.
  • [2] J M Consulting Ltd 2005 (last updated 2012), executive summary para 4 seq, 10 seq, 19 seq,Part I, section A para 1, 3 seq, 15 seq, 26, Part V, HEFCE (n 88). HEFCE has recently up-datedits TRAC Guidance which is available on: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/finsustain/trac/.
  • [3] See J M Consulting Ltd 2005 (last updated 2012), executive summary paras 5, 8, 10 seq, PartI, section A para 21 seq, 38, HEFCE (n 88), University of Sheffield (n 74).
  • [4] RCUK/UUK 2010, in particular, p. 4 seq and annex C; J M Consulting Ltd 2005 (last updated2012), executive summary para 8 seq, Part I, section A para 5 seq, Estermann and Claeys-Kulik2013, p. 52; HEFCE (2016) Current developments. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/finsustain/current/. Accessed 5 August 2016.
  • [5] Corbyn Z, ‘Cheques and balances’ THE (19 June 2008). http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=402420. Accessed 2 May 2009.
  • [6] Ibid. Some of these problems had already been foreseen shortly before the introduction offEC. See, for example, Williams 2004.
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