The Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) is an activity-based costing system adapted to academic culture which provides information to help higher education providers understand the costs of their activities (teaching, research and other activities).
The system also provides information for the main public funders of teaching and research in the UK as well as government, government departments and the devolved administrations to inform policy and funding of teaching and research by providing information about the costs and the financial sustainability of activities, institutions and higher education provision.
TRAC records the full economic cost of all activities, including:
- direct costs (such as staff costs and equipment)
- support costs (such as IT, library and central costs)
- an adjustment (the margin for sustainability and investment) to reflect the full economic cost of sustaining activities.
Higher education providers in England that were previously funded by HEFCE, and higher education institutions funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland), are required to submit an annual TRAC return by 31 January each year. Annual TRAC returns are prepared in accordance with the TRAC requirements as set out in the TRAC guidance in order to ensure consistency across providers.
Further education colleges and alternative providers are not required to submit TRAC data.
TRAC data for 2016-17 was collected by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of Research Councils UK and UK Research Councils, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland). These bodies are co-owners of the data, with the Office for Students and UK Research and Innovation.