Trac burden cut after Hefce review

Universities are to benefit from a reduced administrative burden in supplying information about their costs, but government pressure to give more of such data to students has met with a cool response.

April 30, 2013

Following a review and consultation, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Research Councils UK have agreed changes to the Transparent Approach to Costing (Trac), a survey that attempts to measure the full costs of research and teaching.

From 2013-14 the threshold at which higher education institutions will be eligible to claim dispensation from the need to comply with the full Trac requirements will increase from £0.5 million to £3 million.

This will enabling institutions “with low levels of publicly-funded research activity to benefit from a relaxation in how they implement and produce their Trac data”, Hefce said in a statement.

“This significant change will allow up to 60 institutions across the UK to benefit from reduced compliance requirements.”

The review was carried out by the Trac Review Group and aimed “to provide greater transparency for students and taxpayers, and reduce the administrative burden to universities of providing the information,” Hefce said.

The Trac development group will “lead a programme of improvements, including streamlining and enhancing Trac to better meet the information needs of [institutions], and to implement plans to provide new Trac guidance”.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said in relation to Trac in a recent speech at Hefce’s annual conference: “Let’s make good use of information. I want to see students provided with clear information about where their money goes and what they are getting for their fees, rather like those pie charts you get from your council explaining how your council tax has been spent.”

But Hefce said in its statement that the review group recommended Hefce should “reiterate its commitment not to publish individual [institutions’] Trac data and to publish only data aggregated at sector and peer-group level”.

The funding council added: “There was no evidence of demand for information on higher education providers’ costs from students or those representing student interests…There were strong arguments that the data were not helpful for students and that there were other, better sources of information.”

Steve Egan, Hefce’s deputy chief executive, said: “The proposals for future development of Trac will continue to provide robust information for universities and colleges while reducing burden and recognising the importance of information for students.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

"From 2013-14 the threshold at which higher education institutions will be eligible to claim dispensation from the need to comply with the full Trac requirements will increase from £0.5 million to £3 million." Just to be clear, the new threshold will apply for 2012-13 academic year TRAC reporting.

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