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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter asks institutions to submit their annual Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) return for 2008-09. Responses should be submitted via the HEFCE extranet (see paragraph 7) by Friday 29 January 2010. A separate letter will be issued in respect of the TRAC for Teaching return, which is required by 26 February 2010.

2.   Please note that we require a hard copy of your completed TRAC return, signed by the head of institution, in addition to submission via the extranet. The signed copy should be sent, also by 29 January, to Stacy Gwilliam at HEFCE, Northavon House, Coldharbour Lane, BRISTOL BS16 1QD.

3.   The template incorporates in a single return:

  • the annual TRAC reporting requirements
  • the charge-out rates for research collected on behalf of Research Councils UK (RCUK), which will be used by RCUK and institutions for benchmarking purposes.

4.   To help improve the quality of data submitted, automatic and self-validation checks are incorporated within the return. We also request a written commentary from institutions to explain data that falls outside the parameters set in the return and any material unusual movements when comparing their data with 2007-08.

5.   We would like to draw your attention to the TRAC pages on our web-site which provide an update on guidance and development of TRAC methodology and remind institutions of the key issues.

6.   In reporting these data, the head of the institution must review the return for reasonableness, confirm compliance with all TRAC requirements and that the institution's audit (or equivalent) committee of the Board has specifically confirmed compliance with all items on the checklist. Any areas of non-compliance should be immediately addressed and, where this is not possible, an action plan drawn up to address these areas in a reasonable timescale.

TRAC returns data for 2008-09

7.   A sample TRAC return form in PDF format, and the income allocation guidance and schedule (Annex 16), can be downloaded from the TRAC Guidance web-pages. Your institution's individualised template for completion of the TRAC data return should be downloaded and submitted through the HEFCE extranet. Details of how to access the extranet will be sent with a copy of this letter to your director or head of finance.

8.   We will treat the information provided as strictly confidential. We will report to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the sector aggregate TRAC return data only, which we expect to publish.

Freedom of information

9.   EFCE and RCUK are covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Act gives a public right of access to any information held by public authorities. In the event of a request for information contained in TRAC and/or RCUK returns, we have a duty to decide whether information should be released or treated as confidential. Requests must be considered on a case-by-case basis, and we can refuse to disclose information only in specific circumstances. Should we receive a request, we will give careful consideration to whether the release of this information would, or would be likely to, harm the commercial interests of institutions submitting the data.

10.   For further information about the TRAC reporting requirements, please contact your HEFCE assurance consultant. Details of all HEFCE contacts for your institution are on our web-site.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive

Date: 9 November 2009

Ref: Circular letter 25/2009

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland

Enquiries should be directed to:

Andrew Beazer, tel 0117 931 7223, e-mail

Laurie Haynes, tel 0117 931 7146, e-mail