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In the past, allocation of staff time in higher education institutions was often considered to be at odds with the important need for academic freedom. However, the study found that time allocation processes have evolved, and are becoming accepted as the norm across a large number of institutions in the sector.

The importance of an institution’s ability to demonstrate accountability for the funding it receives from various sources has grown. At a time when student expectations and resource challenges are increasing, institutions need processes to ensure a fair and equitable allocation of work.

Although time allocation processes can be seen by staff as onerous, the study found that for academic staff the average burden of recording time spent on activities  is approximately two hours per year.

Effective time allocation is a requirement to access funding from Higher Education Funding Councils, the Research Councils and the European Commission. The data also inform the Government’s funding policy and provide valuable information for consideration in government Spending Reviews.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Although there are many important issues to consider in designing a time allocation process, the communications supporting its implementation, operation and relevance are the factors with the greatest influence on its success.
  • It can be the case that academic staff do not appreciate the direct link made between the need for the time allocation process and the receipt of funding.
  • The average time taken by academic staff to comply with time allocation requirements was a little over two hours per year. This represents approximately 0.1 per cent of total academic staff costs.
  • A small number of opportunities are identified for reducing the apparent burden of time allocation processes, which could also further enhance the reliability of the information.
  • The current time allocation methods that are used in the full economic costing process are largely appropriate and in line with the recommendations from various studies in this area.

The report makes 12 recommendations. A number relate to enhancing the approach to time allocation, recognising that there is no one answer, and a range of institutional requirements. Other recommendations are for better communications, so that those being asked to provide the data have a clearer understanding of its purpose. There are also recommendations around further improving management information.

Professor Stuart Palmer, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, and Chair, TRAC Development Group, commented that:

‘There has been considerable debate in the HE community about time allocation. This report suggests that communications could be improved, so providers of time data understand why they are being asked to provide it. In addition institutions’ management information needs are increasing in this area, and I hope that the findings and recommendations in the report can help further enhance the sector’s practices.’