HEFCE has agreed with Research Councils UK a change to dispensation compliance requirements. From 2013-14 (i.e. reporting on academic year 2012-13) the threshold at which higher education institutions (HEIs) 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 significant change will allow up to 60 institutions across the UK to benefit from reduced compliance requirements.
The Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) is an activity-costing methodology which has been used by UK HEIs since 2002. The purpose of the review, which was carried out by the TRAC Review Group, was to provide greater transparency for students and taxpayers, and reduce the administrative burden to universities of providing the information.
HEFCE welcomes the Review Group’s report and endorses its recommendations. We have asked the TRAC Development Group to lead a programme of improvements to better meet the information needs of HEIs, and to publish new TRAC guidance to make it easier and more efficient to complete TRAC returns.
TRAC will be streamlined in a number of ways:
The TRAC Review Group recommended that HEFCE should reiterate its commitment not to publish individual HEIs’ TRAC data and to publish only data aggregated at sector and peer-group level. The sector strongly supported this proposal.
HEFCE does not plan to combine annual TRAC and TRAC for teaching (TRAC(T)) reporting in a single return at this stage, but will explore options for combining annual TRAC reporting with the Annual Accountability returns.
There was no evidence of demand for detailed information on higher education providers’ costs from students or those representing student interests, including the Quality Assurance Agency’s Higher Education Student Advisory Board and the National Union of Students. There were strong arguments that the data were not helpful for students and that there were other, better sources of information.
HEFCE is committed to ensuring that the information needs of students are met in a way that is clear, helpful and user-friendly. We have invited HEIs, the National Union of Students and sector bodies such as the British Universities' Finance Directors Group and the Higher Education Statistics Agency to work with HEFCE’s Financial Sustainability Strategy Group to secure better use of financial and non-financial data about the higher education sector and HEIs, and to develop good practice in presenting and publishing information for students and taxpayers.
Steve Egan, HEFCE Deputy Chief Executive, said:
‘We welcome the outcome of the review and the constructive and positive engagement from universities and colleges. 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.’
Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of Research Councils UK, said:
‘We are pleased to have worked with HEFCE and the higher education sector on the review of TRAC. In driving efficiency, the streamlining of TRAC underpins our commitment to working with HEIs to design processes that do not present a significant burden but are efficient, effective and useful.’
Dame Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chair of HEFCE’s Financial Sustainability Strategy Group and member of the TRAC Review Group, said:
‘The review of TRAC has given us the opportunity to consider whether costing information may be useful to students. We did not find any strong demand for detailed cost information. The HE sector will keep this under review.’
Professor Stuart Palmer, Chair of TRAC Development Group and member of the TRAC Review Group, said:
‘We look forward to improving and streamlining TRAC, and to developing and simplifying the TRAC guidance to reflect the new requirements.’