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About the University's Time Allocation Survey (TAS)

The University is required to provide data to the government about the resources used in its various activities. This goes under the heading of TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) and applies to teaching and research.

The UoE's approach to gathering data for its TRAC returns is the Time Allocation Survey. It has to be filled in three times a year by all academic staff (with a few exceptions). This online survey is accessible through the University's MyEd portal, or by clicking here. If you click on the link to complete the TAS and you see the message "You have no Time Allocations to complete" it is safe to assume that you do not need to complete a TAS form.

Information about the survey is available here.

In addition to the information provided in the above link, an 'executive summary' is contained in the email sent to all academic staff by April McMahon, VP for Planning and Resources in late November 2009:

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to thank you for your cooperation in helping the University reach (and in many cases, exceed) its targets in the last round of TAS returns.  As you will know, the TAS data collected is an essential component of the University of Edinburgh's TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) model, which is used to calculate the cost of university activities. The TRAC model is used to calculate the full Economic Cost (fEC) rates to be applied in the costing and pricing of research grants and contracts. It is crucial that the inputs to TRAC, such as TAS, are robust so that the costs of research are not under or over-estimated and therefore the University achieves a sustainable level of research funding. Moreover, TAS data are also used in TRAC for teaching (TRAC T), a return made to the Scottish Funding Council  that discloses the full economic cost of teaching activity at the University. We have been returning data on TRAC T for three years in a pilot, voluntary exercise, but this return will be compulsory for Scottish HEIs from next year. The TRAC T data is being used as evidence in the review of the SFC Teaching Funding methodology which will result in a remodelling of the existing Funding Subject groups. Thus, again, it is crucial that the TAS data is robust to ensure the costs of teaching are not over or under estimated.

In 2007-08, the Research Councils carried out a rigorous Quality Assurance process on the methods used by universities to calculate their fEC rates. Universities not demonstrating robust methodologies, or falling short of QA standards, were at risk of incurring substantial financial penalties.  I am delighted to say that our methods were approved by this QA process, and of
course this owes a good deal to the work you and your colleagues have done in providing TAS returns in a serious and timely way. Nonetheless, concerns are sometimes expressed to us about the reasonableness and robustness of our TAS data, and with this in mind, Lorna McLoughlin, Senior Management Accountant from the Finance Department, is currently leading on some work verifying our data. This will involve each Head of School reviewing a summary of the annual TAS data for their school and either confirming that the data is reasonable or advising how it should be adjusted to better reflect the proportion of activities undertaken.

We would encourage you to forward this message to colleagues in  your Schools to thank them also for their contribution to ensuring that TAS information is reasonable and timely, and that we continue to reach our targets.  This is crucial to the sustainability of our activities in both research and teaching and we do very much appreciate your help.  If you or
your colleagues have questions or concerns about TAS or other aspects of TRAC or fEC, please do contact us.

              With best wishes,
                April McMahon (Vice Principal Planning, Resources andResearch Policy;
                Lorna McLoughlin (Senior Management Accountant, FinanceDepartment; )
                Emma Lyall (Assistant Management Accountant; FinanceDepartment;

Suggestions for filling in your TAS form

Following a meeting of the School Policy and Advisory Group, it was felt that the starting point for most academic staff in the School of Mathematics should be a 40%/40%/20% split between research, teaching and administrative activities. We consider a reasonable approach to completing your TAS return is to start from the 40/40/20 model and consider perturbations appropriate to your particular combination of teaching, research and administrative duties.

On this page there is a link to a 'reasonable' return for a member of academic staff with a 'normal' teaching load, no external research funding, and a small administrative load and one or two PhD students, and no consultancy.

Of course the numbers should be changed if you have a large group of PhD students (or no PhD student) or a large administrative load (e.g. course organizer of a large course, Head of Graduate School, MSc Admissions,...).

Sample return, for monitoring periods which include the lecturing semesters, is here. It would be surprising if the teaching/research split were the same for the monitoring period which includes the summer vacation. Similarly, the numbers will be expected to be different for those who are double-teaching during the given monitoring period.

Note: the official number of hours per week is 35. It is accepted that many of us regularly do more than this.

Note also that there is no requirement to keep accurate time-sheets. However, academic staff are welcome to try to keep an accurate account of their time and such data could be useful to the School in refining our approach to TAS and resourcing.

I will be pleased to answer any questions on these matters from any member of academic staff.

Michael Singer

Head of School

January 2010

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