Lighten your Higher Education admin load: Part One

24 October 2023
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Time to turn TRAC data into intelligence

By Jennifer Tavano-Gallacher
VP Higher Education at Inoapps

The TRAC return methodology was designed to provide transparency and accountability in costing and financial reporting to UK Higher Education. However, like any system, its effectiveness and value can vary depending on how it’s used. 

One of the major challenges is that the return takes so much time that there’s little left to make use of the insight the TRAC data provides. Insight that could be used to analyze operational effectiveness and inform decisions.

Here are a some of the useful things you could do with your TRAC data if you had the time:

  1. Cost analysis
    TRAC data gives you detailed information on the costs associated with your research, teaching, and other activities. Analyzing this data gives you insights into your cost drivers and lets you identify areas of high or inefficient spending to help you make informed decisions about resource allocation.
  2. Benchmarking
    TRAC data allows you to compare your costs and activities with peer institutions, which can help identify your strengths and areas for improvement. You can also analyze your performance against other institutions to establish where you can enhance your operational effectiveness.
  3. Activity-based costing
    TRAC data provides a foundation for activity-based costing, which involves allocating costs to specific activities or projects. By linking costs to activities, you can evaluate the effectiveness of different activities, identify cost-saving opportunities, and allocate resources more strategically.
  4. Performance measurement
    TRAC data can be used to measure performance indicators related to operational effectiveness to track key metrics like cost per student, cost per research output, or cost per department to assess performance over time and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Resource allocation
    By understanding the costs and benefits associated with different activities or projects, you can make more informed decisions on how to effectively allocate resources for areas like research, teaching, or infrastructure development.
  6. Financial planning
    By analyzing historical cost trends and projecting future costs, you can develop more accurate financial models and make strategic decisions to ensure operational effectiveness in the face of changing funding environments.

To realize these benefits, the data that informs the return needs to be pulled together and stored in a way that can be utilized by other processes and teams within the university. This is where Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) can provide significant advantages over other TRAC preparation tools. 

The Oracle EPM tool can support universities with both the preparation and the reuse of this cost data. First it helps you put together the return with a robust set of tools for data collection and consolidation that can easily pull information from a wide variety of systems or through manual input. It can also provide structured workflows for input, review and approval of manual data entry, which is especially useful to support requirements like the Time Allocation Survey (TAS).

EPM can then be used to define and implement cost allocation methodologies based on TRAC requirements. This involves establishing allocation rules, drivers, and criteria for distributing costs accurately. The system can accommodate both direct and indirect costs, ensuring the comprehensive allocation of expenses. 

Lastly, Oracle EPM provides tools to validate and reconcile the allocated costs with the underlying data to help ensure accuracy and reliability in the TRAC return. Any discrepancies or inconsistencies can be identified and addressed at this point.

These efficiencies not only allow you to minimize the costs of preparing the return, but give your staff more time to focus on analyzing and reviewing the data.

The data in the return can then be input into subsequent processes like reusing cost allocations in course and module planning to determine profitability before launching new academic offerings, or looking at the TRAC return data over time to inform forecasting. 

TRAC methodology can be complex and requires significant resources and effort to implement effectively. But the data that comes out of it is invaluable. Next time you do your return, make sure you maximize the value of the effort with a tool that helps you minimize your preparation time and cost so that you can benefit from the insights you gain from the return to make better business decisions for your university.  

In our next blog, we look at more ways to lighten your admin load with the Inoapps Student Funding solution. 

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