TRAC: Academic Activity Survey (AAS)

Background

The Academic Activity Survey is conducted to gather data on the different activities undertaken by the University’s academics. Each week, around 35 randomly selected academics are asked to fill in a timesheet, which details how many hours have been utilised towards teaching, research and other activities. Each academic will only be asked to fill in the survey once per academic year (October to September).

Academics are asked to complete a timesheet for one week of the academic year (Monday – Sunday). Due to Oxford academics having largely self-determined working practices the AAS process samples every week of the year, regardless of public or other holidays. There is no expectation that every week/person sampled will result in a return of hours; absence due to holiday, sickness, or sabbatical, would be an equally valid response.

The resulting data is used to apportion the University’s costs between these activities, in order to complete the Transparent Approach to Costing, TRAC. HEFCE require all Universities to complete some form of academic time analysis to include in their institutes TRAC return and AAS is Oxfords method of complying. AAS has a noticeable impact on TRAC output, including the University’s FEC research rates.

The AAS covers Academic staff whose posts are not fully funded externally for research. It would be impossible to cost the activities of the University accurately without first understanding the nature of the work undertaken by staff engaged in a wide variety of activities.

Summary of the scheme to date

The response rate averages over 80% and shows no bias in terms of seniority of academic or area of specialty. It is important to maintain a high response rate in order to satisfy external bodies, such as the Research Councils (RCUK) who can, and have, carry out audits of our methods.

The survey provides the data to produce costing drivers, which attribute total non-activity specific costs of the University to five major Activities and around 30 detailed sub-activities.

The original objective of the survey was to produce statistically robust academic activity-based cost drivers whilst ensuring anonymity for the individual academic. This objective has been (and continues to be) achieved.

Our high response rate helps ensure that Oxford can accurately cost its activities, including Research Overhead Recoveries. However without continued support from the Academic community the quality of our cost drivers could be questioned, so we greatly appreciate all those who take time out of their day to return the survey to us.

An individual’s return is never shared with anyone else.