Common Issues

If a project costs more than the price, who will fund the difference? E.g., if a PI is awarded a project by a Research Council, where will the 20% not paid by the research council come from?

If a price is agreed amounting to less than the fEC, the College will need to subsidise the cost of the project with some of its own resources. Unless other sources of funding have been specifically identified (e.g., cash contributions from an industrial partner), this will have to be met from a College’s QR resource. The decision as to whether or not to do this will be made by the Head of College.

Over time, there is likely to be an increasing emphasis on how institutions are managing their research activities on a sustainable basis. As this develops it will become important for College to have a greater understanding and need for transparency regarding how and where the un-funded costs of individual research projects are being resourced.


Should academic staff be allowed to spend up to 100% fEC even if the price is less? E.g., if a Research Council project is only funded at 80%, should the PI be allowed to spend 100% of the consumables cost?

As stated above, it is assumed that if the price is accepted, the balance of costs not funded will be met by the College’s QR resource. Therefore the PI should be entitled to spend up to 100% of the directly incurred and exceptional costs. Research Councils will allow virement of costs between directly incurred and exceptional cost headings so it is important for the PI to control the overall level of cost of these two categories.

What will happen to the income related to Estates costs, Facility costs, Pool Technicians and Indirect costs? Should the PI be allowed to spend these?

These costs relate to the expenditures made in support of research activities made both by the College and/or centrally by the University. These costs are important as they ensure that the College and University has a well-maintained infrastructure and administration support to enable research activities to be carried out.

The University operates a devolved financial management structure. This means that individual Colleges retain the income generated from research activities in full. From this income, the College will need to pay for the directly incurred and exceptional costs of the research project it relates to (see 2 above). The school will also need to pay for any support activities that take place at the College (e.g., secretarial time).

Why is there no indirect/estates cost applied to support staff under fEC.

The methodology that the sector has been told to adopt to calculate estates and indirect costs only allows for the inclusion of academic staff time as a driver for these costs. Whilst this means that estates/indirect costs can’t be applied to support staff, it doesn’t mean that costs for these types of staff will not be recovered. It simply means that their costs will be recovered through the charges applied to academic staff.

In some cases it may be that support staff are responsible for activities on a research project that would usually be carried out by an academic. In these cases, as long as the person satisfies the definition of academic staff for that particular project, estates and indirect costs may be applied to their time.

What should happen to the income on research projects relating to the use of research facilities? Is there any difference if the facility in question is based in another College?

Within each College, major research facilities will have their own budget account established to which all costs relating to the facility are coded. It is important that any income received by the College relating to the use of a particular facility is also coded in full to the same account code. This will enable the facility manager and the College to monitor the income against the costs and take action accordingly.

Initially it is expected that in most cases the actual usage of a facility will be different to that which was estimated at the time of making the application. However, the College should still transfer the full income to the facilities account. The investigator should continue to be allowed to use the facility, even if the project requires more usage than was indicated on the application.

In the short term this may mean that there are variations between the costs and income for the facility. However, as investigators and facility managers improve their understanding of what level of usage is required for their projects at application stage, it is expected that these variations will reduce.

The same approach should be adopted if the facility is based in another College.

Co-Investigators based in other Colleges

Under fEC, the time and cost of all investigators who are involved on a research project should be included in the grant application. This may include co-investigators who are based in Colleges different to that of the PI.

Although the cost of investigators is included in the application, it should be noted that this may not be funded in full e.g., research councils will only fund 80%. Furthermore, there will be other costs (e.g., consumables and research fellows) that the PI’s College will have to pay for in full, but will only get back 80% from the Research Council.

Therefore, it is not fair on the school managing the project (and incurring the full costs) to pay other Colleges either 100% or even 80% of the cost of co-investigator time. Whilst it is acknowledged that the co-investigator’s College should receive some income, it is not clear or practical as to how to establish what this should be. In most cases, it is also likely that the there will be both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in each College and that these will probably ‘balance out’ over a period of time.

Through the research accounting system, finance office will monitor the overall effect of this on each College to ensure there is no school that is significantly worse off as a consequence of this.