You may have noticed how much more expensive RCUK submissions with overheads are than charity proposals without these costs. The overheads addition is often assumed to be a lucrative money-grabbing scheme by the University, but there is another side to the story…
The concept of ‘full Economic Costing’ (fEC) was developed after government reviews between 1997 and 2004 showed the financial unsustainability of staff time, estates, infrastructure and various other costs of academic research… The Government agreed that funding should be costed on a more realistic basis – fEC. Most people are aware that Research Councils (and NIHR on grants awarded directly to universities) pay 80% of fEC, but this concept is frequently misunderstood. fEC grants are not more expensive than charity grants: charity grants require extra subsidy by the University to recover overheads. Even at 80% fEC on some of the best grant schemes, the University subsidises 20% of your direct costs for staff and consumables, and these often exceed any overheads received. In fact, almost all our research awards cost us money, through the College and University staff that support you, the facilities that you work in and the bills they incur, and the time that you spend on the grant.
Ultimately, like any business the University cannot afford to keep sustaining such major losses. Please do bear in mind that by working with your Research Facilitator and the team in Research Finance to cost your grant effectively without compromising your vision or the scope of what you can achieve, you can help to minimise further losses and future cuts.
For those interested in finding out more, a recent review of fEC can be found at the RCUK website.