All universities are required by Government to demonstrate a transparent approach to costing. This requires a full understanding of the costs associated with research, teaching and ‘other’ activities. The Staff costs represent around half of our total cost base and we need to conduct the surveys in order to determine how these costs are divided between teaching, research and other activities.
It is essential that we achieve a high response rate in order to ensure we accurately reflect to OfS and UKRI the costs incurred in our respective activities, which then in turn can have a direct bearing on the funding we receive. Your participation in this survey is therefore essential to achieving this. College’s survey is called TOAST which stands for The Original Academic Staff Time survey. Your return is anonymous. There will be no analysis on an individual basis and only those working on delivering the TOAST survey will have access to the database output.
The last survey took place in the 2022-23 academic year and we are now required to undertake the survey again. The next TOAST survey will take place during the 2023-24 academic year, starting in October. The survey data must be sufficiently robust and must also satisfy an external audit process.
A short TOAST Presentation 2023-24 is available which provides background information, details on how to complete the survey and where to go for support. Please feel free to use this in your departments and divisions if this would be helpful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who will take part in TOAST?
All Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors in academic departments and divisions are required to complete the TOAST survey. The list of those being surveyed is based on a staff list extract taken in August 2023. Those joining after that date will not be included in this year’s survey.
When is TOAST taking place?
The survey will begin in October 2023 and will last for a year. During the year each member of academic staff will be asked to report on their activities for three randomly selected separate weeks by completing a 24-hour diary, allocating hours to each activity they have undertaken.
When will I know to complete the survey?
You will be sent an e-mail prior to your survey week outlining how to access the on-line survey and directing you to guidance and FAQs.
Can I change the week in which I am required to complete the survey?
No, your assigned survey week cannot be changed. The survey weeks have been determined to provide a comprehensive view of the College’s activities over a year. Therefore, you should make every effort to complete your survey for the designated survey period.
Is my return truly anonymous?
Whilst the answers/feedback you provide is collected and connected to you, there will be no analysis on an individual basis and only those working on delivering the TOAST survey will have access to the database output.
Where can I find out more?
Information on how to allocate your time can be found here: TOAST Time Allocation FAQs 2023-24
Complete set of frequently asked questions can be found here: TOAST FAQs 2023-24
Definitions of the activities in which your time can be allocated to can be found here: TOAST Activities List 2023-24
TOAST in the context of TRAC
TOAST (The Original Academic Staff Time survey) and role in TRAC
TRAC1 (TRansparent Approach to Costing) is an activity-based costing system, required to complete the annual OfS (Office for Students) and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) return, whereby the figures published in our Financial Statements are allocated across the College’s main activities (Teaching/Research/Other).
TRAC enables Imperial to understand to which extent our activities are sustainable financially. Indeed, it calculates the Indirect and Estates rates used on research proposals.
Some Academic and Research staff costs cannot be directly attributed to one of the College’s main activities. Therefore, their TRAC allocation is based on the percentage of time spent on such activities while employed by the institution, captured through a time allocation survey: TOAST .
The TOAST collection process typically requires the sampling of staff and weeks: this is known as the statistical methodology. Hence, the survey is designed by a College statistician in compliance with TRAC Guidance.
Based on this methodology, 1/3 of academics is surveyed every academic year. Each academic is expected to complete 3 surveys.
Weeks are randomly selected: 8 term weeks and 4 non-term weeks (i.e. Christmas, Easter, and 2 Summer weeks).
The aim is to provide results that are representative of a 12-month period for the institution as a whole, while keeping the burden on academics at minimum levels.
Two alternative survey methodologies can be adopted according to TRAC Guidance:
- In-year time collection: all staff complete at least three schedules (e.g. three 4-month periods) covering the whole year, at least once every three years
- Workload planning: institutions have a proactive planning process for the allocation of staff time to activities during the year. The plan is agreed by each academic member of staff and their line manager, and jointly signed off at the year end
Nevertheless, both methodologies were deemed more burdensome for academics than the statistical methodology in use.
Outcomes are reviewed by a statistician to ensure that statistically robust results are achieved:
- A high response rate is vital. The relevant regulatory bodies only accept statistically robust data. It is critical that all academics participate
- Academics’ returns are anonymous
- Academics’ returns must be a true reflection of the activities carried out during the allocated survey week, rather than a picture of the activities conducted in a typical working week
- TOAST is only used as a way of allocating staff costs in TRAC, with results aggregated at departmental level
- TOAST has been designed in a way that is compliant with TRAC Guidance. It is tailored to meet specific TRAC requirements and is not suitable for aims not related to TRAC
- TOAST has not been designed as a tool to evaluate academics’ performance
- TOAST has not been designed as a tool to assess academics’ workload
Not achieving statistically robust response rates makes the College non-compliant with TRAC Guidance. UKRI can decide to reduce the rate paid for Indirect and Estates rates on research grants, i.e. research income is reduced. Indeed, we have to consider the reputational implications for the institution. These are some of the reasons why we encourage all academics to submit their responses.
1 For more information on TRAC please use the following link: TRAC
TOAST and TRAC queries can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
What if I have any further questions?
Please send an e-mail to TOAST@imperial.ac.uk.