Budget Preparation

Grants Management Office

This page provides tools and resources to assist in the preparation of a budget for grant applications.

Budget Writing Toolkit:


UNSW Research Pricing Tool- calculate UNSW indirect costs on externally funded research grants and contracts within the scope of the Pricing of Externally Funded Research Procedure

Salary Scales for Grant Budgeting- This spreadsheet contains details of UNSW Salary Scales. Use the worksheets to budget academic, professional and casual salaries with appropriate on-costs.

UNSW Classification Descriptions - General Staff - Provides helpful information for choosing at what level you should hire professional staff. Describes the education, training and experience necessary, the judgement, problem solving skills, supervision and independence required, and indicators of what tasks would be performed at each level and the organisational relationships & impact of the role.

UNSW Human Resources-  For assistance in determining appropriate staff hiring levels, researchers are strongly encouraged to speak to the HR representative from their faculty. The HR website is also a resource for Occupational Health and Safety information, HR Forms and Frequently Asked Questions.

UNSW Central Web Unit (CWU)- If you are including web design, web development and or web hosting costs in your proposal budget, contact the UNSW Central Web Unit (CWU) for quotes, assistance and recommendations based on your individual needs and those of the end user. You can use CWU quotes in your application budget, justifications, and mention where alternate services have been considered and rejected in your budget narrative. The CWU is not tied to specific service providers or technologies. Contact web@unsw.edu.au.

Managing Foreign Exchange Risks- This document was prepared by UNSW Treasury to explain the risks of income awarded in foreign currency, and the potential difficulties in budgeting if the amount to spend is not constant. If your budget proposal includes foreign currency, consideration must be given to how fluctuations may impact the budget. Contact Andrew Fellowes (a.fellowes@unsw.edu.au) from Treasury to discuss your budget proposal in the first instance. If you are eventually awarded funding, the Grants Management Office will work with Treasury to hedge your funds to minimise fluctuations throughout the life of the grant. Related document: UNSW Treasury Policy

The Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre has provided Advice for Grant Applications, which covers important budget information and examples for 2015 ARC and NHMRC major rounds.The Centre supports a wide range of research in Engineering, Science and Medicine, contributing to research collaboration with internal and external research groups and facilities. Information on facilities, access charges and budgeting can be downloaded from the Analytical Centre webpage, and staff can advise on getting UNSW researchers access to major national facilities.

Download advice for making use of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF).

UNSW Buying Guide - Search for suppliers by category, and view the UNSW "Preferred Suppliers" list. This is a supplier with which UNSW wants to develop a medium/long term relationship, is seen as the main source of those goods or services within UNSW, and has been evaluated by Strategic Procurement.

Travel Rates- For a transparent budget,the 2014/2015 ATO Rates can act as a guide for sourcing travel rates and indicate the maximum amount permitted. You should only request what you know you need - ATO rates are primarily aimed at business travel and as such, may seem high for some destinations. If you have experience travelling to certain areas and thus know what a realistic figure would be, this should be used in place of the ATO rates.

For pricing airfares, speak to the school administrator who normally organises travel for your school. It is also acceptable to source information from online sites such as Expedia, Webjet, Qantas, Virgin, or for multi destination trips, a quote from a local travel agent such as Flight Centre.

Budget table examples - ARC scheme rounds:

These spreadsheets can provide more ideas on constructing a budget. They are intended as a guide only, as different schemes have different rules around budgets. Individual scheme Funding Rules and/or Instructions to Applicants will detail these requirements, and compliance advice should be sought from the Grants Management Office.

Budget table examples - NHMRC scheme rounds:

What is a Budget?


A budget is a full analysis of research project costs- not just the costs requested of a Sponsor. A budget ensures that sufficient resources (such as salaries and on-costs of staff employed to work on the project, student stipends, computing costs, materials and supplies, equipment, freight, communications, services, rent or facility charges, workshops and travel/accommodation) have been considered to complete the research work. It aims to get the sponsor to pay the costs of doing the research project (within Sponsor guidelines), and includes all direct and indirect costs, and in-kind costs.

The budget has two functions:

  1. It estimates, as realistically as possible, the cost of completing the objectives identified in the proposal. The sponsor will use the budget details to determine whether the proposal is economically feasible and realistic.
  2. Provides a means to monitor the project's financial activities over the life of the project. In this way, it's possible to determine how closely the actual progress toward achieving the project objectives is being made relative to the proposed budget.

There is no perfect or best way to do a budget

Many sponsors provide either a form or a format for the budget- this results in 100s of differing budget templates. Whilst it is imperative to follow the sponsors' instructions explicitly, pre-work can be done in a systematic way – this is a transferable skill that you can use regardless of the sponsors’ preference.

Why is an accurate Budget so important?

When writing your research proposal remember:
  • "If you don’t ask for it, you wont get it". This also applies to confusing budgets.
  • A poorly written budget can lead to a variety of issues in the assessment of a grant application.
  • Few research proposal budgets are fully funded, so it is best to start with a well sounded budget.
  • Mapping out the budget in detail can help you to confirm or reassess the project methodology/approach.
Once Awarded:
  • An approved budget gives the authority and boundaries within which your research team can operate with confidence
  • Where each research project has a budget, it allows for the review of total university performance for the coming year and for action to be identified and taken where necessary.
  • The budget will accurately assign each research leader the responsibility for his/her share of the financial performance of each project.
  • The budget is a tool for management control, allowing monitoring and control and corrective action to be taken where necessary.

Common Components of a Budget:


Personnel Salaries, and salary on-costs. This includes you, other CIs, research associates/assistants, other administrative/technical staff and PhD students.
Consumables Supplies and materials needed to complete the project: Items usually consumed over a year or within the life of a project. Generally not basic office supplies.
Equipment Specifically for the Project: lab, video and computer equipment.
Travel Field trips/professional meetings: field work, collaborative/professional meetings, governance meetings. Includes mileage, rental car, airfare, hotel and perdiems, conference registration, in-country travel, airport transfers
Subcontracts Collaborating with another institution/agency.
Participant Support Program Attendees (if allowable): the cost of attendee(s) support for duration of the conference/workshop/program. Includes: travel costs, meals & lodging, attendee stipend.
Indirect Costs The indirect costs to UNSW to undertake the research: insurance, legal, buildings/infrastructure, central administrative support, etc.
Other Cost share (if required): sponsor requires that the institution provide resources to show support for the proposed project (could be a cash contribution or in-kind).
Budget Narrative Budget justification to support the proposed budget.