Developing a Budget

When thinking about finding funding for your research, a good start is knowing why you need the funding, and how you will spend it. Transparent and justified budgets are one of the most important elements of successful projects, and can make or break an application.

When planning and preparing a research budget, you need to consider and justify why you require a range of direct research costs to ensure project outcomes are successfully delivered. It is important to ensure all costs are accurately estimated and documented in a transparent manner, consistent with each stage of your project.



Your budget needs to include all cash and in-kind items that the project will require. Budget items to consider are:

  • Staff costs (don't forget to factor in salary increases, oncosts and casual loadings),
  • Student stipends,
  • Equipment,
  • Consumables,
  • Travel,
  • Infrastructure and/or work unit fees.

In-kind is any non-cash contributions that a party contributes to the research project. In-kind can be contributed by Southern Cross University or by an external party, and can be:

  • staff (eg: if someone is contributing their time to the project but their time is not funded by the project) or
  • non-staff (eg: if you are making lab space available to conduct the project but are not receiving direct payment from the project to 'buy out' lab space)

For further details, see the Strategic considerations for preparing budgetsA general guide to best practice budget preparation and Budget Justification Guide.


Including Oncosts in a Budget

Oncosts are direct costs associated with salary, including superannuation, sick leave, payroll tax etc. and must be included your budget.

For Southern Cross University Academic and General Salaries, 32.15% oncosts apply. For Southern Cross University casual rates, 19% oncosts apply. The applicable percentage should be added to the appropriate Southern Cross University EB Salary rate. Please see the HR website for for the latest salary amounts.

If you use the these oncost amounts are automatically calculated for you.

Please note: For some schemes, the funding provider may stipulate a specific maximum rate for funding of salary oncosts, e.g. the Australian Research Council (ARC) will not fund more than 30% oncosts. In cases such as this, the difference between the allowable oncost rate and Southern Cross University actual rate, i.e.

32.15% minus 30% = 2.15%

can be added as an Southern Cross University in-kind contribution.

How to budget for a PhD stipend in a research grant application

Southern Cross University PhD stipends are now offered for a set period of 3 years and 3 months.  SCU uses the Commonwealth government’s Research Training Program (RTP) base rate, i.e. SCU offers an “RTP equivalent” stipend.

For the purpose of budgeting stipends for research grant applications, please use the following approaches:

1. Budgeting stipends for schemes with a set stipend rate (e.g. some Australian Research Council schemes)

If a funding body specifies a set stipend rate for a particular grant round, you will need to use that rate when preparing the budget. For a three year grant, the budget will be 3 x funding body stipend rate. Any gap between 3.25 times the RTP base rate (actual cost of the stipend) and the stipend that the funding body will support will be borne by the University.

In the case of ARC schemes, the rate will be available in the stipend table published by the ARC for the year of submission but, as ARC stipends are added to the application budget using a drop-down in the application form in RMS, any set rate should pre-populate.  

If you have approval to include an SCU-funded in an application to a grant round with a set stipend rate, you can use the funding body’s rate to cost the SCU-funded stipend if   you are also seeking a grant-funded stipend. This will avoid the appearance of inequity in the budget although, in reality, both PhD candidates would receive the same stipend – 3 years and 3 months at the RTP rate. If you are not seeking a funding body stipend then this is not an issue and you should simply use the method described in either (2) or (3) to cost out the SCU-funded stipend for the budget and the PPAF.

2. Calculating the PhD Stipend Rate for a 3 year grant to a funding scheme with no set stipend rate

Use the relevant RTP stipend rate for the year in which the grant is being submitted, i.e. use the 2021 RTP stipend rate for a grant being submitted in 2021 or the 2022 RTP stipend rate for a grant being submitted in 2022, etc.  

For example, the 2022 RTP stipend rate is $28,854 p.a. and therefore the annual rate to budget for an SCU-funded stipend is $28,854 per annum. In this case for a 3 year grant submitted in 2022, the stipend budget in your application would be:
    •    Yr 1 - $28,854
    •    Yr 2 - $28,854
    •    Yr 3 - $28,854
with the total value of the PhD Stipend as budgeted in the grant application equal to $86,562 (i.e. 3 x $28,854)

Even though SCU is funding the stipend for an additional 3 months after the end of the 3 year project period, the value of that 3 month stipend is not included in the grant     budget as many funding bodies will not allow contributions for expenditure occurring after the end of the project to be included in the budget. In the budget justification section of the grant, you can mention that SCU funded stipends will be funded for a 3 year, 3 month period and paid at the relevant yearly RTP rate for that year (as the RTP rates are indexed each year).

The above approach will leave a funding ‘gap’ for SCU to support if the project is awarded, made up of the 3 month stipend after project completion and the difference between the RTP rate for three years and the flat rate used in the budget. The gap does not need to be recorded in the Project Preapproval Form as a financial contribution from SCU but, as with any grant application that involves a Higher Degree by Research student, the Dean, Graduate School will need to sign the Project Preapproval Form (PPAF). The Dean’s signature on the PPAF is confirmation that the gap will be met by the University.

3. Calculating PhD stipends for grants of shorter or longer duration to a funding scheme with no set stipend rate

For grants 3.25 years or longer, the full 3.25yr stipend should be included in both the application and, for SCU-funded stipends, on the PPAF. The value of the stipend would be calculated as 3.25years x RTP stipend rate for year of submission.  For example for a 2022 grant, 3.25 x $28,854 = $93,775.  Again, the University will support the ‘gap’ between 3.25 years at the RTP rate and the amount calculated using this formula.

As with any grant application that involves a Higher Degree by Research student, the Dean, Graduate School will need to sign the Project Preapproval Form (PPAF). The Dean’s signature on the PPAF is confirmation that the gap will be met by the University.

For grants shorter than 3 years, please contact the Grants and Contracts Team at SCU to discuss.

4. How to represent SCU-Funded Stipends on the Project Preapproval Form (PPAF):

The University offers SCU-funded stipends for a set period of 3 years and 3 months regardless of project duration.  

To calculate the total value of this cash contribution, multiply 3.25years x RTP stipend rate for year of submission. This calculation is used in the PPAF, regardless of what has been costed in the grant application, as it is closer to the full stipend value being contributed by SCU.  For example, for a 3 year grant application submitted in 2022 grant, the stipend in the application budget will be $86,562 but the calculation for the PPAF is 3.25 x $28,854 = $93,775. The difference is due to the extra 3 months’ stipend to be is recorded on the PPAF but not in the application budget.

The true cost of the stipend will likely be around $1,000-$1,500 more than the amount calculated using this formula, due to the annual indexation of the RTP rate.

The Dean, Graduate School, will need to sign the Project Preapproval Form and this signature is confirmation that any gap will be met by the University.

Infrastructure fees

The 15% Infrastructure fee is in place to cover costs associated with the University's support and development of research.

All research agreements are subject to the 15% infrastructure fee except:

  • Nationally competitive grants, except where the funding body/scheme expressly provides for such a fee*. For example, ACIAR allow a 13% fee for the lead organisation, and 5% for partner organisations. These allowed ACIAR fees would be split between the Office of the DCVR and the primary Faculty/Centre.
  • Projects under $20,000 GST exclusive
  • CRC grants and CRC project grants
  • Stipend only projects
  • If a project includes budget items that are clearly identified as student support (eg. stipends and/or operating costs), the infrastructure fee will not be applied to those student budget items (but will be applied to the balance).
  • Donations / funding for discretionary research (where there is no material benefit to the funder).

If the Infrastructure fee is applicable, your work unit may also charge a fee (Faculty/Centre fee) - please check with your finance officer whether a Faculty/Centre fee is applicable.

If you are aware of any funding bodies/schemes that allow for such a fee, please advise the Grants and Contracts Team.

Calculating the Infrastructure Fee

The 15% Infrastructure fee is 15% of the Base amount (ie. what the researcher needs to run the project). An example is below:

Budget $Budget item
10,000 Base Amount - what researchers need to run the project
1,500 Infrastructure fee - 15% of Base Amount*
1,000 Faculty/Centre fee - if applicable, calculate school fee as a % of Base Amount*
12,500 Amount requested from funding provider - total of Base Amount, infrastructure fee and school fee

If you use the Budget Templates provided, these fees are automatically calculated for you.

* Infrastructure and Faculty/Centre fees were previously calculated from the amount requested from funding provider, rather than the amount researchers needed to run the project. This resulted in compounding issues when both infrastructure fee and Faculty/Centre fees were being calculated. The calculation method has now been revised to make budgets easier to calculate.

Internal Budgets and Client Budgets

The Infrastructure fee and Faculty/Centre fee (if applicable) are internal fees and it's not necessary to show them as separate budget items (unless the rules of the funding body state that you have to).

An example is shown below of the difference between an internal budget, and how you can present the budget to your funding body:

Internal Budget:

(GST excl)
Budget item
18,532.58 Research Assistant (HEW 5/1 1.0 FTE for 3 months casual contract, including oncosts)
700.00 Collection sample kits (200 x $3.50 each)
3,000.00 Boat hire (2 days at $1,500 per day)
22,232.58 Base amount
3,334.88 Infrastructure fee
2,223.25 Faculty/Centre fee
27,790.71 Amount requested from funding provider

Budget to present to Client/Funding Provider:

Infrastructure and Faculty/Centre fees (if applicable) are 'built in' to each budget item. If you use the these amounts are automatically calculated for you.

(GST excl)
Budget item
$23,166 Salaries - Research Assistant
$875 Consumables - 200 collection sample kits
$3,750 Equipment - 2 days boat hire
$27,791 Amount requested from funding provider

text to be updated