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Capacity Building in the field of higher education

1. Clarifications on the scope of the EU grant

Staff costs

The applicant will estimate the staff workload required on the basis of the category of staff concerned and the number of days to be worked on the project, in relation to the activities, the work-plan and the outputs and results foreseen. Working days might include week-end, obligation and bank holidays. For the sake of estimating the budget, working days per individual will not exceed 20 days per month or 240 days per year.

The estimation of the budget results from applying Erasmus+ contribution to unit costs for staff. It is independent from the actual remuneration modalities that will be defined in the partnership agreement and implemented by the beneficiairies.

The profile of staff involved in capacity-building projects is regrouped in four categories:

  • Managers (staff category 1) (including legislators, senior officials and managers) carry out top managerial activities related to the administration and coordination of project activities.
  • Researchers, teachers and trainers (RTT) (staff category 2) typically carry out academic activities related to curriculum/training programme development, development and adaptation of teaching/training materials, preparation and teaching of courses or trainings.
  • Technical staff (staff category 3) (including technicians and associate professionals) carries out technical tasks such as book-keeping, accountancy and translation activities. External translation services and external language courses provided by sub-contracted non-consortium members should be classified as “Sub-contracting costs”.
  • Administrative staff (staff category 4) (including office and customer service clerks) carries out administrative tasks such as secretarial duties.

Actual remuneration modalities of staff involved in the project will be defined jointly by the participating organisations, endorsed by the managers responsible for their employment and will be part of the partnership agreement to be signed among the partners at the beginning of the project.

Travel costs – Staff

Any category of staff (e.g. managers, RTT, technical and administrative staff) under official contract in the beneficiary institutions and involved in the project may benefit from financial support for travel and subsistence provided it is directly necessary to the achievement of the objectives of the project.

Travels are intended for the following activities:

  • Teaching/training assignments;
  • Training and retraining purposes (only eligible for staff from Partner Countries);
  • Updating programmes and courses;
  • Practical placements in companies, industries and institutions (only eligible for staff from Partner Countries);
  • Project-management related meetings (e.g. for management, coordination, planning, monitoring and quality control activities purposes);
  • Workshops and visits for result dissemination purposes.

The duration of such travels must not exceed a maximum of three months.

Travel costs – Students

Students (at short cycle, first cycle (Bachelor or equivalent), second cycle (Master or equivalent) and third or doctoral cycle) registered in one of the beneficiary institutions may benefit from financial support for travel and subsistence provided it supports the achievement of the project's objectives. Travels for students must take place in a participating organisation or in another organisation under the supervision of a participating organisation.

They must be targeted mainly at Partner Country students and intended for the following activities:

Activity

Duration

 

  • Study periods in a Partner Country institution;
  • Study periods in a Programme Country institution (only for students from Partner Countries);
  • Participation in intensive courses organised in a Programme or Partner Country institution;
  • Practical placements, internships in companies, industries or institutions in a Partner Country;
  • Practical placements, internships in companies, industries or institutions in a Programme Country (only for students from Partner Countries).

 

 

 

 

 

Min. 2 weeks – Max. 3 months

 

 

  • Participation in short-term activities linked to the management of the project (steering committees, coordination meetings, quality control activities, etc.).

 

 

Max. 1 week

 

 

Prior authorisation from the Executive Agency is required if the student concerned, intends to carry out activities not described above.

Equipment

The EU grant may be used to support the purchase of equipment. Only the purchase of equipment which is directly relevant to the objectives of the project can be considered as eligible expenditure. This could include, for example, (e-)books and periodicals, fax machines, photocopying machines, computers and peripherals (including notebooks/laptops and tablettes), software, machines and equipment for teaching purposes, laboratory supplies (teaching purposes), video-projectors (hardware) and video-presentations (software), television sets, installing/setting up of communication lines for internet connection, access to databases (libraries and electronic libraries outside the partnership) and clouds, equipment maintenance, insurance, transport and installation costs.

Equipment is intended exclusively for the Partner Country Higher Education Institutions which are included in the partnership where it must be installed as soon as practically possible. The equipment must be recorded in the inventory of the institution where it is installed. This institution is the sole owner of the equipment.

  • Equipment should be instrumental to the objectives of the project and should therefore be purchased at the beginning of the project implementation period and normally not later than 12 months before the end of the project.
  • Under no circumstances may equipment be purchased for any Programme Country institution/organisation or for non-higher education institutions in the Partner Countries.
  • Hiring of equipment may be considered eligible, but only in exceptional and duly justified circumstances and provided it does not continue beyond the duration of the Grant Agreement.
  • Considering the particular nature of the Capacity Building action under the Erasmus+ programme, the total purchase cost of the equipment will be taken into account and not the equipment's depreciation.

In the event of purchasing equipment over €25.000, and less than €134.000, the beneficiaries must obtain competitive tenders from at least three suppliers and retain the one offering the best value for money, observing the principles of transparency and equal treatment of the potential contractors and taking care to avoid conflicts of interests. For purchase of equipment over €134.000 national legislations will be applicable. The beneficiaries may not split the purchase of equipment into smaller contracts below the threshold.

Applicants should be aware of the fact that the procurement and delivery of equipment to Partner Country institutions is often a rather complex procedure and this should be taken into consideration at the planning stage.

Sub-contracting

Subcontracting is intended for specific, time-bound, project-related tasks which cannot be performed by the consortium members themselves. It includes self-employed / free-lance experts. Sub-contracting to external bodies should be very occasional. The specific competences and particular expertise needed to reach the project objectives should be found in the consortium and should determine its composition. Sub-contracting for project-management related tasks is therefore not allowed.

Typical activities which may be sub-contracted are (provided they are not carried out by beneficiaries' staff):

  • Evaluation activities and auditing
  • IT courses
  • Language courses
  • Printing, publishing and dissemination activities
  • Translation services
  • Web design and maintenance

In all cases, tasks to be subcontracted have to be identified in the proposal (based on relevant supporting information, along with clear reasons as to why the task cannot be carried out by the beneficiaries) and the estimated amount entered in the budget. Sub-contracting initially not foreseen in the budget will need prior written approval from the Agency during project implementation.

In the event of subcontracting over €25.000, and lower than €134.000, the beneficiaries must obtain competitive tenders from at least three suppliers and retain the one offering best value for money, observing the principles of transparency and equal treatment of potential contractors and taking care to avoid conflicts of interests. For purchase of equipment over €134.000 national legislations will be applicable. The beneficiaries may not split the purchase of services into smaller contracts below the threshold.

Subcontracting must be done on the basis of a contract, which should describe the specific task being carried out and its duration. It must include a date, project number and the signature of both parties.

Staff members of co-beneficiaries are not allowed to operate in a subcontracting capacity for the project.

The actual travel costs and costs of stay related to subcontracted service providers have to be declared under the sub-contracting budget heading and be justified and documented.

2. Financial reporting and Final Calculation of the Grant

For each project, the budget foreseen is laid down in the Grant Agreement and has to be used according to the provisions included therein. Projects may increase budget headings, by means of transfer from another budget heading, up to a maximum of 10% without prior authorisation, even if the increased amount exceeds the maximum ceilings for staff, equipment and sub-contracting.

Requests to increase budget headings by more than 10% must be presented in writing to the Agency and will lead to an amendment. If, as a consequence of the increase, the maximum ceilings for staff, equipment and sub-contracting costs are exceeded, the request will not be accepted.

At reporting stage, the Executive Agency will request the partners to provide information about the co-funding provided for statistical purpose.

Staff costs

For the purposes of any financial evaluation and/or audit, beneficiaries will have to be able to justify / prove the following:

  • the existence of a formal contractual relationship between the employee and the employer.
  • the declared workloads are identifiable and verifiable. Evidence is required of work completed and time spent on the project (e.g. attendance lists, tangible outputs / products, compulsory time sheets);
  • no justification will be asked to prove the level of expenses.

At financial reporting stage, a duly filled-in staff convention for each person engaged by the project must be attached to the project accounts and retained by the co-ordinator as supporting documents. The conventions must be signed by the person concerned, then signed and stamped by the person responsible (e.g. the dean) in the institution where this person is normally engaged. For staff performing different categories of tasks a separate convention must be signed for each type of activity.

In addition, time-sheets have to be attached to each staff convention. They must indicate:

  • the date of the service provided;
  • the number of days worked on these dates;
  • the tasks performed (short description) in relation to the activity plan.

The time-sheets must be signed by the person concerned and countersigned by the person responsible in the institution where this person is normally employed. Supporting documents should not be sent with the financial report at the end of the project. The staff conventions (with supporting time-sheets) should, however, be retained with the project accounts.

At this stage, the Executive Agency will verify the eligibility of of the activities implemented on the basis of the report sent by the co-ordinator (see Annex of the Grant Agreement- "Final Report"). If there are doubts about any particular point, the Agency may request that all the supporting documents be forwarded.

The actual contribution of the EU will be re-calculated globally for the overall project, using the unit cost approach, on the basis of the actual human resources mobilised. The EU contribution to the staff costs cannot exceed 110% of the absolute amount indicated in the grant agreement or its amendments.

Travel costs and costs of stay

For the purposes of any financial evaluation and/or audit, beneficiaries will have to be able to justify / prove the following:

  • the journeys are directly connected to specific and clearly identifiable project-related activities.
  • the journeys actually took place (boarding pass, hotel invoices, attendance list, etc.). No justification will be requested as regards the actual costs of travels and costs of stay.

At financial reporting stage, for each journey, an Individual Mobility Report must be attached to the project accounts and retained by the co-ordinator as supporting documents. Supporting documentation will have to be attached to each mobility report in order to demonstrate the fact that the trip actually took place (e.g. travel tickets, boarding passes, invoices, receipts, attendance list). It will not be necessary to prove the actual cost of the travel.

Supporting documents should not be sent with the financial report at the end of the project. The Individual Mobility Reports should, however, be retained with the project accounts.

At this stage, the Executive Agency will verify the eligibility of the activities implemented on the basis of the report sent by the co-ordinator (see Annex of the Grant Agreement - "Final Report").  If there are doubts about any particular point, the Agency may request that all the supporting documents be forwarded.

The actual contribution of the EU will be re-calculated globally for the overall project, using the unit cost approach, on the basis of the actual human resources mobilised. The EU contribution to travel costs and costs of stay cannot exceed 110% of the absolute amount indicated in the grant agreement or its amendments.

Equipment

For the purposes of any financial evaluation and/or audit, beneficiaries will have to be able to justify / prove the following elements:

  • the declared costs are identifiable and verifiable, in particular have been recorded in the accounting system of the beneficiary.
  • the equipment is properly registered in the inventory of the institution concerned.

Supporting documents should not be sent with the financial statement. The following should, however, be retained with the project accounts:

  • Invoice(s) for all purchased equipment (please note that order forms, pro-forma invoices, quotations or estimates are not considered as proof of expenditure).
  • When the threshold of EUR 25 000 is exceeded, documentation on the tendering procedures.  In such cases, the beneficiaries may not split the purchase of equipment into smaller contracts with lower individual amounts.

At financial reporting stage, the Executive Agency will take note of the expenses on the basis of financial statements (lists of expenses) sent by the co-ordinator (see Annex of the Grant Agreement- "Final Report"). Executive Agency staff will examine these lists in detail to verify the eligibility of expenses. If there are doubts on any particular point, the Agency may request that all the supporting documents be forwarded.

Please note however, that when the total value of the invoice amounts to more than EUR 25 000, the copies (not originals) of the invoice and the comparable offers must be sent as supporting documents with the financial statement.  At this stage, eligible equipment costs cannot exceed 110% of the absolute amount indicated for equipment in the grant agreement or its amendments.

Sub-contracting

For the purposes of any financial evaluation and/or audit, beneficiaries will have to be able to justify / prove the following

  • the existence of a formal contract.
  • the declared costs are identifiable and verifiable, in particular being recorded in the accounting system of the beneficiary.

Supporting documents should not be sent with the financial statement. The following should, however, be retained with the project accounts:

  • Invoices, subcontracts and bank statements.
  • In the case of travel activities of subcontracted service provider, individual travel reports (Annex) together with all copies of travel tickets, boarding passes, invoices and receipts, or for car travel, a copy of the internal regulations on the reimbursement rate per km. The aim of the supporting documentation is to demonstrate the actual cost of the travel and the fact that the trip actually took place.
  • When the threshold of EUR 25 000 is exceeded, documentation on the tendering procedures. In such cases, the beneficiaries may not split the purchase of equipment into smaller contracts with lower individual amounts.

At financial reporting stage, the Executive Agency will take note of the expenses on the basis of financial statements (lists of expenses) sent by the co-ordinator. The Executive Agency will examine these lists in detail to verify the eligibility of expenses. If there are doubts on any particular point, the Agency may request that all the supporting documents be forwarded.

Please note however, that when the total value of the subcontract amounts to more than EUR 25,000, the copies (not originals) of the subcontract, the invoice and the comparable offers must be sent as supporting documents with the financial statement. At this stage, eligible sub-contracting costs cannot exceed 110% of the absolute amount indicated for sub-contracting in the Grant Agreement or its amendments.

Final calculation of the grant

At reporting stage, at the end of the project, the actual contribution of the EU will be re-calculated globally for the overall project, using the unit cost (for salaries, travels and costs of stay) and real cost (for equipment and sub-contracting) approaches, on the basis of the actual activities carried out. The EU contribution to the different budget headings cannot exceed 110% of the absolute amount indicated in the Grant Agreement or its amendments.

3. Other important rules and recommendations

Partnership agreement

Detailed implementation modalities of the project must be agreed upon by the partners and formalised in a partnership agreement to be signed at the beginning of the project.

A copy of the partnership agreement will have to be provided to the Executive Agency within six months of the signature of the grant agreement.

This partnership agreement will have to cover the various financial, technical and legal aspects related to the implementation of the project, including:

  • partners role and responsibilities;
  • budget matters (co-funding, breakdown of budget per activity and partner, modalities of transfer of funds, etc.);
  • remuneration policy for staff;
  • reimbursement modalities for travels and costs of stay;
  • reporting mechanisms;
  • conflict management mechanisms, etc.

Composition and modification of the participating organisations

Any proposed modification to the project beneficiaries must be signalled and requires prior approval by the Executive Agency. The following requirements are necessary for the different modifications to the project partnership:

  • Addition of a co-beneficiary requires a mandate signed between the co-ordinator and the new co-beneficiary and acceptance letters from all other co-beneficiaries signed by the legal representative. These should be forwarded by the co-ordinator with the request.
  • Withdrawal of a co-beneficiary requires written explanation from the co-ordinator and a withdrawal letter from the withdrawing co-beneficiary, signed by the legal representative. Where the minimum partnership requirements are no longer fulfilled, the Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency reserves the right to decide on the continuation of the agreement.
  • Changes of contact person for the co-ordinator require written confirmation signed by the new contact person, the legal representative and the former contact person of the co-ordinator.

Ineligible costs

In addition to the ineligible costs list under Part C, the following costs shall not be considered eligible for Capacity-building projects:

  • equipment such as: furniture, motor vehicles of any kind, equipment for research and development purposes, telephones, mobile phones, alarm systems and anti-theft systems;
  • costs of premises (purchase, heating, maintenance, repairs etc.);
  • costs linked to the purchase of real estate;
  • depreciation costs.

Compulsory external audit (audit certificate)

An external audit report (audit type II) on the action's financial statement and underlying accounts must be sent with the Final Report and the required supporting documents.

The purpose of the audit is to provide Executive Agency with a reasonable assurance that the costs as well as the receipts have been declared in the Final Financial Report in accordance with the relevant legal and financial provisions of the Grant Agreement.

Each beneficiary is free to choose a qualified external auditor, including its statutory external auditor, provided that the following cumulative requirements are met:

  • the external auditor must be independent from the beneficiary;
  • the external auditor must be qualified to carry out statutory audits of accounting documents in accordance with national legislation implementing the Directive on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts or any European Union legislation replacing this Directive.

A beneficiary established in a third country must comply with equivalent national regulations in the audit field.

Supporting documents

When required, readable copies (not originals) of the supporting documents must be sent. If there are doubts on any particular point, the Agency may request that all the supporting documents be forwarded.

Submitting the required supporting documents is an integral part of the agreement obligations and failure to submit one or more documents may lead to a request for reimbursement of the corresponding expenses.

Copies of subcontracts and invoices exceeding EUR 25 000 must be sent with the Final Report.

Quotations from at least three suppliers must be obtained for all purchases of equipment and services in excess of EUR 25 000, irrespective of the budget heading.