Projects of this complexity and size which are supported by the European Commission require a comprehensive project management system consisting of legal agreements and budget management and accountability lines. This section identifies key requirements placed upon us by the European Commission and offers a reflection on the importance of a structured project lead.
The Swedish National Agency (NA) as delegated by the European Commission, awarded a grant for the project Making Internationalisation a Reality for Occupational Therapy Students (MIROTS) under the Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2: Strategic Partnerships. The duration of the project was 36 months, starting 1.9.2016 and ending 31.8.2019. The maximum grant allowable was 221 464 EUR. The budget was allocated between a number of categories for the work of the project: project management and implementation of the project in each of the partner institutions; transnational project meetings to review and plan for learning activities and deliver outputs from the project; intellectual outputs associated with the project; a multiplier event to showcase the work delivered through the project; learning/ teaching and training activities and monies to support students with special needs to engage in the project.
No funding for exceptional costs was applied for. In hindsight, this was an error as during the project there have been a number of unexpected costs for example, the cost of new technology for the web exchanges. Unexpected costs also include the “hidden costs” such as time spent preparing students for both physical and web-based exchanges, staff hours spent on learning/teaching/training activities and project management meetings.
Whilst one of the partner institution took on the Project Lead (LU), all three grant holders agreed on being jointly and severally liable for carrying out the action in accordance with the Agreement. Before signing the Agreement, internal arrangements were made. A Project management meeting was held in Lund 2016 to discuss these arrangements and a finance and management guidance document between the coordinator and partners was drafted. This contract was to regulate relations between the parties and outline their respective rights and obligations with regard to participation in the project.
A project board was established to manage the many work streams (learning and teaching activities, intellectual outputs and the Multiplier Event) associated with the project. This involved partners from all the main institutions. A table of responsibilities for all members in the project board was drafted. This was reviewed and revised once a year at project board meetings. In addition, a list of those responsible for deliverables was drafted. These were 1) Information and stakeholder communication, 2) Financial and budgetary issues, 3) Travel and accommodation, 4) Facilities, 5) Programme development, 6) Student contact, 7) Evaluation and 8) Development of a model for international web-exchanges. The timeline was then finalised and adhered to during the three years of the project. Regular web based virtual meetings were undertaken throughout the year to ensure the timely delivery of activities. This was essential as payment from the European Commission is dependent upon these activities.
A first pre-financing payment from the NA corresponding to 40% of the maximum grant amount was made following the entry into force of the Agreement. In September 2017 an interim report on the implementation of the Project, outlining that at least 70% of the amount of first pre-financing payment had been used, was accepted. Within 60 days after the end date of the project, this Handbook, describing the implementation of the MIROTS will be published on the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform; https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/projects/
The grant was divided equally between the Coordinator (LU) and partners (UoS and NUIG) according to achievement of the allocated tasks and milestones prescribed under the proposal. This was agreed and documented in the “Finance and management regulations between the coordinator and partners” document.
All students participating in the physical exchange received financial support for travel, accommodation and some subsistence. Students with special needs received extra financial support, if needed.
The Project Lead was responsible for recording all information in relation to the activities undertaken as part of MIROTS project and to complete and submit the progress report and the final report in the web based Mobility Tool+. The approval of the final report will be subject to the upload of the MIROTS deliverables in the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform by the time of its submission.
1. Agree a list of responsibilities for all members in the project board including involvement in work packages
2. Agree the importance of a strict timeline to follow
3. Agree on a partner budget of the total grant for all three years and specify clear budget categories
4. Apply for Exceptional costs, since it is useful to have in case of “hidden costs”
5. Decide early in the project how project meetings are to be organised and documented.
6. Agree on ownership/property rights of data and project results
7. Follow the proposal in detail and document all results and save materials
8. Discuss implementation of results and sustainability regularly.