Departmental Projects

The university uses the Oracle Projects module to manage the following activities:

  • Research
  • Studentships
  • Estates undertakings

There may also be activities taking place within your department that fall outside of the scope of the above activities, which could be managed by using what are known as ‘departmental projects’.

Departments may wish to use the projects to manage such activities in order to take advantage of the functionality afforded by the module, including enhanced reporting, cost control mechanisms including the use of budgets and funds checking, and, where applicable, automatic revenue recognition and billing/invoicing managed by Research Accounts.

Departmental projects can be used for activities that are either internally or externally funded, provided that the activities in question meet the basic definitions of what constitutes a ‘project’, as follows:

  • The activity must be for a specific purpose;
  • The activity must have defined start and end dates;
  • The activity must have a defined budget*;
  • The activity must be of a reasonable duration (e.g. spanning a number of months, not a one day conference, etc)**.

*As a general guide, a project will not normally be set up where its total value is less than £10,000, though there may be exceptions to this (e.g. if the funder is a research council, or if the funder requires detailed financial reporting). Any such instances will be considered on a case-by-case basis – please get in touch to discuss individual project requirements.

**As a general guide, ‘a reasonable duration’ should interpreted as being around 12 months, though exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Examples of internally funded activities that could be managed through departmental projects include:

  • Academic/PI start up funds or allowances
  • Small refurbishments or IT projects
  • Departmental contributions towards externally-funded projects activities
  • Any other internally funded activity which has a defined budget and which the department may wish to manage through a distinct project account

Examples of externally funded activities that could be managed through departmental projects include:

  • Restricted donations (i.e. for a specific purpose as determined by a donor)
  • Commercial activities which in the General Ledger would normally be managed through “activity 25” (e.g. materials testing, trials undertaken for companies, etc)
  • Undertaking discrete areas of work not considered to be research (as per the Frascati definitions – see here for guidance), but not commercial either (e.g. for bodies where the work undertaken is for public benefit)

Please note that the above lists are not exhaustive and are provided for indicative purposes only.

Departmental projects should not be used for the following types of activity:

  • Residual gains arising from the closure of research projects cannot be managed through externally funded departmental projects. They could instead be managed through an internally funded departmental project for cost control purposes; this, however, may give rise to a difference between the timing of revenue recognition and the timing of expenditure
  • Short term consultancies, conferences, etc
  • An activity funded from a combination of both internal and external sources cannot be managed through a single externally funded project only – instead, internally funded elements should be managed through internally funded projects, while external sources should be managed via externally funded departmental projects

If you are unsure as to whether your activity would be appropriate for management via the Projects Module, please contact the Departmental Projects team at dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk.

‘Departmental Projects’ is a broad, overarching phrase that encompasses a number of different ‘project types’. The University uses these different project types in order to ensure that the correct underlying accounting treatment is used and relevant functionality made available via the projects module, based upon the nature of the activity due to be managed. Making use of different project types can also be useful for reporting purposes, e.g. to run reports for all projects across a particular project type.

Internally funded project types available to choose from are as follows:

  • Department Indirect (for the vast majority of internally funded projects activities)
  • Department Capital (for any projects where there may be a capitalisable element)
  • Studentships Internal (for internally funded studentships – please refer to guidance on studentship projects here)

Externally funded project types available are as follows:

  • Department Contract (for contract based non-research activities considered as projects)
  • Donations (for donations projects activities)
  • External Trade (for commercial activities considered as projects)
  • Studentships with OH (Overheads) (for externally funded studentships – please refer to guidance on studentship projects here)

If you are unsure of which would be the correct type for your activity, please contact the Departmental Projects team at dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Note on other project types: there are other project types not listed above which are considered to come under the broad definition of ‘departmental projects’. The set up and maintenance of projects using these other project types is not initiated by departments and instead managed by central university teams. Further information is available in the ‘other project types’ section later in this guidance.

Once you are satisfied that your activity is appropriate for management via a departmental project, there are a number of steps that must be followed in order for the project to be set up on Oracle.

All project setup requests, irrespective of project type or funding source (i.e. internal/external), must satisfy the following basic requirements as a minimum:

  1. A completed DPF1 (Departmental Projects set up form), available here. Guidance on how to complete the DPF1 is available here.
  2. Confirmation of tax treatment (if selected treatment implies recoverability or exemptions) from the tax team
  3. For activities funded via an external source in a foreign currency, the sterling budget should be determined using the current X5 rate for USD or EUR agreements. For all other currencies, confirmation of the appropriate should be obtained from the Treasury Team (treasury@admin.ox.ac.uk). This is consistent with the forex policy in force for research projects (please see here (SSO required) for further information)
  4. Approval for the set up from a relevant individual with delegated authority in the requesting department (see guidance here)

There may be additional documentation required to be submitted, depending upon the type of project being requested. The following table provides an overview of these additional documents, by project type:

Project type Additional documentation required
Department Capital Confirmation of capital/revenue treatment from the Fixed Assets Team (if total budget value is above £50k)
Department Contract Fully signed/executed contract or award letter, by both the university and all external parties
Donations Fully signed/executed Deed of Gift, which contains evidence that the donation is restricted (see here for guidance)
External Trade Fully signed/executed contract or equivalent

 

All documentation and approvals, once completed/obtained, should be sent to dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk.

The project types listed above also require additional final sign off from other teams within the Finance Division. Upon receipt of all documentation, the Departmental Projects team will secure these approvals, as follows:

Project type Additional approvals required
Department Capital Financial Reporting - Fixed Assets Team, for capital/revenue decision (where total budget value is above £50k)
Donations Financial Reporting
External Trade Financial Reporting - Subsidiaries Team

 

All set up requests will be reviewed by Research Accounts to ensure that appropriate documentation and approvals are in place, and that the choice of project type is correct.

Special note for donations projects: due to the nature of donations, awards may only be set up with a budget equivalent to the funds received. Where a gift consists of multiple instalments to be paid over a set period of time and the funds have not yet been received, the budget amount will be restricted to the total value of cash instalments scheduled to be received in the financial year in which the project is set up, as per the gift agreement. For all other circumstances, the Financial Reporting team will review requests on a case-by-case basis.

Externally funded non-donations projects only: please note that where the total value of a project exceeds £500,000, the sponsor may be subject to a credit check by the Financial Reporting team. Research Accounts will manage this aspect of the process for applicable projects.

Budgetary controls

When a new project is set up, budgetary controls, which are used for funds checking purposes, are automatically applied at project and top task levels. These controls can be extended to sub task level on request.

A budgetary control applied to a task or project informs the funds check process that the budget is ringfenced with the effect that costs in excess of available funds will be rejected by the system. Please note that budgetary controls cannot be applied at expenditure category level.

The steps that departments must follow for the setup of a departmental project are as follows:

  1. Complete the DPF1 (Departmental Projects set up form), available here. Guidance on how to complete the DPF1 is available here.
  2. Obtain all relevant additional documentation (where applicable)
  3. Obtain confirmation of the tax treatment from the tax team
  4. For activities funded in foreign currency, ensure that the X5 rate (for EUR or USD) or rate confirmed by Treasury (all other currencies) is used to determine the sterling budget
  5. Obtain appropriate level of authorisation within your department for the set up as per the University’s financial regulations concerning authorised signatories and delegated authority (further guidance available here, also explained in DPF1 guidance notes)
  6. Submit all documentation/responses outlined in points 1-5 to dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk

Please note that the time taken for your project to be set up will vary depending upon a number of factors, including the complexity of the project and whether all requirements have been fulfilled. These issues notwithstanding, the team will endeavour to set projects up on the system within a five working day turnaround time, consistent with the process for research projects.

Amendments to existing projects may involve changes to one or more the following:

  • Setting up new tasks
  • Updating budgets
  • Amending project/task dates

All project amendment requests, irrespective of project type or funding source (i.e. internal/external), must satisfy the following basic requirements as a minimum:

  1. A completed DPF2 (Departmental Projects Amendment form), available here. Guidance on how to complete the DPF2 is available here.
  2. Approval from the lead department if the amendment is either:
    1. a budget movement between or change for internal collaborator tasks, or
    2. a change in task dates
  3. Approval for the amendment(s) from a relevant individual with delegated authority in the requesting department (see guidance here)

For externally funded projects, where the requested change involves adjustments to the overall project level budget or dates, confirmation from the external sponsor will be required (in the form of, for example, a fully signed/executed contract amendment).

In addition to the basic requirements, there may be additional documentation and approvals required to be submitted for changes to be made to a project, based on the project type:

Department Capital – for budget changes either within the current project level budget or adjustments to the overall budget that involve a potential change in the capital/revenue treatment of the project, a revised capital/revenue decision must be sought from the Fixed Assets Team (if the overall budget value is £50k or above).

Donations – for adjustments to the budget at project level, a fully signed/executed deed of gift or equivalent from the donor is required (if entirely new funds). If an uplift is part of an existing gift (e.g. for a next annual instalment listed on the original award letter, where the cash has not yet been received), approval from the Financial Reporting Team will be sought by Research Accounts. For adjustments to project level dates, extensions of up to 1 year at a time can be actioned by Research Accounts. Extensions beyond this duration will be referred to the Financial Reporting Team for review. Any other circumstances will be referred to the Financial Reporting Team for advice.

All documentation and approvals, once completed/obtained, should be sent to dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk.

The steps that departments must follow for amendments to departmental projects are as follows:

  1. Complete the DPF2 (Departmental Projects set up form), available here. Guidance on how to complete the DPF2 is available here.
  2. Obtain all relevant additional documentation (where applicable)
  3. Obtain appropriate level of authorisation within your department for the amendment(s) as per the University’s financial regulations concerning authorised signatories and delegated authority (further guidance available here, also explained in DPF2 guidance notes)
  4. Submit all documentation/responses outlined in points 1-3 to dept.projects@admin.ox.ac.uk

Please note that the time taken for your project to be amended will vary depending upon a number of factors, including the complexity of the project and whether all requirements have been fulfilled. These issues notwithstanding, the team will endeavour to action amendment requests within a five working day turnaround time, consistent with the process for research projects.

Please note this section refers to externally funded projects only.

All claims and financial reports must be accurately and promptly submitted to sponsors, within the terms of the funding/award. All billing and reporting is undertaken by Research Accounts.

A monthly list of claims/invoices/reports due will be compiled with reference to the billing cycle and/or deliverables system data entered during project setup. Each claim/invoice will be generated on one of the following bases:

  • actual costs incurred; or
  • event-based defined charge or profile payment; or
  • a combination of the two above.

In some cases, departmental review or clarification may be required before a claim or financial report can be submitted.

The accounting rules for departmental projects works in a broadly similar way to research projects (i.e. using specific cost centres, etc), though are configured differently and vary between project types.

The following table provides an overview of where departmental projects sit within the ledgers of the university, in addition to the cost centres used, by project type (please note that for completeness, all project types are included in the table below):

Auto-accounting for departmental projects

The following table provides an overview of the income natural account codes to which revenue is posted (please note that the table below shows the revenue natural accounts for all departmental projects, and also note that internally funded project types do not release matching revenue to costs posted):

Auto-accounting revenue for departmental projects

Department Capital – for tasks set up for ‘revenue’ costs, the auto-accounting will drive the expenditure to the department’s 9981 cost centre. For tasks set up for ‘capital’ costs, the auto-accounting will drive the expenditure to a balance sheet code, for capitalisation purposes.

A common query from users is how to manage costs that have accumulated on **9981 cost centres as a result of expenditure postings from internally funded projects.

Departments have two options.

  1. Leave the costs where they are:
    1. This ensures that costs in Projects will always agree with balances on **9981 cost centres, so you can report from both Projects and GL and obtain the same results without any further manipulation of data
    2. For management accounting purposes, you can include the amount of costs you are planning to spend across your internally funded projects in your **9981 annual budgets and quarterly forecasts (ensure meaningful variance analysis within the actual cost centre)
    3. Optionally, at year-end you can transfer the debit reserves balance on **9981 to different cost centres.
       
  2. Journal costs out of **9981 to other cost centres using the natural account for recharges (99600):
Entry type Cost centre Natural account
Credit **9981 99600
Debit [other cost centres] 99600

 

However, please note that if you remove costs out of **9981, projects balances will no longer agree with balances on **9981 cost centres.

Research Accounts will carry out monthly checks to identify any departmental projects that have passed their end date. 
For all projects that have ended, irrespective of project type, Research Accounts will contact departments to ask for confirmation of the following three key points:

  1. That all activity on the project has ceased/been completed;
  2. That no commitments exist on the project;
  3. That no further costs are expected to be posted.

Following receipt of confirmation on the three key points above, Research Accounts will additionally review the following, with referral to the department where appropriate:

  • That the project is fully billed/no further billing is due;
  • That no outstanding debt exists;
  • That all reporting requirements, if any, have been satisfied as per the terms and conditions specified in the award letter (or equivalent). Please note that:
    • Non-financial reporting (e.g. scientific reports) to sponsors is the responsibility of the department;
    • Financial reporting to sponsors is the responsibility of Research Accounts (departments will be asked to provide confirmation that all financials are final before onward submission to sponsors);
  • That any residual gain (if applicable) is permitted by the sponsor to be taken by the project-owning department;
  • Once all of the above has been fulfilled, any residual (whether loss or gain) will be posted. The posting of any residual gains/losses will be actioned by Research Accounts, using the appropriate overheads expenditure types

Once all of the applicable points as noted above have been actioned, Research Accounts will close the project on Oracle.

As noted under the ‘choosing an appropriate project type’ section, there are other project types that come under the ‘departmental projects’ grouping.

The set up and maintenance of projects using these types is not initiated by departments, and follow separate processes. The project types are as follows, and queries should be directed to the appropriate central university teams:

Project type Responsible central team Further information
Government Funded Research Services https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/
IT Services IT Services finprojects@it.ox.ac.uk
John Fell Fund Research Services https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/funding/internal/jff

 

 
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