As a comprehensive public research university, Illinois maintains inter-institutional relationships with hundreds of partner institutions around the world. These partners include other institutions of higher education, government ministries, research funding agencies, NGOs, municipalities, and private corporations. Activities undertaken in collaboration with our partners include student mobility and exchange, cooperative education, collaborative research, training and consultation, capacity development, resource sharing, and more.
Agreements between the Urbana campus and foreign partner institutions can range from informal (undocumented) “handshake” agreements between faculty to work together in areas of common interest, to formal (documented), legally binding contracts that obligate one or both partners to perform specific actions or provide specific services to the other. Prior to any preliminary discussions to develop a draft agreement with an overseas institution, a consultation with the director of ISIP is required. For agreements proposing to establish student exchange or fee-based study abroad programs, a consultation with Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange is also required.
Establishing a New Agreement
To ensure that maximum mutual benefit will result from such cooperation, there should first be an objective evaluation of the following aspects of the quality of the potential exchange partner:
- The general quality and resources, and academic standing of the potential partner;
- The potential for institutional support within Illinois for the exchange program;
- The potential interest among Illinois students (for proposed student exchange agreements);
- The campus-wide advantage of the proposed exchange, and
- The overall value of the linkage with regard to the university’s strategic initiatives for international activity.
Before entering into formal negotiation with the proposed partner institution, the Urbana campus unit or faculty member desiring to initiate a new agreement should consult with ISIP regarding issues cited below:
- The general scope of the proposed cooperation;
- Specific area/fields of cooperation;
- Aspects of mutual responsibility;
- Financial arrangements and services provided;
- Intellectual property issues that may arise as a result of collaborative research;
- Terms of the proposed exchange agreement and its renewal and termination.
Campus units or faculty members wishing to establish a new international agreement should first complete the Application to Establish, Renew or Amend a Cooperative Agreement with a Foreign Institution and submit it to ISIP prior to an initial consultation with the Director. For agreements to support student mobility between institutions, faculty and/or departments which are housed in the following colleges should consult with their college’s study abroad administrators/offices: ACES, Business, Education, Engineering, Law, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Media, and ask those administrators/offices to submit the application to ISIP. Faculty and/or departments in all other colleges should consult with the central campus study abroad office, Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE), and that unit will submit the application to ISIP.
ISIP will provide assistance for drafting the exchange agreement and, when desirable, for negotiating the terms of the agreement with the potential overseas partner. When the draft exchange agreement has been completed and approved by the sponsoring unit and the foreign partner, ISIP will initiate an online, internal review and clearance process, circulate the draft agreement to the necessary internal reviewers, and document their approval and/or feedback. Necessary approvals vary slightly according to the type of the agreement. In general, however, new or renewed inter-institutional agreements will be reviewed and approved, in draft form, by:
- The Director of ISIP
- The head of the requesting unit (academic department, administrative unit, research institute, etc.)
- The dean of the relevant disciplinary college (or her/his designee)
- The dean of the Graduate College (for agreements involving graduate student mobility for credit-bearing activities)
- The director of the office of Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange (IAGE, for agreements involving student mobility)
- The Assistant Director for International Safety and Security (for agreements involving student mobility)
- The Vice Chancellor for Research (via the Office of Sponsored Programs, for agreements involving collaborative research)
- The office of University Counsel (via the Office of Sponsored Programs or the Contracts Services Office, with direct consultation of legal counsel as needed)
Finalizing & Signing an Agreement
In order for any Memorandum of Understanding or Memorandum of Agreement between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a foreign institution to be valid, it should be approved and signed by:
- The Chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus,
- The Vice Provost for International Affairs and Global Strategies of the Urbana-Champaign campus,
- The Comptroller of the University of Illinois, or a duly appointed proxy.
Generally, we sign the final Agreements first, and then send them to the foreign partner institution for signature there. Typically, two original prints of each agreement are prepared and signed; however, foreign partners may request as many signed original prints of the final Agreement as they require. Fully executed agreements are archived, both in original paper documents and in digital copies, in the ISIP office, and are available to all faculty and staff on campus upon request. As official documents of the University of Illinois, digital copies of all agreements are also archived in Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) and/or in the Illinois Contracts Systems Repository (iCS) maintained by the Contracts Services Office Foreign partners may request as many signed original prints of the final Agreement as they require.
ISIP has worked with the office of University Counsel to develop a series of written instruments, encompassing varying levels of formality, to assist faculty, academic and administrative units in their interactions with existing or proposed international partners. ISIP uses these templates to provide a common starting point for drafting and negotiating agreements that are tailored to the particular needs of a given partnership. Although we can, and often do, work with drafts first proffered by the partner institution as a starting point, in general, the agreement process is expedited if the partner institution agrees to use our templates as a starting point.
Note: Standard legal terms and document formatting preferences often change to reflect evolving legal climates, relevant case precedents, etc., so it is important contact ISIP when considering a new inter-institutional agreement, rather than using the templates below to create your own first draft and share it with colleagues at the partner institution.
Current templates include:
- The Letter of Intent—an informal (i.e., non-binding) document that can be used to establish or document the initial stages of a partnership. These can be executed by colleges (bearing the signature of the dean), schools or research institutes (bearing the signature of the director) or academic units/departments (bearing the signature of the chair or head). Letters of intent should identify the initiating faculty and unit, and may identify particular areas of collaboration to be explored. They typically do not have defined termination dates. Copies of all Letters of Intent should be made available by the initiating unit to the OIC for institutional records.
- The Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs)—a more formal, but still non-binding document that recognizes the proposed linkage at the institutional level. MOUs have specified termination dates, and are signed on behalf of the campus by the chief executive officer (chancellor) and the senior international officer (Vice Provost for International Affairs and Global Strategies), and on behalf of the university by the designated signatories of the Board of Trustees (comptroller and secretary). MOUs are a more public declaration of partnership, and are often useful in support of joint grant applications to external funding agencies, facilitating visa and travel document processing, and initial collaborative activities that involve an institutional presence of some kind (i.e., joint conferences, etc.). All MOUs must be processed through the OIC; one originally signed print is to be kept on file by the OIC, and a second originally signed print is to be kept on file by the Board of Trustees.
- The Memorandum of Understanding with Research Focus—an extension of the general MOU above, with provisions for the exchange of research personnel to explore potential joint research projects. Again, this document can be useful in support of joint grant applications, particularly to federal agencies here and abroad that specifically fund scientific research. Academic departments or research institutes on campus that have identified a partner institution with desirable/complementary research foci, facilities and equipment, etc., but have not yet articulated a specific joint research project may find this document useful. It establishes the potential for joint research, while at the same time protecting the researchers' and university's best interest by requiring a that more formal research agreement be executed prior to undertaking any specific joint research project. As with general MOUS, all research MOUs must be processed through the OIC; one originally signed print is to be kept on file by the OIC, and a second originally signed print is to be kept on file by the Board of Trustees.
- The Memorandum of Agreement (MOAs)—a formal, legally binding document, or contract, that sets forth specific terms, rights, and obligations of both partner institutions. MOAs tend to be highly customized to accommodate the needs of particular collaborative arrangements. Terms should be detailed and comprehensive, but still clear and concise. The duties and obligations stipulated in MOAs, whether financial or otherwise, are legally enforceable, and thus create liability for one or both parties. As a result, MOAs are subject to more active review and scrutiny by the OIC and University Legal Counsel. MOAs have specified termination dates and typically include "escape clauses" providing for early termination. Although they are, like MOUs, signed by the chief executive officer and senior international officer for the campus, in fact only the Board of Trustees is legally authorized enter into contractual obligations on behalf of the University of Illinois, and so their designated representative (i.e., the Comptroller) is the signatory required by law. The sample MOA linked above is a standard "closed pocket" reciprocal student exchange agreement.