Guidelines for Global Collaborations and International Agreements

Collaborations are typically initiated by Penn State academic colleges and campuses. If an agreement is required, an online International Agreement Proposal must be submitted to inform Global Collaborations of the intended activities and necessary information to prepare an appropriate agreement. The dean, chancellor, or other designated college/campus representative must approve the collaboration before Global Programs can start the university-wide agreement drafting, review and approval process. Colleges and campuses are responsible for implementing the agreement in accordance with Penn State policies and applicable laws.

Global Programs’ Global Collaborations unit will coordinate the review and approval of all international collaboration agreements with the necessary offices at Penn State. Once all approvals have been gathered, Global Collaborations will coordinate the signing process.

Concluding an agreement can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the complexity of the planned activity and of any legal or academic issues. Any deadlines, such as grant deadlines or dates for signing ceremonies, should be clearly communicated to Global Collaborations via email or by phone (814) 865-0771 well in advance of deadlines.

Global Collaborations has a variety of agreement templates which are updated regularly. Colleges and campuses are strongly encouraged to use only templates provided by Global Collaborations. The use of out-of-date Penn State templates or non-Penn State templates will significantly prolong the approval process.

Types of Agreements

Penn State uses three types of agreements for international collaborations Letter of Intent (LOI) A Letter of Intent (LOI) is a non-binding statement that acknowledges intent to explore the possibility of collaboration. LOIs are appropriate when a new project is being initiated, upon first meeting new international partners, or in connection with a one-time project. The LOI can serve as a signal of good will or a signal of the willingness to discuss the opportunities to cooperate further.  At this stage, it would generally be premature to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The LOI must be based on the pre-approved Penn State template because this template requires fewer signatures and approval steps and can usually be completed very quickly. Absolutely no changes to the template may be made.

Pre-Contract Planning

Penn State's reputation in the international community depends in part on the nature and strength of our partnerships. Early attention to these issues helps everyone provide their input on the approval path. Before discussing collaboration with a foreign institution, the issues below should be considered.

Approval and Signing Process

Types of Collaborations

There are many kinds of collaborations between Penn State and international counterparts. Some require formal agreements, while others do not. The following is a brief overview of the more common types of collaborations, with links to more detailed explanations.

Affiliation Agreements for Student Internships or Student Teaching

Non-standard internship agreements must be approved by the University Office of General Counsel.  Global Programs can help coordinate these agreements in consultation with all of the relevant offices. (See Policy FNG-02: LIMITED DELEGATION OF CONTRACT APPROVALS.)

Articulation Agreements

Articulation agreements admit students to Penn State, allow students to transfer courses in a block, or otherwise encourage movement from an overseas institution to Penn State. Given the nature of such programs, the following two issues should be considered:

Distance Education

Use of distance technology, in particular the delivery of online courses, provides unique opportunities for inclusion of students outside the U.S. in graduate education programming at Penn State. This activity can be established without a formal agreement. If this activity is developed as part of an agreement, programs should consider how specific courses that currently exist in an online or other distance-delivered format or that could be converted or developed for online delivery might contribute to collaborative graduate education initiatives.  Per Policy AD-55, academic units should work with World Campus and the Graduate School, when applicable, to deliver courses that will enroll students who will complete a course totally online and not attend resident classes on a Penn State campus.

Exchange of Information and Publications

Collaborations may include the exchange of information and publications. This must be done within the limitations of Penn State policies and U.S. law, including export control laws (see Penn State Global Operations Support, Export Control Guidelines).  An agreement is not required to exchange information or publications.

Faculty Visits/Faculty Exchange Agreements

International scholars or faculty can come to Penn State and Penn State faculty can teach a course overseas without an agreement.  Teaching appointments at the undergraduate level are typically arranged by academic colleges in consultation with the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) in Global Programs. 

Graduate Level Exchanges

Graduate students may study overseas without an agreement, and international graduate students may come to Penn State absent an agreement. Graduate exchanges are intended to be reciprocal. In general, host institutions offer incoming visiting students a graduate assistantship, tuition waiver, or some other financial support. Costs associated with the exchange arrangement are borne by the college or campus proposing an exchange.

Higher Education Capacity Building

Collaborations with international institutions that include special training programs for non-Penn State faculty or other capacity building projects will require the approval of a number of different Penn State offices, including the University Office of General Counsel. Since each capacity building program is likely to be unique, the first point of contact should be Global Programs at 

International Graduate Students coming to Penn State for Coursework

In most cases, international graduate students may take coursework at Penn State without a formal agreement. If such arrangements are developed as part of an agreement, the following policies should be considered:

International Visiting Graduate Students/Scholars/Faculty

In many cases, international visiting graduate students, scholars, and faculty may come to Penn State for research or teaching activities without a formal agreement.  If such arrangements are developed as part of an agreement, the following policies should be considered:

Penn State Graduate Students Studying Abroad

In most cases, graduate students may study abroad without a formal agreement. If such activities are contemplated as part of an agreement, the following policies should be considered:

Profit Based Certificate Programs

Currently, profit-based certificate programs are handled on a case-by-case basis in consultation with several Penn State offices.  Global Programs can assist in developing a plan of action that includes all required parties. Please contact 

Research Collaboration

Sponsored research agreements are handled by the Office of Sponsored Programs. Information about the proposal and award process is available online.  Everyone involved in the international research collaboration should be familiar with Penn State’s global operations guidelines.

Teaching a Penn State Graduate Course Overseas

An approved Penn State graduate course may be offered by a member of the graduate faculty or approved instructor at a location outside the U.S. with approval of the Graduate School, according to established policies for limited off-site course offerings. This activity can be established without a formal agreement.  

Undergraduate Exchange and Study Abroad Agreements/Third-Party Providers

The Directorate for Education Abroad (EA) within Global Programs coordinates all agreements between Penn State and universities abroad or third-party providers that establish undergraduate exchange programs or undergraduate study abroad programs.  Programs under the purview of EA are defined as any credit-bearing course or body of courses for which all of the content is offered abroad, as well as credit-bearing faculty-led undergraduate summer programs.  Although EA does not develop embedded programs (i.e. courses with an international travel component), the office is responsible for the risk management.