Approval and Signing Process

Global Collaborations has established a 5-step review and approval protocol that guides the development of the most common types of agreements, from inception to signing. The purpose of the approval process is to ensure that all interested stakeholders have been provided an opportunity to review, modify, and approve an agreement prior to the signing phase.

5-step Approval Process

STEP 1: College/Campus Approval:

The faculty member/college/campus identifies an opportunity for formalizing an international collaboration. The faculty member or a designated college/campus representative coordinates with the department head, college/campus international programs representative(s), and the dean or chancellor. The dean or chancellor (or a designee) must approve the formalization of the collaboration and should be consulted at the early stages of the process to ensure college/campus support. Commonwealth Campuses must seek formal support and endorsement of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses.

Colleges and campuses may have additional internal approval processes for proposing international collaboration agreements. Faculty members should contact the college/campus international programs director to clarify internal policies or procedures.

STEP 2: Submitting an International Agreement Proposal:

The next step in the process is to submit an Intent to Submit an International Agreement Proposal (IS-IAP) application. The application form will request contact information about the person requesting the collaboration (faculty champion); the name of the intended partner and their contact information; and the nature and scope of proposed collaborative activities. Additionally, the applicant must provide informal evidence (e.g., email communication between leadership and the requesting faculty champion) that college/campus leadership is aware and supportive of the potential collaboration. Finally, if the partner provides an agreement draft, it must be enclosed with the application.

Global Collaborations will review the IS-IAP and determine whether additional details are necessary to process the agreement. If the proposed agreement is merely establishing a relationship with the partner, and the partner will allow usage of Penn State’s standard Letter of Intent or Memorandum of Understanding templates, the faculty champion may not be required to submit a full International Agreement Proposal (IAP).

For program-specific, custom agreements, or when non-Penn State templates are used, the faculty champion will be invited to submit the more detailed International Agreement Proposal (IAP) application. The IAP will request information about the intended partner’s strategic alignment; history and background of the relationship; anticipated outcomes of the proposed collaboration; sustainability of the proposed collaboration; and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) impact. It will also ask for a Letter of Support (“reference letter” in InfoReady) from academic leadership (dean, chancellor, or their designees).

STEP 3: Global Collaborations Provides a Draft Agreement:

Once Global Collaborations receives all necessary information to begin processing the agreement, either a Penn State templated agreement or program-specific custom agreement will be shared with the faculty champion for review, edits, and/or acceptance. If the partner institution provides a template or a draft agreement, it should be submitted as part of the IAP process (see Step 2). Global Programs will review the draft, coordinate the internal Penn State approval, and provide faculty champion or the college/campus designee with an approved version.

STEP 4: Global Collaborations Negotiates with Collaborating Institution:

Once the faculty champion accepts the draft, Global Collaborations will share it with the intended partner institution for their review, edits, and/or approval. The extent of negotiation will depend on the complexity of the agreement and the number of regulatory offices involved in the process. During this stage, the partner will be asked to provide the names and titles of all signatories for their institution.  (NOTE: Intended partner signatures are NOT obtained at this stage.  Global Collaborations will obtain ALL necessary signatures after the final version of the draft has been approved for signing).  The collaborating institution will be reminded that Penn State will still require final approval before the agreement can be signed.

STEP 5: Final Penn State Approval and Signing:

  • Global Collaborations coordinates the internal approval of the final version of the agreement.  
  • Penn State offices that may be consulted include the following:  Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the Graduate School, Office of Technology Management, and the Vice President of Commonwealth Campuses (VPCC).
  • Global Collaborations coordinates all legal matters with the Office of General Counsel in conjunction with Risk Management. See University policy AD49.
  • Global Collaborations coordinates checks and clearances (signatories and main contacts) against key U.S. government lists with the office of Export Control.
  • Global Collaborations then seeks final approval from the offices of Risk Management, Export Control, and/or General Counsel.
  • Global Collaborations collects the Penn State stakeholder signatures via Adobe Sign.
  • Global Collaborations then shares the partially signed agreement with the partner via email with a request for either original or electronic signature(s).
  • Once the agreement is fully signed, Global Collaborations will keep an electronic copy of the fully executed agreement on file in a central agreements database for University reporting.

Timeline and Use of Penn State Templates

The conclusion of an agreement generally takes several months. Using Penn State templates as the basis for an agreement usually keeps this timeline to a minimum.

  • LOI completion averages one (1) month when Penn State drafts are used.
  • MOU completion averages one (1) – three (3) months when Penn State drafts are used.
  • MOA completion averages six (6) to twelve (12) months when Penn State drafts are used.

Use of Penn State Drafts: Global Programs uses templates when drafting agreements. These templates have been approved by and are regularly updated by Penn State’s offices of Risk Management and General Counsel. The use of drafts based on Penn State templates is strongly encouraged because it greatly facilitates the review and approval process at Penn State.

Deadlines and Expedited Agreements:  If there is a deadline for the agreement (for example, a planned signing ceremony), Global Programs should be notified of that deadline as soon as possible. In general, agreements will not be expedited unless there is a strong justification.

Signing Guidelines and Procedures

Global Programs will coordinate the signing process. 

Signatories: An international agreement must be signed by the dean/chancellor of the college/campus proposing an international agreement. In addition, the Vice Provost for Global Programs must sign every international agreement. Also, the agreement must be signed by an individual with delegated signatory authority under University Policy FN-11 CONTRACTS AND LEASES.

If there are additional administrative units impacted by a proposed agreement, the head of each such administrative unit must sign the agreement. For example, any agreement involving a Commonwealth Campus must be signed by the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses. Global Programs will identify all such additional signatories.

The President of Penn State does NOT sign international agreements. Exceptions may be made under rare circumstances, such as for agreements of fundamental, strategic importance to the University as a whole.

Electronic Signing Procedure: Penn State utilizes Adobe Sign to route agreements for electronic signatures. Generally, Penn State stakeholders will be asked to sign agreements first. Signatories and approvers will receive an email from and must follow the prompts to review or approve the agreement. Once the recipient signs or approves the agreement, Adobe Sign automatically shares the agreement with the next signatory or approver. Once all Penn State stakeholders have signed or approved the agreement, the partially executed agreement is shared with the international proposed partner with a request for either original or electronic signature(s). Once the agreement is signed by the partner, it is fully executed and activities under the agreement may commence. Global Collaborations maintains an electronic database of all international collaboration agreements for the University. Scanned copies of the fully signed agreement will be distributed to all interested stakeholders.

Original Documents: Penn State no longer prints agreements for signature. If a proposed partner insists on original wet ink signatures, Global Collaborations will print the agreed upon number of agreements on parchment paper and send them to the appropriate signatories at Penn State and to the institution abroad. The collection of Penn State signatures may take several weeks, depending on signatory availability.

Signing Ceremonies: Signing ceremonies are discouraged unless the agreement is of major strategic importance to the University. Colleges/campuses are responsible for arranging a signing ceremony. Global Programs should be notified of the date as early as possible. 

Term and Renewal of an Agreement

Term Length and Expiration: Every agreement should include an expiration date (usually no more than 3-5 years from date of last signature) and make an extension conditional upon a positive evaluation of the collaboration under the agreement. Automatic renewal clauses are disfavored.

Extensions/Renewals:  Extensions and renewals are contracts and must go through the normal agreements process. Requests for extensions or renewals should be submitted at least one (1) year prior to the expiration of the existing agreement.

Outcomes and Goals: Faculty champions will be expected to explain the outcomes accomplished under the existing agreement and describe the goals and expected outcomes sought over the renewal period. The collaboration will be evaluated with input from interested stakeholders including, but not limited to, college/campus leadership, Global Programs, the Office of Undergraduate Education, and the Graduate School. Global Programs will also consider feedback and evaluations provided each year by college/campus leadership in response to the Annual Reports of International Agreements.