Pre-Contract Planning

Penn State's reputation in the international community depends in part on the nature and strength of our international partnerships. Before discussing collaboration with a foreign institution, it is recommended that faculty members review the following factors and criteria that reflect Global Programs’ strategic vision for global engagement and collect information that will help assess feasibility of their proposal.

Strategically chosen international partnerships enhance the University’s mission by expanding access to wider networks of institutional and intellectual resources and by leveraging our resources and expertise with other leading institutions around the world (Global Programs Strategic Plan, 2021-2025).

This section refers mostly to the so-called “institutional partnerships”, but the underlying logic is not irrelevant to the more “individually-driven” efforts. In practical terms, this information will be required when submitting the full International Agreement Proposal (IAP) application, if it has been requested by Global Programs.


Institutional Reputation and Background

Each proposed collaboration will be considered separately on its own merits. Providing background information about the potential collaborating institution or organization will assist reviewers in making sound and consistent decisions. Factors to be considered about the intended partner institution include but are not limited to the following:

  • Status of institution as a degree- or non-degree-granting educational institution
  • Status as a government, public, or private organization
  • Accreditation status or other academic recognition
  • Institutional size and areas of specialization
  • Ranking and other quality indicators
  • Unique expertise, strengths, or capabilities
  • Existing Penn State connections (faculty, alumni, co-authorship, etc.) and international relationships.

Global Programs will consider these and similar factors in assessing the organization in a broader context.

Sustainability of Collaboration

Not every collaborative activity leads to an institutional partnership or requires an agreement. When it does, attention should be paid to whether a particular collaborative relationship will continue and remain productive, for example, after the faculty champion leaves Penn State or shifts focus to other projects.

Factors indicating sustainability include the following:

  • Availability of faculty/staff/administrative resources and support infrastructure both at Penn State and at the collaborating institution
  • Support from the Dean/Chancellor of the sponsoring college or campus
  • History of the collaboration including:
    • Number and nature of visits between the institutions
    • Number of faculty members from both institutions involved in the collaboration
    • Length of time that a relationship has existed
    • Nature and scope of past or current joint projects, exchanges, or agreements
    • Relationships to other Penn State departments, colleges, or campuses, if known.

The sustainability factors should be assessed by the faculty champion and the academic unit prior to submitting the IAP for new collaborations and at the time of renewals.

Expected and Realized Outcomes

Agreements should be considered only when both parties will work towards an outcome-oriented collaboration that brings reasonable value to both institutions.

Agreements concluded “in the excitement of a visit” and agreements that lacked “concrete engagement by the faculties” have often failed to establish productive partnerships.

The International Agreement Proposal will ask about expected outcomes of the proposed collaboration over the agreement term, i.e., the next 3-5 years. Early planning exercises conducted in close communication with the partner institution should help forecast realistic results and identify the benefits that will be realized if the proposal is accepted.

Depending on the type of collaboration and type of agreement, expected outcomes may be more or less specific and measurable, but they should always relate to program goals and objectives. A regular review of the collaboration is recommended to assess the progress and success of the collaboration. The following questions could be considered for new engagements:  

  • What would indicate success?
  • How can you measure that?
  • What is the target that you want to achieve?

For renewal requests, the questions should include both realized and re-assessed future outcomes, potential for disciplinary synergy, and restated sustainability considerations:

  • What were the main outcomes of this engagement?
  • What were the significant accomplishments?
  • Are there areas of the collaboration that need more attention moving forward?
  • What opportunities do you envision for the collaboration over the next 3-5 years?
  • What are your expected results from a continuation of this collaboration?

At the renewal stage, it is important to address a divergence, if any, between intended and realized outcomes, unforeseen positive outcomes, and “Lessons Learned” as a means to reflect on how to improve a collaboration after renewing an agreement.

Examples of expected or realized outcomes include but are not limited to:

  • Research collaboration enabled
  • Students exchanged/engaged
  • Mobility projects implemented
  • External funding attracted
  • Longer-term partnership is planned
  • Other faculty, departments, colleges get involved
  • Quantitative indicators (# of faculty and/or students involved; # of trips/events/workshops/presentations; # of co-authored publications, joint proposals submitted, grants awarded, etc.).

Strategic and Academic Alignment

Prospective collaborating institutions and related academic collaborative programs should be considered in the context of Penn State’s overall engagement strategy, which requires focusing on fewer and more strategic universities in a true partnership manner. Within this context, the academic unit’s mission, long-range strategic planning, and potential for disciplinary synergy should also be considered when engaging a new international partner.  Before initiating an educational or research collaboration, the following questions should be answered:

  • Does the partner institution or program provide curricular assets not otherwise available? 
  • Do individual faculty members have important research expertise/stature that may provide exceptional opportunities for research collaborations and/or graduate training? 
  • Would the collaboration provide access to unique research facilities/specialized resource centers that would enhance faculty research and/or graduate training at Penn State?
  • Is there a curricular need and market demand for the planned program? How many students/faculty members are reasonably expected to participate in the program?

A Letter of Support from the Dean/Chancellor (or their designee) submitted as part of the International Agreement Proposal should reflect the relevance of the proposed collaboration to the Unit/University Strategic Plan and discuss the “fit” with the potential partner institution.

Compliance Issues

Certain types of collaborative relationships, research activities, and country affiliations may be restricted or limited by law or policy despite promising academic possibilities. As a United States institution, Penn State is required to comply with the laws and regulations issued by the U.S. government related to the export of both goods and services.

The U.S. government controls the export of certain technologies, software and hardware for reasons of national security, foreign policy, prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and for competitive trade reasons.  Export control laws regulate the transfer of items, technology, software and services.  They apply to all activities with foreign persons and foreign countries, not just sponsored research projects and not just activities which involve the transfer of technology or information to a foreign destination.  

Export controls may restrict: (1) the ability of foreign nationals (students, researchers, or collaborators) to participate in research at Penn State; (2) the ability of University personnel to provide services (including training in the use of equipment) to foreign nationals; (3) the ability to send equipment, spare/replacement parts, technology, or software to foreign countries; and the ability to collaborate with researchers in foreign countries.

Every Penn State researcher is expected to be aware of the export control issues related to her/his work and to use the available resources to ensure compliance.  For questions regarding export compliance at Penn State, please contact the University Export Compliance Officer or visit the University's Export Compliance Office Website.