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 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

Global Programs can assist in drafting and coordinating international articulation agreements. Detailed guidelines for developing articulation agreements are available from the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education and should follow the established Academic Administrative Policies and Procedures. The Office of the Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Education publishes all approved articulation agreements online.

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

  1. reputation of the overseas institution
  2. availability of advising and special services at the overseas institution and at Penn State.

The terms of an articulation agreement specify what credit may be applied toward a Penn State degree from the overseas institution and may also establish specialized admission timing. 

Articulation agreements should not contain terms that suggest guaranteed transfer or any terms that could be construed as a payment to the overseas institution for providing admission to Penn State (e.g. tuition or fees to be paid to the institution during the student’s time at Penn State.)


Distance Education

Use of distance technology, in particular delivery of online courses, may provide unique opportunities for inclusion of students outside the U.S. in graduate education programming at Penn State and bring the added benefit, when such courses include resident students, of enriched learning environments. 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/distance delivery might contribute to collaborative graduate education initiatives. Per Policy AD-55, academic units should work with Distance Education/World Campus and the Graduate School (when applicable) in delivering courses that will enroll students who will complete a course totally online and not attend class sessions on a Penn State campus.

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 Office of Global Programs' Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA). 

In the event that faculty visits or exchanges are to be formalized and conducted on a regular basis, a Faculty Exchange agreement may be appropriate. Such an agreement should indicate the following:

  • type of activities visiting or researchers will be engaged in at Penn State, the duration of visits, and who will cover expenses;
  • the number of faculty members participating in the exchange and mechanism of selection;
  • availability of accommodations and office space;
  • access to labs in compliance with export control laws and Penn State policies;
  • access to internet and libraries;
  • health and safety issues.

Items listed under International Visiting Students/Scholars/Faculty and Teaching a Penn State Graduate Course Overseas should also be considered and included in the agreement.

Process for developing faculty exchange agreements: Colleges and campuses are asked to contact Global Programs and seek internal approval from the dean or campus chancellor (with preliminary support from the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses when applicable). Global Programs will provide a draft agreement and coordinate the Penn State approval and signing. To initiate the process for developing an international agreement that includes faculty exchanges, contact Global Programs at intlagreements@psu.edu.

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. An agreement is not required to exchange information or publications.

Graduate Level Exchanges

Graduate students can study overseas without an agreement, and international graduate students can come to Penn State absent an agreement. Graduate exchanges are intended to be reciprocal (i.e. students will be coming and going on a regular basis).  In general, host institutions will offer incoming visiting students a graduate assistantship, tuitions waiver, or some other financial support. Costs associated with the exchange arrangement are borne by the college or campus proposing an exchange.

  • Process for concluding graduate exchange agreements:  Colleges and campuses are asked to complete an International Agreement Approval Form, seek internal approval from the dean or chancellor and send the Form to Global Programs. Global Programs will provide a draft agreement and coordinate the Penn State approval and signing. (link to Section IV Approval process for Letters of Intent, Memoranda of understanding, Faculty Exchange agreements and Graduate Exchange agreements)
  • Financial arrangements: Generally, Penn State cannot use the tuition that the outgoing Penn State student pays to Penn State to cover the tuition for the incoming student and vice versa because there are generally discrepancies between the tuition rates. For example, if the incoming international student is taking courses at Penn State and the outgoing Penn State graduate has completed his or her comprehensive exams (and therefore has a lower tuition rate), then the Penn State student’s tuition does not cover the costs for the incoming student. Costs for tuition (and housing) for graduate exchange students should be clarified in the agreement and can be handled in a number of ways, including the following:
  1. The tuition of the incoming student is paid in full or in part by the host institution.  
  2. The host institution offers the incoming graduate student a teaching or research assistantship.
  3. The required application fee can be borne by the college.
  • Type of Activity: A graduate exchange agreement should clarify the type of activity in which international graduate students coming to Penn State are involved. Due to U.S. visa regulations, incoming graduate students must decide prior to their arrival whether they will enroll in courses or exclusively conduct research and cannot change the category once they arrive. Enrolling in courses does not preclude incoming students from conducting research. Admission and visa requirements depend on the type of student activity (research or course work).
  • Enrollment Status: Agreements should specify the status under which international students are admitted to Penn State. Incoming exchange students who will be taking courses but are not seeking a Penn State degree can be admitted either as non-degree students or on provisional-no-time-limit status. Provisional-no-time-limit status allows students to obtain assistantships or fellowships; non-degree status does not.
  • Program Administration: Agreements should specify the title of the individual or office responsible for administering the program at each institution.
  • Intellectual Property Agreement: Incoming graduate students who may be in a position to make, conceive, or reduce to practice inventions or otherwise develop technology, will be required to sign the Penn State Intellectual Property Agreement (see Policy RA11). The partner institution should be notified of Penn State’s IP policy in advance, and a copy of the IP agreement should be included as an appendix to the exchange agreement (if applicable).  

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:

  • Application to Penn State: International graduate students can apply for degree or non-degree study at the graduate level by following the application procedures and requirements of the Graduate School and the respective college. (Visit the How to Apply page of the Graduate School website.)
  • Non-Degree Courses, Research, and Assistantships: Visiting graduate students who are enrolled at a university outside the U.S. may register for graduate courses and research at Penn State. They may be appointed to a graduate assistantship provided by a Penn State host graduate program/academic unit/faculty grant- by completing the online graduate application for the program in which the visiting student will be hosted, and with a request by the graduate program for admission as “Provisional No-Time Limit.” No formal agreement is necessary. Graduate students admitted as “non-degree” students are not eligible for assistantships. For information about graduate student non-degree enrollment visa requirements, visit DISSA admission information.
  • Medical Insurance: Health insurance is mandatory for all internationals in F-1 and J-1 status and any accompanying dependents. Refer to the Health Insurance information on the Global Program’s website for more information.

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:

  • Temporary Teaching and Advising: Participation of visiting faculty from an international institution in teaching courses, advising students, and serving on doctoral committees for a limited time must meet Graduate School requirements.  At the undergraduate level, the authority and responsibility for the selection of visiting faculty rests with the academic deans and chancellors. There is no formal approval process analogous to that used by the Graduate School. Visiting faculty, international or otherwise, are expected to follow the same college, faculty senate, ACUE and other Penn State policies as regular faculty.
  • Teaching and Advising for Longer Periods: Visiting researchers or faculty who will teach graduate courses at Penn State beyond occasional guest lectures must be approved by the Penn State Graduate School. Members of doctoral dissertation committees at Penn State must be either members of the Graduate Faculty or be added as special members with the approval of the Director of Graduate Enrollment Services.
  • Graduate Students Conducting Research Only: If a member of the Penn State Graduate Faculty wishes to oversee a graduate student's research, the student may come to Penn State as a provisional-no-time-limit student. This is a category associated with a major that is used primarily for international student exchanges or when international students are coming to Penn State to conduct research for a specific period of time but not to receive a Penn State degree. By using the provisional-no-time-limit category, an exchange student will be assigned an academic home, be eligible for funding privileges (assistantships, etc.), and have access to university facilities (housing, library, computer labs, etc.). In contrast, non-degree student status limits a student's access to these privileges.
  • Visa Eligibility: International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA) assists visiting scholars with immigration related issues. The type of visa will depend on a number of criteria, including length of stay, type of activity and payment source. In general, visiting scholars must submit the following application documents or meet these requirements:
    • Documentation of financial support or funding for the entire stay (minimum amount determined by Penn State annually);
    • Demonstrated English language skills sufficient for the purpose of their Penn State stay (e.g. ability to interact and conduct research/teach courses in English);
    • Any additional requirements selected by the sponsoring department.
  • Medical Insurance: Visiting scholars on a J-1 visa must have medical insurance that meets the guidelines of the J-1 program including medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. This can be accomplished by purchasing Penn State’s medical insurance plan or by providing proof (in English) of comparable alternate health and accident coverage. For more information, visit University Health Services. It is strongly recommended that agreements make health insurance, medical evacuation and repatriation of remains mandatory for international visitors who are not required by law to purchase this coverage.
  • Length of Stay: Short-term visiting scholars may stay at Penn State for a maximum six (6) months; J-1 Professor and Research Scholars may stay up to five (5) years. 
  • J-1 Scholars are allowed to take courses for credit or officially audit courses, often referred to as “incidental study.”  To qualify, they must submit a Graduate School application for a “Provisional-No-Time-Limit” status, official transcripts, application fee, adequate TOEFL/IELTS test scores, and any other documents the department requires.
  • Access to Materials and Labs: Access to materials and labs is subject to U.S. legal requirements and Penn State policies, including, but not limited to, export control laws.
  • Payments to International Scholars: Payment depends on a variety of factors. Departments should contact DISSA and their Finance Officer prior to the arrival of the international scholar. (See Non-U.S. Citizen Payment Guidelines)
  • Forms: All visitors who are being paid an honorarium or reimbursed directly through the ERS system must complete the Visitor’s Information Sheet for Income and Travel. Furthermore, a University Guest Presenter Agreement may be required in cases where individuals will be speaking or presenting at Penn State.
  • Intellectual Property: International visiting scholars must sign Penn State’s standard intellectual property agreement (Policy RA-11).

Graduate Students

Studying Abroad

In most cases, Penn State 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:

  • SUBJ 603 Foreign Academic Experience: Graduate students enrolled in a Penn State graduate degree program may register for SUBJ 603:FOREIGN ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE for variable credits (up to 12) to temporarily engage in foreign study and/or research approved by the graduate program. This option requires that progress towards the degree is being made while enrolled in a university outside the U.S. SUBJ 603 carries a flat tuition rate, with the expectation that tuition is paid to the university outside the U.S. where the student is studying. Students who need to retain full-time status as a Penn State student must enroll for at least 9 credits per semester at the host institution. Graduate programs offering this course number are responsible for ensuring that students who sign up for this course meet all enrollment criteria before allowing them to enroll in SUBJ 603. Students who are registered for SUBJ 603 and who register for courses at the host institution may not transfer these credits to Penn State to be double-counted.
  • International Credit Transfer: Graduate students who are enrolled in a Penn State graduate degree program and who do not register for SUBJ 603 but register for credit courses at an institution outside the U.S. may transfer up to 10 credits into their Penn State graduate degree program within established guidelines for transfer credits (see the University Bulletin pages on Graduate Degree Programs). Programs should consult the above guidelines and Graduate Enrollment Services (GES) in the Graduate School to ensure the transferability of credits before students are encouraged to enroll for credit courses outside of Penn State.
  • Health Insurance:  Penn State graduate students studying abroad on Penn State sponsored programs are covered through banket coverage through United Healthcare Global. Questions should be directed to the Student Health Insurance office at Studentinsurance@sa.psu.edu.
  • Intellectual Property: Students may wish to inquire about any intellectual property policies at the other institution prior to their departure if there is a potential for developing intellectual property during their stay at the other institution.

Teaching Graduate Courses Abroad

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.


Research Collaboration

Sponsored research agreements are handled by the Office of Sponsored Programs. 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 and support.

Undergraduate Exchange and Study Abroad Agreements/Third-Party Providers

Education Abroad (EA) within Global Programs coordinates all agreements between Penn State and third-party providers and/or other universities abroad 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 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.

General Procedure: New proposals for such programs must originate from and be supported by Penn State academic units and academic colleges. Additionally, programs for Commonwealth Colleges or campuses must have the support of the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses. Proposals for programs are required to be submitted to EA.   

Any agreements with tour operators in connection with faculty-led embedded programs are handled by Risk Management directly. A listing of the most common types of contracts requiring review by Risk Management is available online.


Joint Research Centers

Joint Research Centers must be established in accordance with University Policy RAG18 - Establishing Research Institutes, Consortia, and Centers. This guideline is designed to provide guidance to University personnel in the creation of Research Institutes, Consortia and Centers, as well as the establishment of an Industry Membership Program. Everyone involved in the international research collaboration should be familiar with Penn State’s global operations support (link).

Process for developing joint research center agreements: Colleges and campuses are asked to contact Global Programs and seek internal approval from the dean or campus chancellor (with preliminary support from the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses when applicable).  New joint research centers will also need the approval of the Vice President for Research and other administrative units at Penn State. Global Programs will provide a draft agreement and coordinate the Penn State approval and signing. Note that establishing a joint research center is a lengthy process. The timeline to develop and sign this type of agreement depends on the complexity of the collaboration, the availability of resources, and U.S. export control laws. This type of agreement takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. To initiate the process for developing an international agreement that includes a joint research center, contact Global Programs at intlagreements@psu.edu.