Collaborating with Institutions Abroad
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(Note on the term partnership: Administrators and others involved in the process of forming and maintaining collaborations with other institutions should be aware that the term "partnership" (or "partner," etc.) is often used informally to describe a collaboration that is not strictly speaking a partnership under applicable law. A collaboration may or may not be a legal partnership according to home and/or host country laws, and there are important tax, accreditation, and other implications of establishing a legal "partnership". For this reason, the terms "collaboration," "collaborate," and so forth are used in this document instead of "partnership," "partner," and so forth. For additional information on partnerships, refer to the "Legal Entities and General Legal Support" section of this Web site.)
Collaborations with entities outside the home country can take many forms, with common collaborations involving study abroad, student exchange, and research collaborations. The range of collaborations tends to follow the experience of the faculty or institutional leadership. Many collaborations begin with faculty relationships, but multi-school consortiums are becoming much more common. (The following examples /lists are not intended to be exhaustive.)
Types of Collaborations Between Institutions
A structured and centralized approach to a collaboration may help institutions derive maximum benefit. This will enable facilitated discussion with stakeholders within the institution. The following is an example of a centralized structure:
Suggested Institutional Structure for Collaborations
The evaluation of internally funded collaborations often resides with the Office of International Affairs or a similar office under the provost. Sponsored or externally funded collaborations are typically evaluated by the Office of Sponsored Research. The vice provost of international affairs or an equivalent role needs to be influential with faculty and administration, and they must be committed to both the academic purposes and the administrative support of collaborations and programs.
Legal counsel should be consulted prior to entering into a collaboration with an institution overseas. Local units or departments with primary responsibility for the collaboration should carefully evaluate the proposed collaboration partner and benefits of the collaboration prior to approaching the provost's office or central committees.
Decision-making committees for collaborations should have very broad representation and input from schools, faculty, the provost's office, general counsel, financial administration, risk management, and other related subject matter experts and stakeholders. Some characteristics and tasks of internal committees related to collaborations may include:
- Define university objectives and goals.
- Develop policies and procedures for collaborations.
- Evaluate prospects and develop evaluation criteria.
- Review agreements.
- Approve or deny collaborations.
- Perform ongoing oversight.
- Establish metrics of success.
- Organize funding efforts.
- Ensure that site visits are occurring.
It is also good practice for the provost's office or central office devoted to international activity to maintain an inventory of all collaborations your institution enters into. A list can facilitate more strategic planning by ensuring geographical balance or diversifying student interests. It can also streamline efforts related to international activity reporting requirements.
Requests from foreign institutions to collaborate on exchange or study abroad programs need to be evaluated and aligned with an institution's strategic goals. If strategic goals do not exist, then discussions about the benefits and burdens (academic and administrative) that these activities may place on the institution should be undertaken.
Sample evaluation criteria or items to be discussed in a proposal for a new collaboration include:
An example of a program that fits the institution's mission may be to attract and educate students in health sciences, while an example of a program that fits an institutional goal may be increasing the percentage of students from Country X by 10 percent.
In addition, proposals for collaborations may include the following:
- Reasons for the collaboration.
- How the collaboration will be implemented.
- Assurance that all parties understand all aspects of the proposal.
- Any specific plans regarding academic or research activity.
- Plan to review the collaboration on a regular basis.
- Evaluation criteria relevant to the program or project.
- Plan to execute an agreement with the other institution.
- Key program leaders.
- Program costs and funding.
- Special host country considerations.
Metrics are a key to a successful program governance process, but they are only effective when measurable. Putting in place a process or system to track metrics over time will ensure that the collaboration is worthwhile. Examples of metrics include:
- Number of students enrolled in program.
- Record of student feedback.
- Number of faculty engaged.
- Changes to external funding.
- Research funding.
- Research goals.
- Improvements in curriculum and student-learning measures.
- New projects or programs resulting from collaboration.
- Evaluations performed by each institution in venture.
- Ease or difficulty of working with other institution.
- Whether the program is meeting budgets originally established, or whether overages are covered by new grants or gifts and increased scope or activities.
- Regular visits to other institution's campuses by each university.
- Meeting of any other deadlines and milestones as applicable.