International Academic Exchange Linkage Agreements

Section III. Item 21.

Download the Form for Reviewing an International Linkage Agreement in Word or PDF Format.

The Division of International Programs is charged with the responsibility of overseeing all international contracts and agreements, including academic exchange linkage agreements with institutions of higher education, research, or performance that are located in other countries.

On December 13, 1995, the International Programs Advisory Council recommended that the following policy governing international linkage agreements be approved by the Division of International Programs. International Programs did approve them as of that date. The policy recommended and approved is:

All international linkage and exchange agreements shall be reviewed and approved by the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs. The Executive Director, with the advice of the Advisory Council for International Programs, shall develop guidelines for the development and review processes for international linkage and exchange agreements, to be provided to all who contemplate such agreements.

These are the guidelines that were developed and recommended for approval by the International Programs Advisory Board, and approved in May 1997 by the Division of International Programs. They provide a framework for faculty and academic units who are considering international academic exchange linkage agreements and outline a process for developing, reviewing, and approving such agreements.

As individuals and units consider formal international exchange agreements, they need to consider that the basic assumption about such agreements is that they are a means to an end, and not an end to themselves. That is, international agreements must serve the objective of internationalizing our university: all agreements must serve and be consistent with the mission of the university. And, they must also serve and be consistent with the mission of the unit or units that will be involved in the agreement.

When International Agreements Should be Considered and Developed

Though most international academic exchange linkage agreements between NIU and other institutions abroad are not, technically speaking, formal contracts, they do involve a commitment by NIU and they usually do spell out roles and responsibilities of the partner institutions.

Such agreements should not be entered into lightly. In fact, it is often not necessary to have an official linkage or exchange agreement in place in order for individual faculty members to be able to work with peers at institutions abroad. Generally, international academic exchange linkage agreements should only be considered when a formal document is needed to provide the desired activities and programs that will benefit an academic department, several departments, a college, several colleges, or the university as a whole.

When contemplating an international academic exchange linkage agreement, one should ask oneself the following questions -- which help determine whether a formal agreement is needed or not, and what nature it should be, if needed:

 

  1. Does the proposed agreement serve the mission of the proposing unit?
  2. Does the proposed agreement serve the needs of the proposing unit?
  3. Will the agreement positively impact students and faculty of the proposing unit?
  4. Does the agreement fit into the scholarly missions of the university?
  5. What risks, if any, might there be on the proposing unit and on the university?
  6. How will the agreement impact the internationalization of the proposing unit and of the university?
  7. What costs, to the unit proposing the agreement, to other units, and to the university, will be involved in the agreement?
  8. Will there be true mutual benefits from the agreement, for the proposing unit and NIU as well as for the partner institution?
  9. Does the proposing unit have the necessary resources (human and material) to carry out the responsibilities that are part of the agreement?

Faculty members and unit administrators who are considering the development of international linkage or exchange agreements should contact the Division of International Programs for guidance on the process for developing them, for the content of the proposed agreement, and for information about possible review processes that some agreements might have to undergo.

It is important to recognize the difference between international linkage and exchange agreements and those international agreements that are formal contracts involving the provision of services and materials be they by NIU or a vendor or provider of services and materials abroad. International linkage and exchange agreements are equivalent to formal letters of intent, without legal force. Contracts with fiscal obligations have to be developed differently than academic exchange linkage agreements and will also have to use different language and legal clauses. All contractual agreements have to be developed with the assistance of the Division of International Programs and have to be reviewed by the University General Counsel. These agreements may also, at times, be reviewed by the International Programs Advisory Council.

All agreements, whether contractual or not, have to be approved by the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs before they are signed by appropriate university officials.

Basic Elements of an International Linkage Agreement

Each agreement will be different, reflecting the objectives of the agreement and the nature of the partner institutions. However, all agreements should contain the following sections:

  1. The scope of the agreement. A section of the agreement should specify which units at NIU and the partner institution will be active participants in the agreement. Agreements can involve only one academic department or several. They can involve one college or several. Or, they can serve the whole campus.
  2. The nature of the agreement. A section of the agreement should describe the nature of the linkage agreement. Agreements can cover all aspects or specific aspects of mutual exchange. Specific aspects that can be covered by an agreement include: joint research; exchange of library and other printed or published material; student exchanges; faculty exchanges; joint teaching programs; study abroad programs; technical assistance; joint training programs; etc.
  3. Abiding by institutional policies. A section should mention that neither partner institution is expected to take any action contrary to established academic policies, procedures, and practices of the other institution.
  4. The responsibility of each institution. A section of the agreement should describe the responsibilities that each party will assume within the linkage agreement. Mutual responsibilities have to be spelled out in enough detail so that there is no ambiguity about who is responsible for what.
  5. How the agreement will be evaluated. A section of the agreement should describe how the agreement will be evaluated and by whom, and what action, if any, will result from the evaluation of the agreement. Linkage agreements should be evaluated periodically for their effectiveness. If they are not effective (e.g., completely inactive and not accomplishing their goals) they need to be terminated.
  6. How the agreement can be modified. A section of the agreement should describe the process by which the agreement can be modified or amended, including by who would be authorized to modify or amend the agreement.
  7. How the agreement can be terminated. A section of the agreement should spell out the procedure for terminating the agreement, including the minimum length of time that should be used for giving notice by either partner that they want to terminate the agreement. Generally a period no less that three months or no more than six months should be specified.
  8. How long the agreement will be in effect. A section of the agreement should spell out how long the agreement will be in effect. Agreements must have an "expiration date." Most agreements should have a "life" of three to five years, before possibly being renewed for similar periods of time.
  9. How the agreement can be extended or renewed. A section of the agreement should spell out the procedure for extending or renewing the agreement, including the minimum length of time that should be used for giving notice by either partner that they want to renew or extend the agreement. The method of extending or renewing the agreement can be different for different agreements. In many cases that can be done through an exchange of letters or memoranda. In some cases it will involve the signing of an extension or a new agreement.
  10. Who will be responsible for communications and for administering the agreement. A section of the agreement should spell out who, at each institution, will be responsible for communicating on behalf of their institution on matters pertaining to the agreement, and for administering the agreement. At NIU that is usually a person from the unit directly involved with the agreement and the Executive Director, or designee, of the Division of International Programs.
  11. Signatures to the agreement. All agreements will have a signature section at the end of the agreement. The agreement is signed by both partner institutions. Different agreements are signed by different persons.

The Division of International Programs has sample agreements that can be used for drafting agreements. It also has information about certain specific "boiler plate" sections that have to be included in each agreement.

Procedures for Developing, Reviewing, and Signing International Linkage Agreements

Generally, the following process should be followed when developing an international academic exchange linkage agreement:

  1. Individual faculty members or units who want to develop an international linkage or exchange agreement should consult with the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs. They will be provided with guidelines and assistance in determining whether a formal agreement is needed, and with assistance in developing an agreement if it is needed.
  2. The Division will provide assistance in drafting the agreement, and, if needed, assistance in negotiating the agreement with the partner abroad.
  3. All draft agreements have to be reviewed and approved by relevant academic chairs and appropriate deans.
  4. All agreements that involve student and/or faculty exchanges have to be reviewed for technical content by one or more units within the Division of International Programs:
    1. All proposed agreements that involve faculty exchanges shall be reviewed for technical content by the International Students and Faculty Office and modified, if needed, based on that review.
    2. All proposed draft agreements that involve student exchanges shall be reviewed for technical content by staff in the Study Abroad Office and the International Students and Faculty Office and modified, if needed, based on that review. If the agreement involves graduate students it will also have to be reviewed by the Graduate School, and modified, if needed, based on that review.
  5. In certain cases, when the proposed agreement involves a sensitive area or a controversial partner, the International Programs Advisory Council will be asked to provide advice as to whether the agreement should be signed. The decision as to whether a draft agreement is to be submitted to the International Programs Advisory Council may be made by the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs, or by the initiator of the proposed agreement.
  6. If the International Programs Advisory Council is asked to review a proposed agreement, the following procedure will be followed:
    1. The initiator of the agreement fills out a form that has to be submitted, along with the draft of the proposed agreement, for the review process.
    2. The Advisory Council reviews the proposed agreement and all circumstances surrounding it.
    3. The Advisory Council makes a recommendation to the Executive Director, as to whether the proposed agreement shall be approved or not, as well as what kinds of revisions might be necessary before it can be approved.
    4. The Executive Director will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Council when approving or rejecting the proposed agreement.
    5. If the Executive Director makes a decision contrary to the recommendation of the International Programs Advisory Council, a written explanation will be provided to the Advisory Council and to the proposing unit(s), with information about possible changes, if feasible, that can be made in order to approve the proposed agreement.
  7. After agreements have been approved by the Executive Director of International Programs, they also have to be reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel, and modified, if needed, based on that review.
  8. Once reviewed and approved by the General Counsel, a minimum of four unsigned original versions of the agreement are sent to the partner institution, to be signed and returned for the needed signatures at NIU. The university strongly prefers that the other party sign an agreement first, before it is signed and dated by NIU officials.
  9. Each party determines who within their respective institutions shall sign the agreement. For NIU there are several kinds of signatures that could be affixed to the agreement:
    1. In all cases there will be the signature of one of the following four persons who can legally sign international linkage agreements on behalf of NIU: the President, the Executive Vice President and Provost, and (by delegation) the Vice Provost or Dean of the Graduate School. Since most agreements involve academic exchanges they will generally be signed by the Executive Vice President and Provost.
    2. In all cases the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs will sign indicating "approval" of the agreement.
    3. Depending on the nature and scope of the agreement, one or more Deans may also sign as having approved of the agreement.
    4. In some cases, when the agreement involves only one academic department, the Department Chair may also wish to sign as having approved of the agreement.
  10. Once the agreements have been signed by the other party and returned to NIU, the needed NIU signatures are affixed to the agreement copies .
  11. One of the original fully signed agreements is sent to the partner institution, one is kept in the office of the General Counsel, one is kept in the office of the Division of International Programs, and at least one is kept by the unit(s) most directly involved with the agreement.
  12. When agreements are to be renewed or extended, the principal units may be requested to provide a report on the progress made through the agreement and its results to the Executive Director of the Division of International Programs.

Process for Reviewing an International Linkage Agreement

The following process will be used in the event that a review of a proposed agreement is requested:

  1. The initiator of the agreement fills out a form that has to be submitted, along with the draft of the proposed agreement, for the review process.
  2. The Advisory Council reviews the proposed agreement and all circumstances surrounding it.
  3. The Advisory Council makes a recommendation to the Executive Director, as to whether the proposed agreement shall be approved or not, as well as what kinds of revisions might be necessary before it can be approved.
  4. The Executive Director will consider the recommendations of the Advisory Council when approving or rejecting the proposed agreement.
  5. If the Executive Director makes a decision contrary to the recommendation of the International Programs Advisory Council, a written explanation will be provided to the Advisory Council and to the proposing unit(s), with information about possible changes, if feasible, that can be made in order to approve the proposed agreement.

The Form for Reviewing an International Linkage Agreement will need to be filled out for this process.

 

Approved by the International Programs Advisory Committee (IPAC), April 23, 1997
Editorial Modification, 2/6/04

Last Updated: 2/6/04