International collaborations are often formalized through agreements and other mechanisms that document the relationship and expectations of each institution. BU enters into a diverse array of these agreements with foreign entities and individuals, including:

  • academic and research collaboration agreements
  • employment agreements
  • business agreements
  • leases
  • sub-award contracts

International agreements are more complex than domestic ones because they need to take into account the laws of the country where the partner is located. All agreements must be reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to protect the interests of the University, program, and employees affected. It is important to bring the agreements to OGC in a timely manner to allow for review and, when necessary, consultation with foreign legal counsel. The Global Program’s Vice President/Associate Provost must approve any such hiring and only the OGC is permitted to retain the services of counsel in another country. Please view the University’s Policy on Engaging Professional Services for more information.

Often unrelated units of the University share an interest in collaborating with the same foreign institution on different initiatives. In these instances, a Master Agreement is preferred because it:

  • sets forth the common terms of agreement
  • supplements with specific information called Term Sheets
  • eliminates the need for negotiating common contract provisions for each new collaboration
  • speeds up the process of reaching agreement

Consult with Global Programs early in your discussions to see if there is the potential for identifying common interests among University units or expanding existing relationships abroad.

Why We Don’t Recommend Memoranda of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is typically a brief statement of the intention between parties to discuss future collaborations and/or negotiate a contract in the future. However, MOU is often used as a catch-all term for any documented international relationship, even those containing detailed agreements that are intended to be enforceable. It is important to remember that MOUs are not intended to create legally binding obligations and often explicitly disclaim any intention to do so.

MOUs pose risks to Boston University, such as creating opportunities for another institution to publicize an affiliation with BU that has not been endorsed, and are usually unnecessary to the parties’ goal (e.g., a visiting professorship or student exchange), since a definitive agreement can be reached once the parties agree upon terms. If there is a compelling reason, such as providing a foreign institution with a document for accessing grant funds, you should contact Global Programs for guidance.

Signing Authority

Only a limited group of University officers are authorized to sign legal documents on behalf of BU. Deans, faculty, and staff should not sign collaborations or other agreements. Global Programs and the OGC can help determine the signatory for your international agreement.