Types of International Partnerships

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

At Duke, an MOU with an international partner is an explicitly non-legal and non-binding document that contemplates collaborative activities to be initiated through future agreements. An MOU is a common first-step in formalizing an international partnership because it helps to establish friendly relations between key stakeholders at both institutions, define the scope and aspirations for the partnership and provides direction for negotiating future legal agreements.

Many of Duke’s international partners require stakeholders to execute an MOU prior to engaging in collaborative activities or negotiating any legally-binding agreements. Although an MOU is non-binding, international partners will trust and expect Duke to commit to pursuing the areas outlined in the MOU. MOUs can be institution-wide or specific to your department or unit at Duke. Based on the scope and content of the MOU, OGA will determine the appropriate Duke signatory.

IMPORTANT: Duke (and many other institutions) often receive documents from partners that are titled “Memorandum of Understanding” but include legally-binding elements. At Duke, international agreements must be explicitly non-binding in order to qualify as an MOU. While there is no universal definition for what qualifies as an MOU, Duke considers this to be best practice. When gray areas arise, OGA will work with University Counsel to determine acceptable risk and advise you on whether you need a legally binding agreement.

OGA provides a Duke-approved MOU template upon request. Contact Hal Matthews to request copy of the template. Using the Duke template will significantly reduce the time needed to review the MOU. Any changes to the Duke MOU template must be reviewed and approved by OGA (with input from University Counsel).

Legal Agreements

Many activities contemplated by an MOU will require a legal agreement before the activities can occur. Legal agreements specify an exchange of services or commitment of resources between partner institutions, and include legally-binding elements. Partnership activities that generally require legal agreements include, but are not limited to:

  • Exchanges and mobility for students and faculty to engage in coursework, research and/or teaching at Duke or the partner institution.
  • Research projects that involve an exchange of sensitive materials or information, mobility, hiring of staff, access to facilities, or payments and/or contracts outside of the United States.
  • Short term academic programs that involve employing faculty or site-coordinators, exchanging funds, leasing, using or accessing facilities on-or off-campus.
  • Collaborative activities that generate revenue, involve the hiring of staff or require payments and/or contracts outside of the United States.
  • Any activities funded by a foreign entity.

Legal agreements require review from a variety of stakeholders across campus, and some agreements may fall outside the purview of OGA. If OGA is unable to process your agreement, we will redirect your proposal to the appropriate office(s) for review.