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Global Initiatives facilitates UC San Diego's international engagement by developing MOUs and agreements with institutions around the world. Our staff work collaboratively with campus partners to create MOUs and agreements that meet the needs of faculty's global research and educational activities. We serve as both a resource and operational support for departments, research units and professional schools in executing their international strategy.

Review the information below to learn more about MOU and agreement types, processes, and resources.

MOU vs Agreement

Global Initiatives assists central campus in executing MOUs and agreements that suit the needs of their international partnership and comply with policies and guidelines issued by campus and the UC system. Though frequently used interchangeably, MOUs and agreements are two distinct document types that serve different collaborative activities and follow different development and approval processes.


A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a general statement of mutual interest to explore opportunities for collaboration. MOUs can be used to establish a broad relationship with the goal of identifying areas of collaborations that may lead to a more formal agreement. 

Examples of when an MOU might be the most appropriate document for an international partnership:

  • Establish a new partnership with an institution or institutions
  • Engage in non-funded joint research projects
  • Apply for a grant or other funding opportunity
  • Exchange publications, materials or information
  • Create a framework for short-term activities and mobility programs such as workshops, symposia, and research internships


An agreement is a formal commitment to collaborate on specific activities. Agreements usually require more detailed information regarding the scope of the collaboration and delineate the responsibilities of the institutions involved. 

Examples of when an agreement might be the most appropriate document for an international partnership:

  • A bilateral/ reciprocal student exchange program
  • Dual and/ or sequential degree programs
  • Partnerships with a sponsoring organization
  • Service provider contracts
  • Long-term/ ongoing commitments of staffing, campus facilities, administrative and/or operational support
  • Defined research collaborations

Non-Binding vs Binding

International MOUs and agreements are categorized as binding or non-binding depending on the content and purpose of the collaborative activity. As the name implies, non-binding indicates that neither institution is making a commitment (funding, staffing, facilities, or campus resources) to one another. Binding, however, indicates that the institutions are making a legally enforceable commitment through their partnership. Such commitments include financial (fellowships, tuition or fee waivers, etc.), direct student enrollment, credit-bearing coursework, staffing, campus resources, and/ or intellectual property ownership.

International MOUs & Agreements Decision Tree

Below is a useful graphic to understand how to navigate the international MOU and agreement process based on the area of campus involved and certain common activities of interest. For accessibility purposes, A PDF version is also available.


Approval Process

In addition to drafting international MOUs and agreements, Global Initiatives is responsible for routing the document for approval and signature based on the campus units involved (departments, ORUs, schools or all of campus) and UC San Diego's delegations of authority.  It is important to note that only faculty can initiate an international MOU or agreement.

The Executive Vice Chancellor has the delegated authority to enter into all international MOUs and agreements. As such, the standard process is for the EVC to sign when appropriate. If the faculty member and/ or partner institution wants the Chancellor's signature, this request must be made before preparing the final draft for signature.

If additional signatories, such as a dean, center director or faculty wish to sign the document for ceremonial purposes we can accommodate this by including a second signature under the Delegated Authority denoted by Read and Understood By... This may be useful when hosting a signing ceremony or for protocol purposes if the partner would like to recognize additional stakeholders beside the institutional representative.

Below is an outline of the approval processes for different MOU and agreement types.


  • Approval from Academic Senate:
    • If agreement involves credit-bearing activities: Yes- Approval by Committee on International Education (CIE) with review by Undergraduate Council or Grad Council based on courses and programs involved.
    • If agreement just involves research: No. 
  • Approval Routing Sheet Signatories (subject to change):
    1. Lead Faculty
    2. Department Chair
    3. School Dean
    4. Dean of Undergraduate Education or Dean of Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs
    5. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Initiatives
    6. Vice Chancellor - Student Affairs and Campus Life
    7. Associate Vice Chancellor - Resource Administration
    8. Executive Vice Chancellor
  • Delegated Authority to Sign: Executive Vice Chancellor (or Chancellor if requested)
  • Routing and Signature Process: DocuSign. If Chancellor's signature is requested, then agreement will be submitted to the Chancellor's Office through Policy and Records and Administration (OnBase).

MOU (Campuswide)

  • Approval from Academic Senate: No. 
  • Approval Routing Sheet Signatories (subject to change):
    1. Lead Faculty
    2. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Initiatives
    3. Vice Chancellor - Student Affairs and Campus Life
    4. Associate Vice Chancellor - Resource Administration
  • Delegated Authority to Sign: Executive Vice Chancellor (or Chancellor if requested).
  • Routing and Signature Process: DocuSign. If Chancellor's signature is requested, then it will be submitted to the Chancellor's Office through Policy and Records and Administration (OnBase).

MOU (Departmental)

  • Approval from Academic Senate: No. 
  • Approval Routing Sheet Signatories (subject to change):
    1. Lead Faculty
    2. MSO/ Financial Officer
    3. Department Chair or ORU Director
    4. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Initiatives
    5. Vice Chancellor- Student Affairs and Campus Life
    6. Associate Vice Chancellor - Resource Administration (if going to Executive Vice Chancellor)
  • Delegated Authority to Sign: 
    • If it is an academic department: School Dean
    • If it is an ORU: Executive Vice Chancellor
  • Routing and Signature Process: DocuSign

Responsibilities of Global Initiatives in Process

Global Initiatives is determined to make it as easy as possible to internationalize new and existing research and academic collaborations. Below is how Global Initiatives supports faculty in the process:

  • Provides consultation on which modality best suits the needs of the collaborative activity or partnership.
  • Liaises with faculty members and administrative contacts at partner institutions to negotiate language, terms and conditions of the MOU or agreement.
  • Drafts the MOU or agreement in conjunction with Campus Counsel.
  • Conducts restricted party screenings and liaises with Export Control if needed.
  • Routes final draft of the MOU or agreement for approval and signature.
  • Archives final, signed copy of the MOU or agreement for record-keeping and reporting purposes.

First Steps for Faculty

If you are a faculty member and wish to pursue an International MOU or agreement, here are a few steps to start the process:

  1. Consult the decision tree to ensure that Global Initiatives is the correct office to support you.
  2. Visit our international agreements database and search for the international institution(s) involved. It's possible that UC San Diego already has an active MOU or agreement.
  3. Email Courtney Giordano and Max Reinke to briefly explain your intended collaborative activity. Courtney and Max will provide guidance on next steps in the process.