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Academic Collaborations

Collaborating with an International Counterpart

When two or more international counterparts work together (rather than one of them earning revenue from the relationship), there are a variety of collaborations that may take place. Not all require formal written agreements, but when they do, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is generally the most common formal agreement between two or more parties.

Cornell University has roughly 250 active MOA with universities and institutions worldwide. These agreements are established either directly by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs on behalf of the president or provost in the case of university-wide relationships or, in the case of the more frequent unit-level collaborations, through specific colleges/schools or operating units. Note: Although MOA and Project Agreements (PA) are the most commonly used agreement types, Letters of Intent, Letter Agreements, Memoranda of Understanding, or any similar agreement regardless of title also apply to this protocol.

MOA are legally binding documents that outline the working relationship. Project Agreements, which are governed by an overarching MOA with the collaborator, detail specific arrangements and focus on a distinct purpose such as visiting scholar exchanges, student exchanges, resource sharing, joint research, etc. Student exchanges are generally initiated by Cornell faculty and are managed by individual colleges and/or the Office of Global Learning.

In our experience, the most successful institutional partnerships rely on long-term commitment from faculty and their international counterparts. Therefore, any proposal for a formal institutional relationship must have at least one Cornell faculty sponsor.

If you are interested in establishing an agreement with another university or institution, please follow the steps outlined in Establishing a Formal Institutional-Level Partnership.

Bear in mind that MOA should not be used solely to establish goodwill between two institutions; they should serve a specific purpose. In other words, a specific project—to be described in a specific Project Agreement—should be envisioned at the MOA stage.


The Global Operations team supports and enables international projects, travel, and operations; and helps to mitigate risks to the university and individuals.