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From Idea to Signed MOA

Launching a relationship at the university level is an involved process. On this page, you'll find information about how to get started if you're considering a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between an international university and your department, college or school, or all of Cornell.

Global Operations manages university-wide agreements. Our team supports and enables international projects, travel, and operations and helps to mitigate risks to the university and individuals.

Read more about international contracting basics, including agreement types. If you're planning a research collaboration or other limited academic partnership, find out more about college- and unit-level agreements.

About Cornell's MOA

Cornell has more than 240 active agreements with universities and institutions worldwide. This number includes MOAs, project agreements, and similar agreement types, such as memoranda of understanding, letters of intent, and letter agreements. 

An MOA is the most common formal agreement between two or more parties. MOAs 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 like visiting scholar exchanges, student exchanges, resource sharing, or joint research. Student exchanges are generally initiated by Cornell faculty and 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. For this reason, any proposal for a formal institutional relationship must have at least one Cornell faculty sponsor.

The MOA Process

Step 1: Gather information

Determine the purpose and the details of the agreement you wish to establish. Consider the following questions:

  • What and where is the partner university or institution?
  • What kind of collaboration are you proposing (student exchange, visiting scholars, etc.)?
  • Should the agreement apply to your department or unit only, or should it have a larger footprint—involving your college/school or the entire university?
  • What resources are involved? Will any money be changing hands, such as expense reimbursements?

Having answers to these questions will help to determine if an MOA that fits your specifications already exists. If there is no other agreement, the information puts you ahead when you begin drafting a new agreement.

Step 2: Determine if an agreement is already in place

Cornell has more than 230 active MOAs on file with universities, institutes, and NGOs around the world. Perhaps your needs are already addressed in an existing agreement!

Before starting work on a new MOA, check to see if a collaboration already exists. View the list of Cornell's active MOA collaborations (Cornell login required). If an agreement is already in place with a particular institution, Global Operations will help you determine if your activity can take place under the existing agreement(s), or if a new agreement needs to be negotiated. 

Step 3: Check with your college or school

If a new agreement is required for your collaboration, there could be an impact on university resources. Please contact your college/school dean—or for university-wide agreements, Global Operations—to discuss your plans before initiating a new collaboration.

Step 4: Connect with your unit's contract administrator

Cornell's contract management platform, Icertis, administers several types of international agreements, including international institutional collaborations established by MOA (or project agreements, letter agreements, or any similar agreements). These types of agreements must be initiated through your operating unit’s designated contract administrator. Your contract administrator will provide you with a form to collect the relevant collaboration information needed to draft the agreement(s). See a sample MOA template (Cornell login required).

Step 5: Negotiate the agreement

Once you receive the drafted agreement(s) from your contract administrator, you may work directly with your international collaborator to negotiate the terms—or your contract administrator may offer a different option. International institutional collaborations must go through this centralized process to ensure that both the relationship with the outside entity and the agreement itself are consistent with the mission and values of the university.

We understand that many institutions have their own standard language for these types of agreements. With help from legal counsel, we work to develop terms that are acceptable to both parties. The contract administrator or faculty member is responsible for notifying the external university or institution of any required changes to the agreement.

Step 6: Finalize and obtain signatures

Once the agreement is finalized, it must be signed by your operating unit's authorized Cornell signatory and the comparable party at the collaborating institution before the agreement is considered to be active.

The contract administrator will send the agreement(s) directly to the counterparty for signature, and upon receipt, ensure Cornell’s authorized signatory executes the agreement. Both parties will receive a signed copy of the agreement via Cornell’s AdobeSign platform, unless a wet signature is required.