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Developing Partnerships

The Office of the Vice President for International Relations works with faculty, school administrators, and other units on campus to design, negotiate, and institutionalize international partnerships. These partnerships should be formalized with an agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

International agreements are written for various types of partnerships, such as student exchange programs, customized student programs, dual degree programs or faculty exchanges, to name a few. See all partnership types.

If you are considering a new agreement, please contact Jennifer Gerrard in the Office of the Vice President for International Relations to see if there is an existing agreement with your proposed partner. Below is the process a standard agreement must follow to be approved by Northwestern.

*Please note that the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to be completed, depending upon a variety of factors, including the number of stakeholders, complexity of the agreement, and the response time from the partner institution.

Step-by-Step Guide on how to Develop an International Partnership

Determine if an Agreement is Needed

  • You need an agreement if there is an exchange of faculty, students, or money.
  • Any institutional level program requires an agreement.
  • You do not need an agreement if you are doing an individual research project with a colleague or if you are taking students on a one-off short-term trip.
  • If you have a question about whether or not you need an agreement, please contact us.

Initial Discussions and Planning

  • If you are considering a new agreement or an agreement renewal, please contact us. For renewals, please pprovide documentation of the original agreement. If the terms of the agreement are not changing, renewals often take much less time to process than new agreements.
  • Initiate discussions with internal stakeholders and external potential partners to pursue a new relationship or expand an existing relationship with a partner institution. At this stage, no promises or commitments should be made to external partners.

Draft an Agreement

  • Contact us to request an agreement template.
  • Consider the following when drafting agreements:
    • Is this a mutually beneficial agreement for Northwestern and the partner institution?
    • Is this the best partner institution for this specific purpose?
    • What are the anticipated activities of this program?
    • What is the timeframe of this program? When will the agreement expire?
    • Who will be involved from Northwestern?
    • How will this collaboration be funded?
    • Will this collaboration create any intellectual property (copyrights or patents) or involve any confidential information?

Obtain School's Approval of the Agreement

  • The agreement details should be endorsed by the dean or associate deans at the school proposing the agreement.

Obtain Central Administration Initial Approval

  • Send a brief proposal outlining the agreement to our office, including information about the relationships with the institution, reasons for choosing that specific institution and location, any resources required, etc. Include the draft MOU.
  • We will circulate the agreement to the Office of the Provost for initial approval.

Contact International Units

Depending on the agreement, different units may need to provide input and review the agreement. Typical units involved include:

  • The Graduate School
  • Office of International Students and Scholars
  • Global Learning Office
  • Risk Management & Export Control

Our office will contact and coordinate the relevant offices.

Legal Review

  • Typically, only new agreements require review by the Office of General Counsel.
  • Our office will submit the draft agreement to the Office of General Counsel, follow up as needed, and coordinate with any other offices that need to provide legal input (i.e. Risk Management for insurance or IT for data provisions).
  • Once your agreement is reviewed and approved by General Counsel, the edited document will be shared with you to send to your partners.

Partner Institution Approval

  • If the partner institution has further suggested changes to the agreement, return the document to our office with the disputed clauses highlighted. If there are substantial changes, the agreement must go back to the Central Administration Approval stage, and possibly the Office of General Counsel stage. Depending on the changes, we will coordinate these steps if necessary.

Provost’s Approval and Signature

  • If the agreement is approved by the partner institution, return the document to our office and we will obtain the Provost's signature.

Partner Institution Signature

  • We will send the signed agreement to your partner institution for signature.
  • We will also keep a copy of the agreement on file.


Jennifer Gerrard
Senior Director, Global Engagement and Intercultural Initiatives

Dévora Grynspan
Vice President for International Relations