South Dakota State University supports meaningful formal relationships with foreign universities and institutions. When they work optimally, such relationships bring a wide range of educational benefits, such as enabling both sides' faculty and students to study and conduct research abroad. The Office of International Affairs has developed this central resource in order to support SDSU units that seek to establish meaningful institution-to-institution relationships for the benefit of SDSU students, staff and faculty. The following information is intended to assist faculty and academic units interested in pursuing an international agreement.
Why Develop an Agreement?
Universities across the U.S. and throughout the world seek new and creative ways to partner with institutions abroad. Towards this end, SDSU's colleges and departments receive numerous letters and visitors from abroad seeking partnerships. Many provide attractive opportunities for collaborative research and/or outreach opportunities, others offer to host SDSU students at locations with enriching educational opportunities, while some seek U.S. partners to accept their qualified graduate and undergraduate students.
International agreements serve to provide visible and concrete intentions of colleagues and/or academic units working together towards a common goal. Moreover, in certain cultures, a written statement of intent is highly valued or is deemed essential for obtaining government funding and/or enabling faculty members at the partner university to implement outlined activities. An agreement also may help to minimize misunderstandings in the future regarding the components of what was agreed.
Types of Agreements (and agreement templates)
There are three types of international agreements at SDSU. The first and broadest is the general "Memorandum of Understanding," which establishes a formal partnership between SDSU and an international institution. This first type of agreement often mentions the type of collaboration that is anticipated, such as student, faculty and/or staff exchanges, shared research projects, technology transfer and other specific activities. However, any planned student exchanges need to have a more specific exchange agreement (detailed below). The MOU is often general and is the first step in documenting a partnership between SDSU and a foreign university. This MOU can also be tailored to mention more specifically activities regarding research collaboration, visits, etc.
The second type of agreement is a Student Exchange Agreement. It provides detailed information regarding SDSU partnerships involving students and contains language required by the Board of Regents for any exchange agreements.
The third type of agreement is the Visiting Student Agreement. This type of agreement is used when an SDSU academic unit agrees to accept qualified international students from the partner institutions, but as visiting, fee-paying non-degree students (as opposed to degree-seeking students). The difference between a student exchange and a visiting student program is that on the former, an SDSU student studies at the partner institution and a student from the partner institution studies at SDSU, and each student only pays tuition and fees at the home institution. In a visiting student program, students from the partner institution come here for one semester or one academic year, as visiting students, but because no SDSU student goes to the partner institution, the visiting student must pay all applicable tuition and fees for the semester(s) here at SDSU.
If an SDSU academic unit is interested in developing an agreement which doesn't seem to fall into one of these three categories, they should consult with the Office of International Affairs to develop an appropriate agreement framework.
Procedures for Developing a New International Agreement
All international agreements must ultimately be approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents. Therefore, the process for submitting a new agreement for consideration by the BOR may take 4-6 months. Academic units proposing a new agreement should keep this timeline in mind, especially when discussing agreements with potential new partners who may operate on a different timeline and expect an agreement to be signed immediately.
The following steps are required when developing a new agreement:
- Meet with the Office of International Affairs to discuss the agreement and decide on the type of agreement to be developed.
- Using the available templates, develop a draft of the proposed agreement. Share the draft with the proposed partner to decide on any additional language which needs to be added. In general, language in the template should not be deleted, as the BOR requires some specific language in the agreements. However, additional language can usually be added in order to accommodate the partner's needs for specific terms, etc.
- Once a mutually agreeable draft has been developed, complete the Cover Sheet for agreement approval. Note the cover sheet will ask some basic information about the proposed partner and proposed agreement, and also requires the signature of the relevant department head(s) and dean(s).
- Submit the cover sheet and agreement draft to the Office of International Affairs. The office will review the agreement and then submit it to the university International Committee for review and approval. Faculty proposing new international agreements will be invited to the next International Committee meeting to present their proposal. Faculty should plan to present a brief summary of the rationale, benefit, and substance of activities to be involved in the Agreement at the International Committee meeting. See Criteria for Reviewing New International Agreements for a description of the questions the International Committee is likely to ask.
- The International Committee advises the Provost whether an agreement should be pursued. If the Committee recommends approval and the provost agrees, the draft agreement is then printed on formal paper, with two originals, and submitted to the President of SDSU for signature. Once the President has signed, the agreement is forwarded to the BOR for approval at their next meeting.
- Once the BOR approves the agreement, the originals (signed by SDSU President) are then sent to the partner institution for signing. One original is kept by the partner institution and the second original, signed by both parties, is returned to the Office of International Affairs. The OIA keeps all originals of agreements, though departments can request copies for their own files.
- Information about the agreement is entered into the University's database of international partnerships.
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Criteria for Reviewing New International Agreements:
- Appropriateness of proposed partner: Is this an appropriate institution with which to sign an agreement? Is it public or private? If private, is it religiously affiliated? (Religious affiliation does not preclude an agreement as long as nondiscrimination clauses remain intact and academic freedom is not infringed upon).
- A history of cooperation between the two proposed partner institutions and a compelling case for developing a new relationship: What is the history of the relationship with the foreign institution? Has a viable pattern of collaboration already been initiated? If not, what is the compelling case for developing a new, formal relationship?
- Strong potential for mutual benefit: What relevant strengths does the foreign institution bring to the linkage? What benefits will this bring to SDSU currently or in the future? Who are the SDSU faculty, staff and/or students who will benefit from this linkage?
- Compliance with legal restrictions and University regulations: Do all elements of the agreement comply with U.S. federal law (including immigration, export/import and other regulations) and with the laws of the government of the proposed partner institution? Do all of the elements of the agreement comply with the rules and regulations of both partner institutions?
- Secured financial and infrastructure support (if necessary): What type of SDSU financial support has already been pledged or secured? What will be the source of this support? What type of support, if any, will the foreign institution provide during the first three years of the linkage? In addition to financial support, what arrangements are in place for other forms of support such as office space, secretarial/clerical assistance, or faculty course leave?
- Identified on-site coordinators or contact persons at each institution: What individual at each institution will be responsible for coordinating the activities that comprise the relationship, e.g., initiating publicity, communicating information to the other institution, etc.? Is a back-up or secondary contact available, in case the primary contact is absent or unavailable for a period of time?
- Stated support from all colleges, departments and programs explicitly implicated in the agreement: Has the initiating department received explicit support from all other departments, colleges and programs that are implicated as participants in the agreement? If elements of the agreement might represent a significant workload increase or other resource issue for administrative offices, have these offices been consulted?
- A plan for regular program evaluation and renewal: How will the linkage be evaluated prior to the renewal of the agreement? What will the criteria be for a successful linkage? For what period will the agreement be in force? (University practice is to sign agreements for a period of 3-5 years, renewable with both sides' consent. This provides a regular occasion for those involved from both institutions to discuss the mutual value of the agreement. Shorter or, more rarely, longer periods in which an agreement will be in force can be requested when appropriate).