Establishing International Partnerships


The Global Education Office at VCU seeks to support academic units in successfully identifying, establishing and maintaining the international partnerships necessary to pursue their strategic international priorities related to the goals outlined in VCU's Quest for Distinction:

  • Recruit and retain highly qualified students and scholars from other countries
  • Provide high-impact learning experiences for VCU students in global environments
  • Contribute to research, scholarship, creative expression, and clinical practice in a global context.

Formal collaborations with international partners require institution-to-institution agreements or memoranda of understanding (MOU). These agreements are often binding, legal contracts that must undergo review and approval by necessary entities. Depending on the type of agreement, the relevant Dean(s), Academic Affairs, University Counsel, or other university units may need to review and approve the document. Only individuals currently employed by VCU may initiate or be designated as the primary contact for an MOU, or other form of international agreements. The Provost's Global Advisory Council is informed regularly of agreement activity and may make recommendations to the Provost regarding any issues generated by a partnership agreement. The Provost signs each new agreement and renewal.

At VCU, coordination and oversight of all formal documentation of academic collaborations with international partners is provided by the Global Education Office (GEO). The process of developing a new partnership agreement is represented in the New International Collaboration Request Form ‌‌‌as well as outlined below.

Process of Developing an Agreement

  1. Initiating faculty contacts GEO to discuss the proposed partnership and the process of establishing an agreement (sometimes referred to as a "memorandum of understanding" or "MOU").
  2. The initiating faculty member completes the ‌ and requests approval of the Form from the appropriate Chair and/or Dean.
  3. The Dean forwards the signed Form to the Global Education Office (ATTN: Strategic Initiatives).
  4. If the proposal involves a new course or academic program; or significant change to an existing academic course, program, policy, or procedure; the initiating unit must consult with Academic Affairs.
  5. GEO provides guidance in drafting a written agreement in consultation with stakeholders and the international partner.
  6. Draft written agreement receives approval from the Dean.
  7. GEO circulates the agreement for review and approval by the appropriate offices (e.g., University Counsel, Finance, Technology Transfer) as needed based on the specific details of each agreement.
  8. The approved document is shared with initiating unit and international partner.
  9. Significant changes to the draft are sent for additional review as needed.
  10. The agreement is prepared for signing by the Provost. Other signatories, including deans and department chairs, may be included.
  11. GEO provides electronic and/or original signed agreements to the initiating academic unit and international partner/s.
  12. One original, signed document is kept by the Global Education Office and another is kept by the partner institution. Initiating and participating departments and colleges may also keep an original or copy on file.
  13. The Provost’s Global Advisory Council is informed of all international agreement activity and may advise the Provost on the renewal or other actions regarding current partnerships.
  14. The Global Education Office maintains a database of all formal partnerships and is responsible for sending a reminder to the designated VCU contact for each international agreement or MOU before it is due to expire.
  15. Additional agreements may be appended to an original MOU or other international agreement and, depending on their nature, the Provost and other parties may be required to sign these addenda.
  16. The designated VCU contact for the international agreement will be required to submit a brief annual report to the Global Education Office summarizing activities completed under the terms of the MOU or other international agreement.

VCU International Partnership Agreement Process

For questions or further information, contact


Types of International Partnership Agreements

There are seven principal types of international agreements depending on the scope and details of the partnership.

  1. General MOU Agreement (also known as “Handshake Agreement”) is a non-binding document that confirms the intention of VCU and the partner institution to develop collaborative activities in different academic or research areas, but that does not make commitments to specific activities nor involve a commitment of University resources. Specific activities must be implemented through addenda or separate specific agreements that are required to be approved by the authorized officials. This type of agreement often serves as an "Umbrella Agreement" covering subsequent specific agreements.

    General MOU Agreement

  2. Transfer Agreement (2+2, 1+1, or similar) is a formal agreement that expresses the current VCU process for accepting credits in transfer toward a specific VCU academic program. This type of agreement may not include any exceptions or departures from current VCU academic standards, guidelines, and/or policies.

    2+2 Undergraduate Template

  3. Contract is a written agreement of purchase or procurement with specific obligations for both VCU and the partner. A contract contains a statement of work or services to be performed (a "deliverable") and represents a legal obligation. For example, the Global Education Office may enter into a contract to provide professional development, cultural orientations, and/or English language instruction to international partner.

  4. Short Term Study Abroad Agreement details the activities associated with a VCU Study Abroad Program at a particular site. It includes the specific conditions and expectations from both parties associated with the implementation of the program. Study abroad programs must be approved by the academic departments and follow the policies and procedures established by the Global Education Office.
  1. Agreement for Reciprocal Student Exchanges details activities associated with the exchange of students between VCU and the international partner. Students are typically registered at their home institution; therefore there are no additional costs for participating students associated with tuition. However, other financial, accreditation, credit exchange and immigration implications generally need careful evaluation and description in the agreement.

    Student Exchange Agreement Template

  2. Agreement for Faculty/Staff Exchanges structures the commitments, roles and responsibilities, as well as procedures for the exchanges of faculty and/or administrative staff. These exchanges can include noncredit activities such as patient services, clinical training, and/or a commitment of one or more University resources. The financial and logistical implications of the exchange must be discussed and agreed before the final agreement is submitted for signature. 

  3. Consortial Academic Agreement is needed when a VCU academic unit collaborates with another institution to award academic credit and/or education program completion (e.g., certificates, diplomas, degrees, or transcripts) by implementing new or significant changes to the curriculum and/or its delivery. Such collaborations are subject to all policies and guidelines of SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education of Virginia) as well as VCU's accreditation body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Examples include:
  • Joint degree — An agreement by two or more institutions to grant a joint academic award is one whereby students study at two or more institutions and the institutions grant a single academic award bearing the names, seals, and signatures of each of the participating institutions.

  • Dual degree — An agreement by two or more institutions to grant dual academic awards is one whereby students study at two or more institutions and each institution grants a separate academic award bearing only its name, seal, and signature.

Consortial academic agreements, especially joint and dual degree programs, commonly require complex internal and external review and approval processes coordinated by the Office of Academic Affairs. Please review the Important Agreement Considerations before entering into discussions about collaborative degree programs. Please contact when initiating plans for such agreements.