Developing partnerships

Developing partnerships

Authors: Joe Potts, Matthew Hirman, Louisa Ehrlich

The success of the majority of higher education institutions nowadays depends on the effective development of international collaborations. You can discover helpful advice on when and how to start partnership negotiations in this section of the toolkit, as well as when to gather important collaborators like professors, deans, institutional partners, evaluators, and legal counsel. We describe approaches for limiting the scope of collaboration and finding organizations that support your goals as strategies for assuring the legitimacy of partnerships. By leveraging the knowledge and practical advice presented here, you will be equipped to embark on fruitful and purposeful international partnerships that drive the growth and excellence of your institution.

Compelling Questions for International Partnership Development:

Resources for identifying prospective partners

  • What strategies and resources can be utilized to identify potential partner institutions for collaboration?
  • How can you leverage internal and external networks to discover suitable partners?

Evaluating fit of partnership

  • What criteria should be considered when evaluating the compatibility and alignment of a potential partnership?
  • How can you assess the shared goals, values, and capabilities of your institution and the prospective partner?

Pre-screening items to consider

  • What specific factors and considerations should be pre-screened and evaluated before pursuing a partnership?
  • How can you ensure that the potential partner meets the necessary requirements and standards?

Determining categories of activity

  • How can you determine and categorize the various types of collaborative activities that could be pursued with the partner institution? (e.g., student exchanges, joint research projects, articulation agreements)
  • What factors should be taken into account when deciding which categories of activity are most suitable for the partnership?

Stakeholders involved

  • Who are the key internal stakeholders within your institution that should be engaged in the partnership development process? (e.g., college deans, department chairs, faculty members with relevant expertise, chief financial officer, legal counsel, etc.)
  • How can you involve external stakeholders such as academic course evaluators, risk management officers, insurance providers, global partnerships lead, and international programs offices in fostering successful partnerships?

Engaging faculty members

  • How can faculty members with a specific research or teaching focus be encouraged to identify institutions they would like to work with formally?
  • What support mechanisms can be provided to connect interested faculty members with prospective partner institutions?

Partner institution engagement

  • How can you initiate communication and establish contact with the prospective partner institution? Why is this important?
  • What strategies can be employed to foster effective and productive discussions with the partner institution’s representatives?

Leading types of contractual agreements

The following definitions pertain to the high-level frameworks that are frequently employed to organize and formally establish collaborations between foreign universities. These agreements lay out the terms, obligations, and expectations of both parties and serve as an organized framework for collaboration. It’s crucial to remember that there is plenty of potential for creativity and innovation within any model.

Institutions can use their knowledge and resources to create innovative and cutting-edge collaborative efforts by acknowledging that there is potential for creativity and innovation inside any contractual relationship. This strategy encourages the investigation of novel teaching techniques, research opportunities, and strategies for tackling pressing global issues.

Ultimately, the high-level frameworks of contractual agreements serve as a good foundation, but it is the creativity and imagination of the participating institutions that fuel the growth of fascinating and revolutionary collaborations in the area of international higher education.

  • Articulation Agreement
    An articulation agreement is a formal agreement between two or more educational institutions that outlines the transferability of credits or academic programs from one institution to another. It establishes a pathway for students to smoothly transition from one institution to another institution. Articulation agreements facilitate the recognition of coursework completed at the sending institution and ensure that students can continue their education seamlessly at the receiving institution without loss of credits.

  • Student Exchange or Bilateral Agreement
    A student exchange or bilateral agreement refers to a formal arrangement between two educational institutions, usually from different countries, to facilitate the exchange of students for a specified period. Under this agreement, students have the opportunity to study abroad at the partner institution while maintaining their enrollment status at their home institution. The exchange typically involves a reciprocal arrangement, allowing students from both institutions to experience a different academic and cultural environment while earning credits towards their degree programs.

  • Direct or Visiting Student Program
    A direct or visiting student program enables students from one institution to enroll as non-degree-seeking students at another institution for a specific academic term or year. Unlike a traditional student exchange program, direct or visiting student programs do not require a formal agreement between the institutions. Students may choose to participate in this program to explore courses or disciplines not available at their home institution, gain exposure to a different academic environment, or engage in research or specialized studies under the guidance of faculty at the host institution.

  • Faculty Exchange
    Faculty exchange programs facilitate the temporary exchange of academic staff members between two or more institutions. Through these programs, faculty members have the opportunity to teach, conduct research, collaborate on projects, or engage in professional development activities at a partner institution. Faculty exchanges foster academic cooperation, encourage the sharing of expertise and pedagogical practices, and promote cross-cultural understanding among institutions and faculty members. Such exchanges often contribute to the development of new research collaborations and the enhancement of teaching methods.

International Partnership Development Checklist:

  • Compliance screening
    • Ensure compliance with institutional policies and regulations.
    • Conduct partner background checks, if required by institutional policy.
  • Verification of government recognition and/or accreditation
    • Verify that the partner institution is recognized and/or accredited by the relevant government authorities.
  • Accreditation requirements for course evaluation
    • Understand the accreditation requirements for evaluating courses between institutions.
  • Tuition affordability/scholarship opportunities/remission
    • Assess the affordability of tuition fees for students participating in the partnership.
    • Explore scholarship opportunities or tuition remission options for eligible students.
  • Program matching/course evaluation
    • Conduct course evaluations to determine compatibility and alignment between programs at both institutions.
    • Use course evaluation outcomes to help narrow the scope of the agreement, especially for articulation agreements.
    • Understand degree requirements and transfer requirements from both institutions.
  • Modality of courses
    • Determine if online courses offered by the partner institution are recognized as valid instructional methods.
  • Estimated timeline of completion
    • Establish an estimated timeline for the completion of partnership development activities.
    • Use a template or project management tool to track and share progress.
    • Regular working meetings
    • Set up regular working meetings with partner representatives (e.g., monthly) using video conferencing platforms like Zoom.
    • Plan all meetings in advance and send calendar invitations to ensure timely and productive discussions.
  • Meetings with partners
    • Recognize that meetings with partners are crucial for successful partnership development.
    • Use these meetings to foster communication, exchange ideas, and address any challenges or concerns.
  • Agreement approval and process document
    • Determine the approval process for the partnership agreement within your institution.
    • Identify the key individuals or offices that the agreement should be routed to for approval.
    • Clarify who will sign the agreement and when it will be signed.
    • Check if a public notice is required for the agreement.

By following this checklist, international education professionals can navigate the process of developing partnerships between international universities more effectively, ensuring compliance, alignment, and successful collaboration.

Resources for International Partnership Development:

  • Conferences/In-person meetings (for finding partners)
  • EducationUSA Advising centers (Higher Education Professionals)
    • They often know universities or high schools in their region that are looking for US university partners and can connect
    • Webinars that bring together universities interested in finding new partners
    • Recruitment tours — they sometimes host networking events that bring together universities interested in working with US universities
  • Institute of International Education (IIE Networker)
  • Partners of the Americas
  • Cormac Consultancy Group (CCG)

Resources Library

  1. Contract examples (articulation, exchange, other)
  2. Routing Form example
  3. MOU or AOC (general umbrella agreement) example
  4. Program budget examples
  5. Approval process and workflow example
  6. Sample Letter of Intent

You will be well-prepared to negotiate the complexities of creating collaborations with overseas universities by giving these questions some thought and applying the advice offered in this toolbox. Successful partnerships have the ability to improve academic opportunities, foster cross-cultural interaction, and strengthen research collaborations—all of which progress higher education on a global scale.

Download our Templates

Contract Examples
Routing Form example
MOU or AOC (general umbrella agreement) example
Program budget examples
Approval process and workflow example
Sample Letter of Intent
1 - Articulation Agreement (2+2) Template_Page_1

1 - Articulation Agreement (2+2) Template.pdf


Please let us know how this information has helped guide you through International Partnerships.

Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.