INITIALLY, PARTNERSHIPS MAY NOT REQUIRE A FORMAL AGREEMENT
Many informal relationships occur without an official agreement, such as sharing sharing scholarly findings and research papers, speaking at international conferences and seminars, and participating in joint workshops and exhibitions. Later on, if specific collaborative activities start to be discussed then typically a formal agreement, either non-binding or legally binding, will be needed.
Note that occassionally a partner may ask to sign an agreement before any detailed talks begin. The preference at UBC is for initial discussions to take place before any documents are signed. This ensures that objectives and potential areas of collaboration are identified before moving forward.
To possibly save time, check if an agreement between UBC and the potential partner institution already exists. If an over-arching agreement exists, such as a Statement of Cooperation for your faculty or an institutional Memoradum of Understanding, then more formal discussions can begin which may likely lead to the creation of a specific project using a legally-binding agreement as described below.
A NEW NON-BINDING AGREEMENT MAY BE APPROPRIATE
It is expected that the partners will engage in discussions around potential activities before taking any steps to sign a non-binding agreement. The standard non-binding partnership agreement at UBC is a Statement of Cooperation. The intent of the document is that it will be used as a basis for discussion for future projects with a faculty of the other institution.
Questions to consider before signing a Statement of Cooperation with a new partner institution:
- Are there clearly-defined common areas of interest between faculty members at both institutions?
- Are there already existing joint academic or research activities to build upon?
- Is there stated support from other UBC faculties to work with the partner either now or in the future?
- Have the lead faculty members and the Office of the Vice-Provost International staff from both institutions been identified?
A Statement of Cooperation is signed by the Dean or an appointed delegate and formalises the partnership and opens the door to detailed discussions around collaborative projects. It is an appropriate document to sign at official ceremonies when visiting or hosting other institutions.
At UBC, the Statement of Cooperation has, for the most part, replaced the Memorandum of Understanding, which is being reviewed in consideration of becoming a document specifically for institution-wide agreements to be signed appropriately as per the resolutions of the Signing Committee of the Board of Governors.
A NEW LEGALLY-BINDING AGREEMENT MAY BE REQUIRED
A legally-binding agreement is required for partnerships which commit UBC to financial obligations or which may impact UBC’s academic standards. Examples include exchange programs, international dual degrees or joint research projects with external funding.
Legally-binding agreements must be signed by appropriate UBC signatories. Questions to consider beforehand:
- Does this agreement present any reputational risks to UBC with respect to quality or research strengths?
- Is a dispute resolution clause needed, or the option to seek compensation in court if there is a breach of terms?
- What are the partners’ obligations around keeping information confidential?
- Have the potential project costs and possible sources of funding been considered?
- Is the partner comparable to UBC in terms of program offerings, academic calendar and language of instruction?
If both institutions decide that they want to create a binding agreement for their project, the Office of the Vice-Provost International can provide advice on documents needed and the processes involved. This is likely to include consulting with UBC Legal Counsel, UBC Senate or other departments at both institutions.