International Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

A non-binding international MOU is a general statement of mutual interest to explore opportunities for collaboration, and does not include commitment of university funds, staff, space, facilities, or other university resources, nor promises of expected deliverables. These MOUs can be considered "hand-shake" diplomatic agreements that often lay the foundation for future partnership, and are not legally binding agreements of the University. GEO supports campus by facilitating and vetting international MOUs.

MOUs presented by international partners can carry the same obligations as contracts if not carefully reviewed, so administrators, faculty, and Deans should not enter into such agreements without prior review by GEO or the appropriate central office.

MOU Review and Signing Process

Purpose of a non-binding MOU:

  • Non-binding MOUs are typically undertaken with international universities or governmental organizations for diplomatic purposes and to promote mutual goodwill.
  • Non-binding MOUs with international corporations or industries are discouraged and rarely approved, as the preferred method is to enter directly into a binding agreement with clear terms and deliverables.
  • All proposed agreements will be assessed to determine whether an non-binding MOU is the appropriate course of action.

Initiating the MOU:

  • UC Berkeley academic unit (School, College, Department, Organized Research Unit, etc.) should contact relevant counterpart at the foreign institution to ascertain mutual interest in establishing an MOU. Units should consider UC Berkeley's Guiding Principles for International Engagement to ensure that  international partnerships are aligned with the university’s mission.
  • Unit should discuss tentative MOU with the Global Engagement Office (GEO) and check the international activity and partnership database to ensure an MOU with the institution does not already exist.
  • All potential new international MOUs must be vetted by the Global Engagement Office to ensure a non-binding MOU is the appropriate agreement type, and that UC Berkeley follows federal regulations related to working with international entities.
  • Unit should ensure the relevant Dean (for academic units) or Vice Chancellor for Research (for research units) is aware of the potential MOU and supports the partnership.

Drafting the MOU:

  • Unit should download the appropriate template (see sidebar)
  • Edit with the institutional partner's name, contact information, and research activities (if relevant).
  • Send to the foreign institution for initial review
  • Note, if you have extensive changes or any questions, please send to GEO first for review. Extensive changes may trigger a legal counsel review.

Reviewing the MOU:

  • Following review by the foreign institution, unit should send draft MOU to GEO to ensure language meets UCOP policy governing international agreements.
  • Should the need arise, GEO can work directly with the partner abroad to find mutually satisfactory language for the MOU.
  • MOUs are non-binding and should not include a commitment of Berkeley resources, and must include an expiration date and the ability to terminate. Language related to intellectual property, dispute, and other binding language should not be included. Partnerships that require such terms or deliverables should instead work on a business contract with BCBP, industry agreement with IAO, or research agreement with SPO.

Obtaining signatures:

  • Once the MOU is finalized by the unit and the international partner, GEO will send the document to be reviewed by the Senior International Officer (SIO) and will determine the Berkeley signatories. The UC Berkeley Chancellor and Senior International Officer (SIO) are the only authorized signers for non-binding MOUs with international universities or governments.
  • GEO will email a copy of the signed document to the campus unit and international partner. Effective Fall 2020, all MOUs will be processed electronically, either via DocuSign or Adobe PDF.
  • Berkeley staff, faculty, and external partners should be advised that Berkeley prefers to recognize accomplishments that result from relationships rather than the symbolic signing of MOUs or other agreements. However, if you intend to explore a signing ceremony or event, please review the campus Signing Ceremony Protocol.

Recording the MOU:

  • All MOUs shall be archived and recorded with the Global Engagement Office to ensure appropriate compliance related to Export Control and Risk.
  • Should the need to terminate an MOU arise, GEO will contact the unit to discuss the process.
  • GEO will record active MOUs in the International Partner Database and will inform unit when it is time to renew the agreement.

Language and Translation

In order to ensure consistency of the terms, English is the preferred language for all campuswide MOUs. When translations are requested by the international partner, a second document should be developed. GEO does not facilitate MOU translation.

Review timelines

  • Our MOU templates are pre-approved by Office of General Counsel and do not require additional review should no changes be made. If no language changes are made, we can immediately begin processing the MOU for signing.
  • Once an MOU is final, the SIO's review and the Chancellor's signing take approximately two weeks, depending on their schedules. 
  • Note: MOUs with language revisions may need to undergo further review by legal counsel and additional campus units and will take significantly longer to process - from 2-3 weeks to several months, depending on the scope of the agreement and requests from the international partner. Some international institutions may also require these documents be reviewed by their legal teams or translated, and therefore take more time to review and approve.
  • We recommend you begin working with GEO on the MOU as soon as possible to ensure it be processed in a timely manner to meet any deadlines or events you may have.