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, governmental, or research organizations for diplomatic purposes and to promote mutual goodwill.
  • All potential new international MOUs must first be vetted by the Global Engagement Office. GEO will help to ensure a non-binding MOU is the appropriate agreement type, that UC Berkeley follows UCOP, UC Berkeley, and federal regulations related to working with foreign entities, and that all MOUs are properly recorded. Deans, Department Chairs, and faculty are not authorized to sign international MOUs.
  • Please note that non-binding MOUs with international corporations or industries are discouraged and rarely approved, as the best practice is to enter directly into a binding agreement with clear terms and deliverables.

Steps to develop an MOU:

1. Determine if the MOU has appropriate support from UC Berkeley and the external partner:

  • 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.

  • Initating unit should consider UC Berkeley's Principles of International Engagement to ensure that international partnerships are aligned with the university’s mission.

  • Initiating unit should submit an MOU request form to the Global Engagement Office (GEO). Note that the initating unit is responsible for ensuring the relevant Dean (for academic units) or Vice Chancellor for Research (for research units) is aware of the potential MOU and supports the partnership. All MOU's require, at a minimum, a UC Berkeley faculty or unit sponsor in order to proceed, in addition to the Global Engagement Office.

2. Drafting & internal review:

  • GEO will evaluate the partnership and ensure the MOU is the appropriate agreement type.
  • If an MOU is the appropriate agremeent type, GEO will draft the MOU using our approved campus template (or review the partner's draft) in order to ensure the language meets UCOP and UC Berkeley policies governing international agreements, including, but not limited to:
    • MOUs are non-binding and should not include a commitment of Berkeley resources, and must include an expiration date and the ability to terminate.

    • In partnership with Export Control, GEO utilizes Visual Compliance to perform Restricted Party Screenings on all individuals and organizations named in an MOU to ensure we are not interacting with restricted, denied, or debarred parties in violation of United States Law. 

    • Language related to intellectual property, dispute, binding arbitration, and other binding language should not be included. Partnerships that require such terms or deliverables should instead work on contract or other agreement. Refer to Types of International Agreements for more information.

  • Should the need arise, GEO can work directly with the partner abroad to find mutually satisfactory language for the MOU. Note that extensive changes may trigger a legal counsel review, and in some cases, a non-binding MOU may not be the appropriate agreement type.

3. Obtaining signatures:

  • Once the MOU language is finalized by the unit and the international partner, GEO will send the document to be reviewed by the Senior International Officer (SIO), who 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. In certain circumstances, a Dean or unit head may co-sign.
  • 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 (preferred) 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 or the partner intends to explore a signing ceremony or event, please review the campus Signing Ceremony Protocol and contact GEO for guidance well in advance.

4. Recording the MOU:

  • All MOUs shall be archived and recorded with the Global Engagement Office to ensure an accurate understanding of campus international activities and compliance with UCOP and UC Berkeley policies.
  • GEO will record active MOUs in the International Partner Database
  • Should the need to terminate an MOU arise, please contact GEO.

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.

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. Costs related to translation services will be the responsibility of the initiating unit. The UC system has a vendor agreement with Park IP for fee-based translation services (estimate ~$150 for an MOU).