Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Other Agreements

Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and other agreements are excellent and important tools for governing collaborative activities with international partners. This page describes procedures Harvard follows in reviewing MOUs with international partners and guidelines that the University follows in signing them. On this page, the term “MOUs” refers to a wide variety of similar agreements such as Letters of Intent (LOI), Letters of Agreement (LOA), and the like.

When Should I Seek an MOU?

MOUs should govern a concrete activity with a partner. The purpose should be to clarify:

  • Who does what?
  • When?
  • For how long?
  • Who pays?
  • How much?

Harvard does not ordinarily sign MOUs that state only a general intention to collaborate or to initiate discussions about future collaborations.

What are the procedures for review of MOUs?

MOUs and other legal agreements with international collaborators, except those managed by a sponsored programs office, should be reviewed by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and the Office of General Counsel.

What guidelines and policies does Harvard follow in signing MOUs?

  • MOUs follow the University’s Use of Name policy. Thus, the Harvard party to an MOU is the individual School, department, center, or other unit that will manage the activity described by the MOU. “Harvard” is a party to an MOU only in the rare circumstances described in the Use of Name policy.
  • The Vice Provost for International Affairs must sign any MOU with a non-U.S. government.
  • MOUs with international partners always include certain standard clauses, such as a non-discrimination clause.
  • Harvard strongly supports and encourages the free flow of ideas and people between institutions of learning worldwide. Visiting student and scholar programs governed by MOUs give each party – Harvard and the partner – full authority to make its own admissions decisions and obligate neither to accept a fixed number of visiting students or scholars from the other in any given time period. This approach gives each party maximum flexibility and autonomy without sacrificing the goal of collaboration.
  • Harvard strongly prefers that its work with partner organizations takes the form of collaboration between two independent entities. The University does not ordinarily agree to establish "joint" enterprises, which involve mingled funding, governance, and naming.