Academic Agreement Development

Partner University Assessment and Academic Agreement Development and Maintenance

Queen’s University negotiates a wide range of partnership agreements in support of the University’s strategic goals. On behalf of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), the Office of the Vice-Provost, International (VPI) provides assistance to Faculties and Schools across campus in evaluating prospective academic partnerships, and developing and maintaining international academic agreements (e.g. Memorandum of Understanding, Exchange Agreement, Dual Degree, Twinning, Study Abroad agreements and appendices, as well as contracts for scholarships) with institutions and government offices worldwide. The Office of Partnerships and Innovation supports Faculties, Schools and individual Researchers across campus to develop research collaborations between Queen’s and partner institutions, including negotiating research agreements with research partners.

The following documents and linked resources provide information for the development and maintenance of international academic collaborations.

From a legal perspective, agreement review and negotiation focuses on assurances that Queen’s can meet the obligations set out in an agreement between two or more parties. Any contract, including academic mobility agreements, must include language that safeguards the interests and rights of the university, as well as our faculty, students and staff. Queen’s has developed standardized templates for the various types of academic agreements, and reviews the templates at regular intervals in consultation with the Queen’s Legal Counsel, Faculty International Offices (FIOs), and other support units across campus. When possible, Faculties are encouraged to use Queen’s templates, as this practice will help to expedite the agreement development process.


VPI Office of the Vice-Provost, International
FIO Faculty International Office
PPP Prospective Partner Profile
QUQAP Queen's University Quality Assurance Program

A thorough evaluation of a formal prospective partnerships is necessary in order to ensure academic relationships fit with the university’s strategic priorities, and faculty strengths and interests. Strong partnerships take time and use significant resources to develop and maintain, therefore it is important that before entering into a new partnership, each proposal is evaluated to ensure its sustainability for the term of the agreement.

Evaluation Criteria:

Provide a brief description of this proposed collaborative activity, including the scope of the collaboration (single department/Faculty vs. multi-Faculty), undergraduate vs. graduate vs. faculty, etc., short-term (e.g. student exchange, study abroad) vs. long-term (e.g. dual degree).


-Equivalent Academic Standards 
-National and International Rankings: Where the proposed university is not highly ranked, the lead will provide a detailed explanation of why the collaboration with this institution is particularly relevant to achieving Queen’s goals (e.g. the university’s research strengths align with Queen’s and will benefit graduate student research).


-List Queen’s other academic partnerships in the same country.
-List existing formal academic or research collaborations between Queen’s and the proposed partner.
-Estimate student mobility numbers (incoming and outgoing): Is scholarship funding available to participating students/faculty?

Risk Assessment:

-List and describe the possible risks involved with the proposed linkage (e.g. health and safety, reputational, financial).
-List and describe the possible risks involved with not undertaking the proposed linkage.
-Is the program expected to generate revenue?
-Describe housing options on/off campus for periods of residence at both institutions.
-Estimate resource requirements to support the linkage: Are the required resources available currently?
-Who is the Principal Investigator or Faculty lead for this collaboration?

Strategic alignment:

How will the partnership match Queen’s strategic goals? Consider each of the following:
-Strategic Framework
-Queen's University Comprehensive International Plan (QUCIP) 
-Queen’s Long-Term Strategic Enrolment Management Framework


Most universities, including Queen’s, maintain institution and Faculty-level academic Fact Sheets. When initiating discussions with a prospective academic partner, ask for their Fact Sheet and provide them with the Queen’s Fact Sheet(s) that are relevant to the scope of the proposed activity. In addition to the Partner Fact Sheet, or if one is not available, complete the Queen’s Prospective Partner Profile (PPP). Once the PPP is complete, send it and the Fact Sheet to the VPI for review, via the International Academic Agreement Request Form. The Fact Sheet and PPP are evaluation tools, used to assess the feasibility of success of launching proposed activities, and the sustainability of the proposed activities.

All formal collaborations require approval at various levels at each partner university. At Queen’s, the approval flow is as follows:

Programs where a degree is not conferred and/or there is no financial obligation between the institutions (e.g. exchange agreement), review and approval is required by:

Department Head -> Faculty/School Dean -> AVPI -> Legal Counsel

New or significantly modified degree programs and/or there are financial obligations require review and/or approval by:

Department Head -> Faculty/School Dean -> Faculty Board -> QUQAP -> SCAD/Senate -> Planning and Budget Office -> AVPI -> Legal Counsel

In addition, Table 1 lists other units at Queen’s that may be consulted when key agreement language deviates from Queen’s template wording:

Table 1:

University Research Services

Intellectual property

University Records Management and Chief Privacy Officer

Privacy (FIPPA), information and document management

Office of Insurance and Risk Management

Liability coverage

Marketing and Logo/Trademark use

University Communications - Marketing

Translation of agreement

Identified Queen's faculty or staff who is known to be fluent in the language

Vice-Provost and Dean, Student Affairs

Establishment or change to tuition or additional fees

Planning and Budget Office

Financial obligations

Faculties should ensure that they are aware of expectations, including as relates to program delivery and reporting.

Signing Authority

The Queen’s signing authorities for international academic agreements are the Principal or Provost or designate (Associate Vice-Principal International). For additional information review Queen’s Contract Signing Authority policy.

Agreements with foreign universities may take many forms, including one or more of the following:

Academic Affiliation Agreement – covering terms of access to the resources and services of hospitals and other healthcare organizations, in order for the University to offer programs of education and professional training in health and health-related fields.

Academic Placement Agreement – covering terms of placement of students, normally for clinical placements of medical, nursing, and rehabilitation therapy students.

Alternative Practicum Placement Agreement – covering terms of placement of Bachelor of Education students for duration of one practicum, normally in foreign setting

Co-tutelle – a customized program of doctoral study developed jointly by two institutions for an individual student in which the requirements of each university’s doctoral programs are upheld, but the student working with supervisors at each institution prepares a single thesis that is then examined by a committee whose members are drawn from both institutions. The student is awarded two degree documents, though there is a notation on the transcripts indicating that the student completed his or her thesis under co-tutelle arrangements.

Custom Training Program Agreement – covering terms of delivery of tailored or custom training programs

Dual Degree Programs – a program of study offered by two or more universities, or by a university and a college or institute, including Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning, in which successful completion of the requirements is confirmed by a separate and different degree/diploma document being awarded by each of the participating institutions.

Exchange Agreement - covering terms of (reciprocal) exchange of faculty, student, academic and administrative staff, and/or post-doctoral fellows between two institutions. Agreement document should note duration (minimum 1 term, maximum 1 year), level (undergraduate, graduate, etc.), details concerning credit transfer, means of application, registration, etc. Students are registered at home institution and pay fees to home institution only. 

Joint Degree Program - a program of study offered by two or more universities or by a university and a college or institute, including an Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, in which successful completion of the requirements is confirmed by a single degree document. 

Faculty exchange agreements – formalize exchange opportunities between two universities, in which faculty visits provide opportunities to collaborate with colleagues through research, interchange of teaching expertise, and lectureships. A faculty exchange agreement is not required in order for faculty to travel to or invite colleagues to visit, however, in some cases a formal agreement is required in order to secure funding to support the collaboration.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – a non-legally binding overarching university-level agreement that describes a range of possible areas of future collaboration. The MOU serves as an umbrella agreement to more detailed sub-agreements, but can stand-alone. Queen’s no longer uses the MOU as a standard agreement document. An MOU is implemented when an operational agreement is not necessary, but the partner university relies on a general agreement in order to access local government scholarship funding, or where a ceremonial signing at the senior administration level is required. NOTE: Students cannot participate in mobility programs under an MOU.


Single-Faculty agreements:

Single-Faculty agreements are initiated and negotiated by the Dean, Associate-Dean, Faculty and/or FIO staff within each Faculty or School. Early in the communication between the Faculty and the partner university, the Faculty should advise the AVPI of their intent to collaborate, the scope of the collaboration, and allow the VPI time to circulate this information to the other Faculties and schools to consider the expansion of institutional partnerships. If there is interest to broaden the scope of the agreement, the VPI will manage the negotiation on behalf of the participating units.

Multi-Faculty agreements:

When more than one Faculty/school wishes to develop a partner agreement, the VPI will manage the communication, negotiation and signing of the agreement(s) centrally on behalf of the FIOs.

Department-specific agreements:

If a faculty member wishes to create a department-specific agreement with a potential partner institution, and it has been determined that the activity is unlikely to expand to other units in the future, the faculty member must receive approval from the Department Head and Faculty Dean before proceeding.

Final/Legal Approval Protocol

The VPI is responsible for the final review of all international academic agreements falling under the signing authority of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) and Associate Vice-Principal (International) as designate signatory. NOTE: faculty members do not have the authority to sign agreements on behalf of Queen’s University. See Policy on Approval and Execution of Contracts and Invoices and Delegation of Signing Authority Procedures. For agreements that include programming which is not based on standard exchange, for example dual degree programs, bind the University to financial obligations, and/or require language translation, require review and sign off (see Table 1) prior to Legal Counsel review and signing by Provost/designate.


The amount of time required to prepare an agreement varies widely depending on the type of agreement, whether the Queen’s template or the partner template is used, the complexity of the agreement, and which offices and committees need to be consulted.

Initiation and Institutional Commitment:

The initiating faculty member first requests the prospective partner Fact Sheet and complete the Prospective Partner Profile (PPP), then consults with and gains approval from the Department Head, then the Faculty Dean, and informs the VPI of the intention to evaluate a prospective partnership. Where the partnership will be limited to a single department or Faculty, the initial discussion and later agreement negotiation will be carried out at the Faculty level. Where multiple Faculties will be engaged, the initiating Faculty should request the prospective partner Fact Sheet or complete Queen’s PPP and consult with the AVPI as soon as the proposed scope is known. The VPI will poll the proposed Faculties for interest in the collaboration, and where there is interest by more than one Faculty, the VPI will manage the negotiation of the agreement on behalf the Faculties and the University.


The initiating faculty member completes the PPP and submits it to the Department Head -> Faculty Dean -> VPI for review and approval before committing the university to a formal partnership.

Development of Draft Agreement: 

Whenever possible the applicable Queen’s agreement template is used to negotiate the draft contract. The faculty member/VPI consults with the Faculty and other campus units as appropriate to develop a draft agreement. Where the faculty member develops the draft agreement, once it is considered final and Faculty-level approvals as well as Partner approvals are secured, the draft agreement is sent to the VPI for final review and approval. Written approval at each level (Department, Dean, etc.) is required, and approvals are kept on file by the Faculty International Office (FIO). The FIO provides confirmation to the VPI that all reviews and approval have been completed.

Governance Process (if required):

Certain types of agreements need to move through university governance review and approval. See Table 1 for additional review and approval requirements.

Translation (if required)

All agreements are prepared and negotiated in English. Where the partner requires translation of the agreement, it is the responsibility of the partner institution to prepare the translation, and the responsibility of the faculty member/Department/Faculty to identify an individual at Queen’s who can verify the accuracy of the translation. The individual who verifies the accuracy of the translation will sign the Translation Verification Form, and submit the completed form to the VPI when the final review and approval process is completed.

Final Approval by/on behalf of the Provost

Before any academic agreement is considered final and before a Queen’s or partner representative(s) sign the agreement, it must be reviewed and approved for signing by the VPI and/or Legal Counsel (according to established protocol). Once an agreement is considered final by the negotiating parties, it is sent to the VPI ( The VPI may have questions, and may request additional changes to the agreement document. To avoid major changes to the agreement, it is best to consult with the VPI throughout the negotiation process. Once approved for signing, each agreement is printed in duplicate and sent to the Dean(s) to sign. The two copies are returned to the VPI and signed by the Provost/designate, and sent to the partner institution for signing. If the partner institution prefers to sign first, documents would follow the same internal signing process once received.

The VPI retains the record of all international academic agreements on behalf of the Office of the University Secretariat and Legal Counsel, including MOU and academic mobility agreements. Once an agreement receives final approval and is signed, the VPI records the agreement in the Secretariat database, and stores a copy of the signed agreement. The collaborating institution keeps the second signed original. The VPI will notify the applicable FIO(s) by email and provides a scanned electronic copy of the fully-signed agreement. The faculty lead, Health and Safety, and Admissions offices will also be advised. A representative from each FIO as well as the other units noted above have direct access to the scanned final version of each agreement.

The relevant Faculty is responsible for implementing the agreement. FIOs are responsible for maintaining in-year balances in the number of students exchanged under exchange agreements, as described in the agreement. The FIOs are responsible to provide the VPI with their actual student flow numbers annually. The VPI annually negotiates multi-faculty agreement mobility on behalf of the FIOs, and records and audits overall mobility balances across agreements.

Partnership Audit and Agreement Renewal

Undergraduate Mobility

The VPI reviews overall student mobility on an annual basis. Where mobility imbalance concerns arise, the VPI will discuss the continued viability of agreements with the relevant FIO. Where balanced mobility proves unreliable, or where other issues arise regarding the implementation of the academic program, the VPI will work with the Faculty/School to make decisions regarding the continuation of the agreement. Where the Faculty/School makes the decision to terminate or expire an agreement, the VPI will contact the partner university on behalf of the University.


In most cases, a five-year term is set for international academic agreements, though periodically an agreement will be negotiated at a three-year term. Each Faculty/School is responsible to initiate the renewal process, however, the VPI regularly monitors agreement expiry dates and works closely with the FIOs to review the continued sustainability of agreements, to audit mobility, and to determine if agreements will be renewed or terminated. Where an agreement will be renewed, for Faculty-specific agreements, the FIO is responsible to initiate; for multi-Faculty agreements, the VPI is responsible to initiate the renewal.

Graduate Student Exchange

Faculty members who are engaged in research projects with colleagues at the international level seek opportunities for their graduate students to visit the foreign institution to work on projects, or seek to recruit the graduate students of their colleagues to work on projects in their own laboratories and facilities. If this student mobility is sought in order to support a particular research project, rather than a body of research within a discipline, there is another mechanisms (other than an exchange agreement), that could come into play. A student who is registered in a graduate level program at their home university may register at Queen's for non-degree study to join a research group. Upon receipt of the requisite application, which includes a letter of approval from Queen's, the recommendation of a research supervisor and the Department Head, such a student can be accepted by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) as a Visiting Research Student (VRS) for a period up to one year. The student must have a host supervisor for the research at Queen’s. These students are assessed student activity fees but no tuition fees. They must be insured under the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP). They may not enroll in courses. Of course, the VRS mechanism described is available for incoming students only; a parallel mechanism at the partner institution would have to be explored for outgoing Queen’s students. If you believe that the student mobility that you seek would meet tests of viability and sustainability beyond a particular research project (and that the option of non-degree study as a Visiting Research Student is not feasible), graduate student exchange may be an alternative. Follow these steps to initiate a graduate student exchange agreement:

-Discuss with Department Head, to ensure that the activity meets with their approval (Head will be a signatory on the agreement (if department-specific).

-Arrange a meeting in the SGS with the Associate Dean responsible for international initiatives, to explore various academic and resource aspects of the proposed exchange. You will be required to complete the document: Preliminary Partner Profile (PPP) part of Queen’s due diligence in the establishment of exchange agreements, before you meet with SGS. The majority of this document is completed by the partner; there is a section that should be completed by the SGS, with your help. If the SGS approves of the exchange activity, they will work with you to determine various details that must be covered in the agreement (e.g., for coursework students -- maximum and minimum course load guidelines at partner and at Queen’s; for all students -- start dates possible at partner and at Queen’s).

Once all the academic details of the exchange have been established, the SGS will contact VPI, whose staff will provide assistance to develop the agreement document(s). They will require the completed PPP and contact information for the contact you have been working with at the proposed partner university.