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Contact the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs if You…

  • have general questions about Harvard’s international activities
  • have a question about Harvard’s policies for international work
  • are a member of the Harvard community and you…
    • want to sign an MOU or other legal agreement with a partner outside the U.S.
    • want to open an office outside the U.S.
    • want to know if an activity needs review by the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS)
    • have a research proposal subject to Provost’s Review
  • have a question about this website
  • want to participate in Worldwide Week at Harvard

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.

Offices and Other Locations Abroad

Harvard Schools and research centers operate more than twenty offices outside the United States. Locations managed by Harvard research centers support research, teaching, and collaborative activities in their country or region by students and faculty from across the University. Locations managed by Schools support these activities for students and faculty from their individual School. Several offices have staff from a research center, who support University-wide activities, and staff from a School, who support activities of that particular School, in the same space. A full list of Harvard's locations abroad can be found here.

Proposals for new offices must be reviewed by the University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS). The UCIPS ordinarily follows a two-stage process for review of proposals for new offices abroad: first is authorization to explore; next is authorization to implement. Therefore, proposals for a new office come before UCIPS twice, usually at least six months apart, and as much as 12 months apart or more.

Proposals for a new office should include the following:

  • Brief history of the proposing unit and its (and/or Harvard’s) engagement with the country/region in question
  • The case for an office: Why an office? Why now?
  • Description of the office’s activities:
    • What will it do?
    • Will it focus primarily or exclusively on supporting work of the home unit’s faculty and students? Or might it seek to expand on the home unit’s Cambridge-based mission, perhaps by making internship or research opportunities available to students from multiple Schools, or by hosting conferences/seminars/symposia that include scholars from other graduate and professional schools? Note that there is no correct answer to these questions. Both types are represented among current Harvard offices. But either should be explained on its own merits and should acknowledge the reasons for not choosing the alternative.
  • Draft budget, staffing plan, timeline
  • Exit strategy, if relevant
    • What if the office opens but anticipated funding sources don’t materialize?
    • Is the proposing unit prepared to close the office if it “doesn’t work”?

The second proposal – proposal to implement – should be an expanded version of the first, adding details and revisions based on input from UCIPS members and the Provost.

Provost's Review

Research proposals that meet certain criteria, including those that are international and involve human subjects, are subject to Provost’s Review. Most such proposals are submitted for Provost’s Review by the relevant sponsored programs office rather than by the principal investigator. A full list of Provost’s Review criteria and procedures can be found here

University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS)

The University Committee on International Projects and Sites (UCIPS) was established by the Provost to review and facilitate major international activities at Harvard. UCIPS reviews proposals for significant activities abroad, including the establishment of Harvard “offices” and other locations abroad; discusses University-wide policies that affect Harvard’s international activities; and reviews ongoing international activities at the request of the President, Provost, or Deans. It provides recommendations to Deans and faculty members in support of major international proposals. The UCIPS is advisory to the Provost, who appoints its members.

Proposals that are international and that meet any of the following criteria are reviewed by UCIPS:

  • The proposal involves the establishment of a new international office or other physical location
  • The proposal has an annual budget greater than $1.0 million or other threshold specific to the School (see Provost’s Review criteria)
  • The proposal involves the use of the Harvard name
  • The proposal involves a scope of work that is unusual, complex or high risk

The UCIPS includes at least one faculty representative from each School of the University. It is chaired by the Vice Provost for International Affairs. A full list of members can be found here. For more information or with questions, please contact Todd Washburn, Senior Assistant Provost for International Affairs, at

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