What are international MoUs and why are they important?

The University of Alberta is connected with hundreds of institutions around the world, including universities, institutes, governments, and more. 

From January to June 2016, UAlberta signed 75 international (non-research) agreements. 

What is an MoU?

An MoU is a Memorandum of Understanding, which is one type of formal, written agreement that UAlberta can establish with another party. 

An MoU creates an official linkage between UAlberta and the other institution and symbolizes a commitment on both sides to develop meaningful outputs through that relationship. MoUs are not usually legally binding, but indicate an intention to work together, identifying common goals for collaboration.

Some other types of agreements, such as for student exchange and dual degree programs, are legally-binding and represent a serious and formal commitment to work together, outlining responsibilities and processes.

Other types of legally-binding international agreements include internships or clinical placements, visiting student programs, faculty exchanges, and more.  

Here are just some of the MoUs and other new agreements that UAlberta has signed in 2015-16:

  • MoUs with Universite Grenoble-Alpes (France), the University of Development Studies (Ghana), the Mexican Ministry of Energy, and Jilin University (China)
  • Agreements with Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Yonsei University (Korea) for graduate dual degree programs in Pharmacy and Physical Education and Recreation, respectively
  • University-wide and Faculty-specific exchange agreements with institutions including the Universite libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), Lund University (Sweden), the Medical University of Graz (Austria), Shanghai Jiaotong University (China), and Singapore Management University.
  • Internship exchange agreement with the University of Leeds (UK)
  • EU funding agreements for faculty and student mobility with the University of Innsbruck (Austria), Palacký University of Olomouc (Czech Republic), and Silesia University (Poland)
  • Doctoral Research Fellowship and Visiting Professorship agreements with the Hungarian government
  • Agreements to provide training programs for doctoral students and university administrators from Poland and China, respectively

Do all international collaborations require a formal agreement, such as an MoU?

No, not always – many activities can still take place without a formal agreement. A formal agreement is recommended when the partnership commits UAlberta to financial obligations or impacts UAlberta’s academic standards and programs, such as student mobility programs that involve for-credit courses or research. Other situations that require agreements are: joint and double degree programs; training programs delivered by UAlberta in Canada or abroad; commitments with funding agencies for international activities; and commitments to participate in consortia on international projects.

How are international agreements such as MoUs established?

Both MoUs and legally-binding agreements can take a great deal of discussion, review, and attention to detail to develop, negotiate, review, and finalize.  

An agreement can take weeks, months, or several years to establish, depending on many factors including the complexity of an agreement, the number of offices that need to be consulted on both sides, and any committee approvals required. 

The process starts with internal consultation to determine the need and rationale for an agreement, and includes submission of a proposal to UAlberta International (UAI) outlining the key points. After the initial assessment is done, UAI develops a draft to be shared with the other institution, or vice-versa. Depending on the type of agreement, as it is being negotiated various offices may be consulted, including General Counsel, Risk Management Services, the Information and Privacy Office, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, the Office of the Registrar, and the Office of the Provost. In some cases, such as for joint or dual degree programs, approval by various committees may be required.

Once both parties have agreed on the final draft, UAI puts it forward to the Provost for approval and signing. 

Some agreements will then become the responsibility of Faculties to implement and others are managed through UAI.

Why are international agreements, such as MoUs, important?

International agreements help UAlberta grow by opening new gateways for knowledge, research, and academic exchange. These gateways create many opportunities for students, faculty, and staff members by providing new mechanisms for international engagement.  Agreements can:


  • lead to new scholarships for UAlberta students to study abroad, such EU-funded scholarships for UAlberta professors and students to study and research abroad at LMU Munich.
  • provide student internship opportunities with international organizations, like the Smithsonian Institute in Washington
  • create new programs allowing UAlberta researchers to conduct research abroad and do joint research projects with international colleagues, such as through the Joint Research Lab program with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology

UAlberta agreements also make an impact around the world.  They allow UAlberta to make major contributions to support and assist international organizations, strengthening communities abroad.  Agreements can:

  • support international projects that aid developing countries, such as Singing and Dancing for Health and the 2018 South American Games in Bolivia
  • provide academic and funding opportunities to international students who will use their UAlberta degree to make a difference in their home country, such as the UAlberta-Bolivian Ministry of Education Graduate Scholarship Program
  • create connections for international researchers and students to engage with UAlberta faculty, enhancing their efforts and contributing to groundbreaking global outcomes. The MoU with the Mexican Ministry of Energy is an example of this.  

These connections take many forms and serve many purposes, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they serve to create an open flow for knowledge, research, capacity-building, and other realms that contribute to the foundation of our university.

Ask UAI about establishing a new agreement