An effective academic collaboration agreement begins with, and is maintained by effective public relations. It’s not uncommon for a school to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on staff, travel, and antiquated marketing materials then return home with several MOU agreements that produce nothing.
MOU is “A memorandum of understanding (MoU) describes a bilateral or multilateral agreement between two or more parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action.” （Wikipedia)
Getting the best schools in Asia to sign MOU agreements with lower-tier US schools is hard work. Making the arrangement work is even more difficult. To do so requires knowledge and a sustained public relations effort.
U.S. schools often make the common mistake of thinking “if you sign it, they will come.” But as a relatively unknown entity, and unless you have properly positioned yourself, it’s just not going to happen.
It’s important to understand that your school may well be just one of hundreds with whom your partner has signed MOU agreements.
Another problem many schools fail to recognize is that an MOU is a two-way street in which both institutions expect to benefit. So, be prepared to give. It’s not surprising that those schools intent on putting their own interests first stand to gain nothing from these arrangements.
MOU Agreement and Academic Collaboration Process
Establishing effective MOU agreements is an involved and protracted 12-stage process. Each sequential step is a job unto itself posing a unique set of challenges to conquer before moving forward.
Stage 1: Prepare for first contact
Stage 2: Identify first contact for possible collaboration
Stage 3: Initiate dialog
Stage 4: Preparation for first meeting
Stage 5: Meet face to face
Stage 6: Draft and sign general MOU
Stage 7: Develop and sign detailed MOU for various programs
Stage 8: Promote interest on campus
Stage 9: Assist students from MOU schools apply to your school
Stage 10: Deliver pre-departure orientation
Stage 11: Prepare to meet the unique needs of arriving international students
Stage 12: Maintain communications and continue building relationships
Due to the complexity of the entire process, any number of things can go wrong before and after students begin arriving on your campus. Even a seemingly minor miscalculation at any stage of this process can breed mistrust. It’s important to prepare for any eventuality, and to move quickly should problems arise.