How to Establish International Partnerships

Cal State Fullerton encourages and supports the development and delivery of programs abroad under partnerships with other universities, colleges, governmental agencies, and special organizations. These are increasingly important in defining the university's mission as a "regional university with a global outlook." Such partnerships and programs must be of mutual benefit to both institutions and are to be developed within a standard framework of review procedures and approvals. Following proper procedures helps to insure the quality of academic program activities, while also protecting the integrity of the university and its academic reputation.

The university currently has over 150 formal partnerships signed with universities located abroad (including those established by University Extended Education). These range from the Universidade Federal Fluminense in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Fachhochschule Nürtingen in Germany and Hong Kong University. The largest number of our international partners is located in China, where our first partnership was signed in 1984 with Fudan University in Shanghai.

The keys to a successful partnership rest on three factors:
  1. Strong advocacy by a small group of faculty or an individual willing to serve as "steward" of the relationship;
  2. A focused theme, such as preparation of leaders in international business, coastal ecological research, training of governmental managers, or the teaching of English to speakers of other languages (to cite just a few examples); and
  3. The commitment of support for program development, delivery, and marketing by both institutions. Because many of these linkages are implemented through "Special Session" programs, University Extended Education (UEE) is frequently involved in the initial stages of developing such partnerships, as well as helping define the delivery components of an academically-centered program.

How To Develop Partnerships

Individual faculty who have an interest in developing a partnership with a particular institution or nation, do so because of their own research and teaching interests, a heritage connectivity, or because the other university asked to formalize an agreement and develop a specific academic linkage. A faculty member should ask herself/himself these questions:

(A) Am I willing to devote the time, energy, and personal resources necessary to shape and implement an international partnership and give it priority over an extended period of time?

(B) Is this university or organization going to be a suitable partner for Cal State Fullerton? That is, what is their accreditation status? What similarities do they have with our university or what special differences exist that might be appealing to our students and to other faculty? Does the other university or entity have the capacity to launch and contribute to the partnership?

(C) What are the opportunities for third-party support? For example, the U.S.A.I.D.'s program, "TIES", was central to our development of a partnership with the Autonomous University of Tlaxcala in Mexico.

(D) Will a partnership with this institution have sufficient appeal to attract a good participation response from CSUF students?

These and a host of other considerations can serve to organize conversations within your academic department or unit, regarding the prospects for an appealing international partnership. It is most helpful if others at CSUF share your interest in this location, if not in the specific institution.

Such conversations are vital to lay the important groundwork for a partnership and to avoid investing much time and effort in pursuing a direction that is not going to be supported by others. Be prepared to respond to such questions as: How will this linkage draw upon and enhance the expertise of our faculty? What is the connection with our curriculum? What will be the appeal to either our CSUF students or to constituent students from abroad? What is envisioned programmatically, i.e. faculty exchanges, student exchanges, delivery of workshops or a training program, offering a CSUF degree abroad or a focused research project? Put these ideas into a bullet-form outline of two pages or less to serve as a "roadmap" to guide these initial discussions. The Dean's Office may be aware of special funding sources that can facilitate the project and may also be open to the idea of providing "seed money" to help launch the partnership [e.g., partial support for international travel].

If these preliminary conversations are encouraging, then the next step is to engage in a formal conversation with the Associate Vice President for International Programs (University Hall 244) and/or the Dean of University Extended Education (College Park 950). Both offices are the primary authors in preparing formal agreements with international partners. International Programs provides general information and advice to faculty and staff who wish to create partnerships and facilitates the university approval process. That office also archives all approved formal partnerships, ranging from "Letters of Intent" or "Memorandum of Understanding" that express goodwill exchanges, to "International Agreements" that specify a program delivery and commitment of university resources. University Extended Education (UEE) helps to delivers specific programs such as workshops, short-term training programs, or cohort-based extended learning experiences for groups of visiting officials. UEE is the unit of the university that is responsible for "Special Sessions" that are offered outside the regular time blocks in the official university calendar.

Formal Agreements

The President of California State University, Fullerton, is the only individual authorized to sign written agreements with international partner universities or overseas institutions. No faculty or staff member or other administrator can sign partnership agreements on behalf of Cal State Fullerton. There are two types of approved documents that memorialize cooperative, collaborative arrangements between Cal State Fullerton and international partners. These are labeled "Letters of Intent [LOI]" or a "Memorandum of Understanding [MOU]" and "International Agreements".

  1. A "Letter of Intent" or "Memorandum of Understanding" is general in nature and does not commit university resources to collaborative activities. Its language expresses statements of cooperation and goodwill between California State University, Fullerton and a recognized international institution, which is usually a university, college, or governmental agency. It may also be a for-profit or non-profit non-governmental agency or community-based organization. The content typically contains wording to the effect that the partnership will plan the "exchange of students and/or scholars (faculty)" and outlines an interest "to develop cooperative, collaborative projects."
  2. An "International Agreement" is more explicitly descriptive and commits university resources to a defined project, product, or program. Examples would include a specific student exchange between two departments/colleges/disciplines that indicates the maximum numbers of students who may be assisted, a short-term training program delivery, establishment of a degree program or bundle of selected courses to be made available to the partner institution (either here or at a site abroad), and the commitment of specific outcomes/deliverables and resources to implement these activities. These are drafted by either the Office of International Programs or University Extended Education [UEE]. On occasion, a prospective partner may initiate such a draft document. Regardless of the source of the formal document, it must be reviewed by both International Programs and UEE. It does not become official until it has passed through the full on-campus review process and is signed by the President of the University and a similar ranking counterpart at the other institution.
    When the document is an "International Agreement," it must have an accompanying program budget that will be reviewed by, and is subject to the approval of, the university's Office of Contracts and Procurement, and Budget.

Approval Steps

The review and routing of the proposed international partnership document follows the sequence listed below. Electronic templates that can be downloaded are also provided here. Because of the large number of officials involved in the review process, one should allow for several weeks for the document to work its way through the procedure and to reach the Office of the President.

Routing / Approval Signatures Required:
  1. Initiator - the on-campus faculty or staff member
  2. Department Chair
  3. College Dean
  4. Dean of University Extended Education
  5. Associate Vice President, International Programs
  6. Vice President or Division Head
  7. Office of Contracts and Procurement
  8. President of the University

Curricular Considerations

If the cooperative activity is to include one or more courses from the formal university curriculum, one or more standing committees is also involved in the review and approval process. These may include the Graduate Education Committee, International Education Committee, or University Curriculum Committee.

University Policy Statements that are applicable to those aspects of the review process are available from on-line at the Academic Senate section of the CSUF website.

The appropriate policy documents are:
UPS 320.102 International Education Policy
UPS 411.100 Curriculum Guidelines and Procedures: Courses
UPS 450.200 Special Sessions

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