Arranging a new collaboration or reviewing an existing one

Arranging a new collaboration

Arranging a new collaboration

Are you planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with a university outside Germany for your institute, department/faculty, or the whole university? Below, we have listed some general information to simplify the process for you. (Exception: Instructions about arranging a new ERASMUS collaboration can be found here: Beginn einer neuen ERASMUS-Kooperation)

All memoranda, whether university wide or between specific departments/faculties or institutes, have to be signed by one of the vice presidents or the president. However, a memorandum at department/faculty or institutional level requires additional signatures (see details on both types of MoU in the following paragraphs).   

MoU at university level

This type of MoU involves several (at least three) university departments/faculties and includes a variety of activities, e.g. student and faculty exchange, research, joint conferences etc. Usually, this results in a rather general Memorandum of Understanding (also called: Memorandum of Agreement). Specific activities and the relevant details, especially about the student exchange with predetermined exchange numbers, are documented in an additional addendum. After consultations with the departments/faculties involved, the International Office (IO) finalizes the wording of the MoU. This type of MoU is signed with a limited number of carefully selected partner universities only.

Collaboration at department/faculty or institutional level

This type of agreement only relates to a specific department/faculty or may even be limited to a single institute of the respective universities. Similar to a university wide MoU, both sides may agree on student and faculty exchange, on specific research activities, joint study programs and conferences etc. The department/faculty or institute is responsible for these collaborations and for drafting the MoU. The International Office provides advice if necessary.

What are the guidelines for preparing an MoU?

(1) When considering an MoU at university level, the International Office analyses whether there is enough common ground for continuous cooperation in general and if at least some departments/faculties or institutes are interested in the partner university, too. 

Similar criteria should be taken into account at the department/faculty or institute- level by defining specific goals of the potential partnership and identifying individual stakeholders for the partnership within the faculty/department or institute.  

(2) Wording of the MoU: It is advisable to follow the templates in the download section on the right side of this page.

(3) Language of the MoU: Using English as the only language of the agreement has proven to be appropriate and useful in most cases. If the MoU exists in two languages, German and the partner university's language, an adequate translation has to be provided. Furthermore, it must be clarified which version has priority in case of conflict.

(4) Financing: When you communicate with your partner institution, please address potential financial commitments your department/faculty is supposed to make in order to implement the planned activities. In case there is an agreement that does not entail explicit financial obligations on neither side, it should be pointed out that the agreement is based on financial reservation. The wording could be as follows: “Both universities agree that all specific financial arrangements are dependent on the availability of funds“. In addition, the following wording could be chosen to clarify the aim of obtaining third-party funds: “Both universities agree to seek financial support from national and international organizations for the cooperative activities to be undertaken as stated under the terms of this agreement."

(5) Allow for enough time to draw up the MoU and to agree on the exact wording.

(6) Signatures: Currently, MoUs at university level are only signed by the president of the university. MoUs at department/faculty level are signed by the dean first and afterwards by a vice president of the university (usually the person responsible for internationalization, at the time being President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff). MoUs at institutional level are signed by the institute's managing director first, afterwards by the department/faculty's dean and finally by a vice president of the university (usually the person responsible for internationalization, at the time being President Prof. Dr. Enrico Schleiff). The MoU is not legally binding without the signature of the president or a vice president.

(7) Agreements on partnerships usually only prove fruitful if a professor takes responsibility for them. Mostly, a professor is designated as a representative for an agreement at university level. This person is nominated for the sake of his/her solid contacts with the partner and is supposed to take care of the academic side of the collaboration. When it comes to agreements at department or faculty level, the initiator of the collaboration is usually supposed to take care of the academic and administrative aspects of the agreement. If within the department or faculty itself there is a representative for its international relations, it is strongly recommended to include this person in the collaboration from the beginning.

(8) Duration of the MoU: It is recommended to limit the collaboration to five years, with the option of renewal in case of mutual consent at the end of the planned duration. However, if both parties agree, there is no need to limit the duration of the agreement. In this case, the agreement template has to be changed accordingly and you may opt for this wording: “This agreement shall take effect for a period of five years from the day the representatives of both institutions affix their signature. It will be renewed automatically for a period of five years."

Necessary steps within Goethe University for the procedure regarding the agreements at department/faculty and institutional level:

  1. Formulation of the agreement text by the department/faculty, in consultation with the partner (if possible, using Goethe-University's template agreement, see download section); if necessary, content-related support can be offered by the International Office (Dr. Diederich or Mr. Stärke).
  2. Review of the agreement text by the central legal department in case of a considerable difference from Goethe University's template.
  3. Signature by the dean or by the institute's managing director and the dean (three original copies if the agreement is written in one language only, three original copies each if it is written in more than one language, in total six copies).

4.       Form for the documentation of the MoU: Faculties and institutes are required to fill in the upper part of the form provided by the IO (see download section). This form is related to the basic data of the MoU, e.g. the format of the planned exchange and the contact data of the respective person in charge.

  1. Afterwards only: The International Office submits the agreement to the president or vice president of the university.
  2. The agreement is signed by the partner university.
  3. After all parties have signed the agreement, a copy has to be sent to the International Office, attached to an email to the following mail address:
  4. The International Office registers the collaboration in the data base Mobility Online, so that a) guest students can select the university as home university in the relevant search mask, b) the Study Abroad Team of the International Office can point out the option of student exchange to the students of the department/faculty and c) the partner university can be listed in Goethe Globe.

Your contact person in Goethe University's Global Office:

Please direct all requests to the following mail address:

Dr. Mathias Diederich; Tel: -15090

Patrick Stärke, Tel: -17247

Renewing an existing collaboration at faculty/department or institutional level

Renewing an existing collaboration

The department/faculty or institute respectively is responsible for renewing the MoUs. In order to do that, please contact the partner university approximately six months prior to the expiry date of the agreement.

The procedure for a renewal of an agreement equals the one for new agreements (see above). Only if there are considerable changes within the conditions that the parties have agreed upon before and these changes are not supported by the template, the legal department has to review the text again.

Your contact person in Goethe University's Global Office:

Please direct all requests to the following mail address:

Dr. Mathias Diederich; Tel: -15090

Patrick Stärke, Tel: -17247