Educational Agreements

Columbia University has a long history of successful and mutually beneficial collaborations with a wide range of domestic and global partners. Here, we provide information to facilitate the work of faculty and staff throughout the University to construct educational agreements that satisfy regulatory requirements from federal, state, and accrediting bodies, as well as to follow best practices and ensure the quality of our educational programs. It is the result of a collaborative effort among several offices, including the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs (OVPAP), the Office of General Counsel (OGC), and Student Financial Services (SFS)/Compliance Office. This information is meant to provide the Columbia community with best practices in the development of educational agreements.

Below, we describe the process for developing and codifying educational agreements step-by-step. OVPAP reviews agreements that are educational or academic in nature. For descriptions of other types of agreements (research, faculty appointments, etc.) and the overseeing unit, please see the grid below.

Agreements Category Grid

Educational Agreement Process

Preparing an Educational Agreement for Review

There are templates for common agreement types. Schools/sponsoring units are encouraged to use one of these approved agreement templates to expedite the review and approval process. Please contact [email protected] for the most recent versions of the approved templates. Approved templates are currently available for the following types of agreements:

  • Admissions pipelines
  • Dual degree
  • Exchange or visiting students
  • Executive education
  • Handshake memoranda of understanding (MOU)

Prior to submitting an agreement, it is crucial that the School/sponsoring unit works with the dean’s office. The dean’s office plays a critical role in reviewing draft agreements to ensure the proposed collaboration is aligned with the School’s overall mission and strategic goals. The School/unit should be in close contact with the dean’s office throughout the review process.

Submitting an Educational Agreement for Review

1. Agreements require review and approval by several offices within the University. The type of agreement and the specifics of the proposed collaboration determine which offices are required to review and approve the agreement.  To manage this workflow, we use an online system called DARCI (Database for Agreements, Renewals, Centers and Institutes).

2. Each school/sponsoring unit has assigned DARCI roles. Typically, each school has an agreement initiator, who has access to submit draft agreements to DARCI, and an approver. The approver is usually the dean or an approved delegate who has the authority to approve proposed partnerships and agreements on behalf of the school or unit. If you are unsure who has DARCI access, please contact your School’s education/academic dean or [email protected]. OVPAP can modify a School’s DARCI access with permission from the dean’s office.

3. When a School/unit submits a draft agreement to DARCI, they will be asked to provide a description of the agreement and key information, including the purpose and rationale for the School’s support. Additional information about the agreement must include:

  • Summary of the proposed arrangement
  • Participants
  • Any relevant past agreement(s)
  • Whether the agreement is a renewal of an existing agreement

The initial draft submission, prepared by the sponsoring School/unit, must provide a complete and accurate summary of the School’s/unit’s work with the proposed partner. That is, the school/unit must ensure that the agreement clearly outlines the key elements of the proposed arrangement. For example, in the case of an exchange agreement, the agreement should describe:

  • Number of credits earned by students at each institution
  • The student population that is eligible to apply, as well as the application process
  • How is tuition paid

The submitted agreement should clearly and concisely outline the key elements of the proposed agreement, such that a layperson would understand the proposed arrangement and how it works.

All documents submitted to DARCI must be in Word (.doc or .docx) format. PDFs will not be accepted.

4. The School’s/unit’s dean or delegated representative must sign off in DARCI to endorse any proposed educational agreement before it proceeds with internal reviews. OVPAP will not move an agreement forward or proceed with the agreement review process without sign off from the dean or delegated representative.

Educational Agreement Review Process

1. Review by University stakeholders. The agreement will typically need to be reviewed and approved by 3-4 offices, with other offices reviewing as needed or warranted by the terms of the agreement:

  • Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs (OVPAP)
  • Office of General Counsel (OGC)
  • Student Financial Services (SFS)/Compliance Office
  • CUIMC Dean's Office (if the agreement is from a CUIMC School)
  • Risk Management (depending on the location, nature and insurance requirements of the proposed agreement)
  • Protection of Minors (if the proposed agreement involves participants under 18 years of age)

Additionally, external partners and signatories will also undergo a restricted party screening. This compliance check will verify whether a proposed partner institution or signatory has had its export privileges restricted or revoked per the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, or Treasury and is listed on any of the federal restricted party lists, in order to prevent violations of U.S. Export Control laws.

2. Timeline. The agreement review and approval process can take a few weeks to a few months, sometimes longer in some circumstances.  The review process begins when both the agreement and accompanying basic information are submitted to DARCI.  

3. Steps to expedite the process.  To help expedite the agreement review process, please do the following:

  • Use an OVPAP approved template. Partners that wish to engage with Columbia University should, in most instances, use our templates.
  • Submit a complete and accurate DARCI application. Schools will be asked to supply missing or inadequate information.
  • Ensure the School dean is aware of and supportive of this agreement. The School dean or their delegate is required to electronically sign off via DARCI. Any delay in obtaining this approval will delay the review and approval process, as OVPAP will not move forward without the dean’s or their delegate’s approval.
  • Respond in a timely manner to any requested follow up or information needed from offices reviewing the agreement. This includes facilitating communication with the partner. It is the School’s/units responsibility to communicate with the partner and ensure they follow Columbia protocols.

4. Agreement translation/verification. The Provost cannot sign documents in any language other than English without the agreement being verified by a translation service and/or approval from OGC.

  • OVPAP will work with the translation service on behalf of the School/unit. If a translation is needed, this can extend the review and approval process time, even when OVPAP approved templates are used.
  • Schools/units submitting agreements for approval that require translation are responsible for the costs incurred. Schools/units will be asked to provide a chartstring for the costs of the translation.

Agreement Signature Process

  • Columbia University should always sign agreements first. An agreement that has been signed first by the partner may need to undergo additional review, and may need to be signed by the partner again after Columbia has completed its due diligence.
  • Once necessary approvals have been received, and there is consensus on final language between Columbia University and the partner, the sponsoring School’s education dean/agreement representative will be asked to review the proposed agreement to certify that it should be considered final.
  • OVPAP will prepare the agreement for review and signature of the Provost, or give approval for the final review and signature by the School’s dean. 
  • If the Provost requires more information, we will reach out with additional questions.
  • If the Provost signs, you will receive a copy of the agreement to send to the partner for countersignature.

All fully executed agreements should be returned to OVPAP. They will be filed in DARCI.