Guidelines for Good Business Partnerships in Education Abroad, Second Edition

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Strong partnerships built on mutual respect and understanding are necessary to realize the educational goals of the education abroad field. Higher education institutions that offer education abroad programs regularly engage in business relationships with organizations and institutions for academic coursework, housing, transportation, excursions, site visits, and other support abroad. Arrangements vary based on the academic goals, institutional culture, resources, policies, risk management strategies, the local culture surrounding contracts and business arrangements, and more. They range from full-fledged partnerships aimed at delivering comprehensive education abroad experiences to contracting only specific services, such as logistics arrangements, apartment housing, homestays, or air travel. Regardless of the types of services exchanged, the fact remains that education abroad could not function without these relationships.

While partnerships begin by connections between individuals, it is important for relationships to be clarified and legitimized at the organizational level to protect all of the organizations involved. The discussions and process leading up to the signing of an agreement often raise salient issues crucial to the relationship. Indeed, the process is often at least as important as the ensuing contract. Open and clear communication, mutual respect for each organization’s values, culture, mission and goals, expectations, costs, and services, and understanding the limitations of the partnership are vital. Still, many of the individuals involved in developing partnerships, outlining agreements, or negotiating contracts are not legal experts or trained in business negotiations and may feel uncomfortable in this role. For this reason, it is important to negotiate partnerships in good faith and to review contracts with your organization’s relevant individuals or departments such as general counsel, financial operations, and academic offices.

These Guidelines are intended to guide the legal, ethical, professional, contractual, and business aspects involved in delivering high-quality education abroad programming. They can inform the establishment of new partnerships, the renewal of existing partnerships, or the renegotiation of existing agreements. Their primary purpose does not pertain to agreements (Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)) between higher education institutions, though certainly some of them may apply. Use the Guidelines together with the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad and the Code of Ethics for Education Abroad to develop strong, sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships between partners.

For additional guidance for specific program types, we also encourage you to review the other offerings in The Forum’s series of Guidelines. 

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