When Columbia seeks to launch a project or entity outside the U.S., a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the university and the host country’s government may be required. In some countries, an MOU allows for hiring of staff, obtaining tax exemptions, opening bank accounts, and otherwise operating lawfully in the country.
While an MOU often is appropriate and useful for international activities, any type of agreement with a foreign government can have serious political, financial, tax, and regulatory impacts on the university. In addition, an MOU that purports to grant benefits to the university might in fact be unenforceable and valueless depending on local requirements, as only certain ministries are authorized to grant benefits within their scope of authority. All MOUs with foreign governments must be reviewed by University’s central administration (e.g., the Provost’s Office for academic programs and Sponsored Projects Administration for sponsored projects), acting with the advice of the Office of General Counsel.
The Template Guidance on MOU with Host Country Government provides sample language and an overview of possible benefits and entitlements that a government might convey through this instrument.