Establishing New International Academic Linkages

Establishing New International Academic Linkages

What are Academic Linkages?
Academic linkages can be either long or short term mutually-enriching relationships between two or more academic institutions, departments, schools or faculties. Occasionally, non-academic institutions may be involved in such linkages if they can play a valid role in teaching or research. Linkages often originate through informal faculty or staff contacts, but eventually evolve into formal agreements which may cover a variety of forms of cooperation. Brock University has established protocols to deal with the following academic linkage possibilities:

  • student exchanges
  • study abroad programs for students
  • Visiting International Professor (VIP) program
  • Visiting International Scholar (VIS) program
  • University Mentorship (UM) program for international faculty and staff
  • Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) amongst institutions

In addition, Brock international can assist in setting up the following linkage opportunities:

  • faculty exchanges
  • joint research
  • library and documentation exchange
  • exchange of pedagogical material
  • exchange of scientific and laboratory equipment
  • joint participation in seminars and conferences
  • other forms of collaboration

Academic linkages can also evolve out of multilateral research and development projects. Brock International administers large institutional development projects involving close cooperation between universities in Canada and one or more developing countries. These are highly structured and subject to guidelines set out by an external funding body such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

How are International Academic Linkages Established?
As mentioned previously, academic linkages often originate through informal contact between faculty or staff at two or more institutions who share some form of common interest. For short-term projects or academic interactions of limited scope or duration, no formal linkage agreements are necessary. However, if there is sufficient interest, support, and potential for long-term interaction, then informal arrangements may evolve into formal academic linkages. All formal international academic linkages at Brock are coordinated through the office of Brock International.

Steps to Establishing a Successful International Academic Linkage
Excerpts from a co-publication of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and The British Council entitled "Guide to establishing international academic links" (1993)

If you are a Brock faculty or staff member and think you would like to establish an international academic linkage between Brock and another institution, please review the following steps:

Step 1: Starting out
Ask yourself the following questions before proceeding:

  • What is the degree of institutional commitment to a sustained link? There must be a strong base of grassroots support in the relevant academic and administrative units in order for the link to be effective.
  • Will the link support the mission, needs and strengths of the university?
  • Will the institution's academic and research standards be maintained or enhanced as a result of the link?
  • What are the existing personal contacts between the institutions that could form the basis of a link?
  • To what degree is the link dependant upon the interests and activities of a small number of people? If the base of support is very small, then the link is likely to become inactive as personnel and interests change.
  • Is the proposed partner located in a region of the world in which the institution has a particular interest?
  • Are there any natural affinities between the two institutions (size, linguistically shared experiences, etc.)?
  • What would be the financial implications of the proposed link for the institution?
  • How will the link be funded?


Step 2: Negotiating the Linkage Agreement

  • A clear and shared understanding of the benefits and objectives of the proposed link must be arrived at between the two institutions.
  • Detailed preparation for the link should include input from and be based on the solid commitment of affected departments. This is particularly critical in the case of student exchanges, where the issue of mutual recognition of degree credits would have to be seriously addressed.
  • The initial formal contact may be between the presidents or other senior administrators of both institutions.
  • An individual with overall responsibility for administration of the proposed link should be identified in the proposed partner institution. At Brock, the Director of Brock International (who is also the university's official International Liaison Officer) usually fulfills this role. ( For student exchange programs, the Manager of International Services is usually more intimately involved with day-to-day program administration). If someone other than the ILO is assigned to this task, he or she should keep the ILO fully informed of all developments relating to the proposed link.
  • Following the exchange of correspondence between the presidents, the administrator would initiate contact with the counterpart in the partner institution. This contact would seek to develop in greater detail the parameters set out in the initial contact between presidents.
  • A preparatory visit to or from the international partner, involving the administrator and/or faculty, may be deemed appropriate by both partners.

Step 3: The agreement

  • Depending on the type of agreement, certain signatures may be required. Oftentimes, the President of the University must sign the agreement, but in some cases only the Dean's signature may be required.
  • Institutions lacking experience in developing links may find it desirable to make their linkage agreement as simple and single-purpose as possible, thus ensuring a greater chance of success.
  • The agreement should contain the following provisions: mutual goals; definitions; a statement of who the expected participants are, and how many; payment of fees and other costs; mutual recognition of credits where student exchange is involved; responsibilities of each university; a clause providing for future rectification of weaknesses and problem areas in the agreement and renewal of the agreement subject to mutual satisfaction; a withdrawal clause (providing for advance notice).
  • Regular contact between the institutions following signature of the agreement will help to ensure that the link will remain relevant, effective and free of serious problems.