Faculty and staff do not have the authority to sign legal agreements on behalf of the University of Michigan.
Signature authority is the designation to officially sign legal agreements on behalf of the University of Michigan that is granted to U-M central offices. This authority is outlined in the U-M Standard Practice Guide (SPG) 601.24.
Faculty, researchers, and students do not have the authority to sign (or accept funds to enter into) external research contracts or agreements that commit university resources, including the use of space, personnel, equipment, and services. Only specific individuals have been granted by the university the authority to sign on its behalf.
A U-M researcher can propose research activity with external sponsors/collaborators, but they do not have the authority to negotiate and approve the legal aspects of any research agreement on behalf of U-M.
A U-M researcher may also be able to "sign" institutional forms in the eResearch system (e.g., Proposal Approval Forms (PAFs), Unfunded Agreement Forms, etc.), and by doing so they authorize the appropriate central office to negotiate and finalize the terms and conditions of the legal agreement.
Why it's important
Unauthorized legal agreements committing university resources may result in personal liability, institutional liability, breach of contract, and/or regulatory non-compliance.
Who should faculty work with?
Before agreeing by signature to any research activity that commits U-M resources, work with your research administrator (RA) to complete the appropriate form(s) to obtain institutional approval. Depending on the agreement, the RA can help you route the agreement to the correct entity.
Who has signature authority?
The following lists (in brief) what type of legal agreement must be signed by which U-M central office has signature authority.
For full details, see SPG 601.24 for Training, Research Contracts & Grants in detail on pages 40-48 of Table 1: Delegations of Authority for Business Transactions with External Organizations.
Type of Agreement or Contract Who has Signature Authority Remember to start the process with your research administrator (RA) Research contracts up to $250,000
Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP)
(rolls up to OVPR)
Contracts and agreements or subawards above the $250,000 threshold.
Office of Contract Administration (OCA)
Finance - Sponsored Programs
or U-M's Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer.
Material transfer agreements Innovation Partnerships (formerly the Office of Technology Transfer)
Facility use agreements
U-M Real Estate Office
Gifts to U-M
Office of University Development
Also, see: grant, contract or agreement, cooperative agreement in Glossary and U-M OGC Business, Contracts, and Signature Authority FAQs