Universities are widely regarded as institutions of higher learning. Yet they also serve an equally important purpose as research institutions, technology hubs and incubators for startup businesses.

By their very nature, universities are inherently rooted in a culture of open knowledge sharing. Whether it’s through attending conferences, presenting academic findings, publishing studies and papers, sharing data and technical information and even informal conversations among colleagues, the activities undertaken by individuals within this culture often lead to exciting discoveries and profitable ventures that change lives, elevate universities and their people to new heights and propel society forward.

That said, many such activities have strong potential to conflict with U.S. export controls—even ones that may seem on the surface to have no such connection. Moreover, university personnel throughout a given institution – not just faculty members – may engage in activities that are subject to these controls. Consequently, universities are especially susceptible to export control violations—and the penalties can be devastating for everyone involved.

Understanding Key Connections Between Universities and U.S. Export Controls

No university operates in a vacuum. Its tentacles spread far and wide as researchers, students, administrators, faculty, post-grads and others participate in, collaborate with and contribute to broad endeavors as representatives of their institutions. Accordingly, an astoundingly broad array of personnel, activities and functions are potentially subject to U.S. export controls. As such, they must be identified and brought into 100% compliance with said controls. Consider just a few examples:

  • Faculty members who seek to patent specific technologies and license those to outside parties.
  • Administrators who seek to build alliances and forge partnerships with outside entities.
  • Startup ventures tied to universities that involve individuals, technologies, information and other items from different countries. In some cases, even startups with exclusively U.S.-based interests may be subject to export control laws.
  • Industry partnerships and/or alliances that involve the exchange of company-confidential data and/or test results.
  • Other types of faculty-centered consulting engagements with outside businesses, institutions and/or governments.
  • Travel to and from conferences, meetings and other events in which information and/or data is shared.
  • The use of university-owned computers, email servers, data storage and other equipment.

As you can see, many core activities undertaken by university personnel involve the use, transmittal and sharing of proprietary and potentially sensitive information. It may not be obvious to those doing research at universities or pursuing for-profit ventures that such items are sensitive from a compliance perspective—but they very well may be, and it’s essential for all involved to achieve total compliance with U.S. export controls.

Some common activities in higher education are, in fact, not subject to export controls courtesy of the fundamental research exclusion (FRE) provided for in the regulations. The FRE generally excludes from control technology that the researcher is free to publish without restriction. However, the FRE is by no means carte blanche for ignoring all U.S. export control and sanctions requirements. Many universities engage in restricted research which does not qualify for this exclusion.

In reality, when it comes to complying with these controls, it takes more than just a willingness to do the right thing—it’s all about execution. U.S. export controls are as complex as they are numerous. Some even defy logic. To avoid putting your university at risk, your path to export compliance will be challenging—and you must avoid any misstep along the way.

That’s where university export compliance training comes into play.

How University Export Compliance Training Helps You Propel Initiatives – and Avoid Export Control Violations Along the Way

Whatever activities your university and its people may be engaged in, it makes very good sense to align with an established and widely acclaimed university export compliance training partner who can guide you step by step toward compliance success. The Export Compliance Training Institute is built around this model by offering industry-leading e-seminars, live seminars and live webinars and a catalog of 80-plus on-demand webinars. Several of these focus on strategies for building, evaluating and enhancing compliance programs within university settings, as well as reducing export compliance risk in all relevant areas. All of them explain how the universe of your activities and initiatives could potentially intersect with the primary and secondary export control regulations, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations – most commonly known as the ITAR – and the Export Administration Regulations, or EAR for short.

Related article: The Export Compliance Basics of ITAR and EAR – Understanding Key Terms, Issues, Similarities and Differences

Equally important, we also offer the industry’s premier Export Compliance Professional (ECoP) certification program which demonstrates to your university, colleagues, outside connections – and even potential future employers – that you possess the skills necessary to perform your export compliance duties.

One final point: As we said earlier, complying with U.S. export controls is no easy task. Mistakes happen. Oversights occur. Deadlines can be missed as the tide of faculty and other professional obligations swirls around you. Therefore, undertaking established and reputable export compliance training helps to demonstrate that you and your institution have made a tangible commitment to pursuing compliance. Training in and of itself is considered by the U.S. government as a mitigating factor when considering penalties for non-compliance; so, if you can show the government that you and your university invested in export compliance training, you will prove that you have made an honest effort to comply with U.S. export controls. That, in turn, can greatly reduce the chances that the government will pursue an enforcement proceeding or penalty against you or the institution.

We hope this article helps you understand the challenges that universities face in complying with U.S. export controls, and the importance of doing so. As we said earlier, university export compliance is a complex and detailed undertaking. Your university’s investments rely on achieving 100% compliance with all applicable export regulations and controls. That said, it is absolutely achievable—you can do it, provided you take the necessary time up front to align with an established and widely acclaimed export compliance training partner who can guide you step by step toward compliance success.

Contact the Export Compliance Training Institute

Do you have questions about university export compliance and export control training? Visit www.learnexportcompliance.com to learn about our company, our faculty, our staff and our esteemed Export Compliance Professional (ECoP®) certification program. To find upcoming e-seminars, live seminars and live webinars and browse our catalog of 80-plus on-demand webinars, visit our ECTI Academy. You can also call the Export Compliance Training Institute at 540-433-3977 for more information.

Scott Gearity is President of ECTI, Inc.

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