Executing University Contracts - guidance

If you are involved in contract management, it is important to be aware of the formal requirements for signing contracts and deeds. An incorrectly signed contract or deed may not be legally binding. 
What is the difference between a contract and a deed?

A contract is an agreement that is intended to be legally enforceable between two or more parties where one party promises to do something for the other parties in exchange for a price. The “price” is commonly a fee (e.g., a fee for service), but it could also be a non-financial benefit, such as giving something up or providing something in exchange for the promise. In contrast, a deed is a special type of legal document under which a party makes a binding promise to do something, but there does not need to be an exchange or price for that promise.

Legal Services previously provided guidance on how to execute deeds. The following guidance notes explain the basic formalities for executing contracts and provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

What should I do before arranging the execution of a contract? 

Before arranging the execution of a contract, it is important to check the contract details. The basic steps include the following:

•    confirm the parties’ details, e.g., names, addresses, and contact person for legal notices;
•    for all Australian parties, check that the ABN is correct by searching ASIC Connect;
•    do not backdate contracts – the date of signature given by each signatory should be the actual date that they signed the contract; and
•    check the University’s Authority Register to ensure that the University representative named in the contract execution block has the delegated authority and financial limit to sign the contract.

Frequently asked questions

Can I sign a contract electronically if it needs to be witnessed? 
No. If the contract needs to be witnessed, it should be physically signed, i.e., in “wet ink”.

Can I ask someone to apply my electronic signature to a contract and also ask them to sign it as the witness? 

Do I have to be present watching someone sign a contract to be a witness? 
Yes – this is very important. A contract that requires a witness must be signed in the presence of that witness.

Can I watch someone execute a contract over Zoom or Teams and then add my electronic signature as a witness? 
No. You will need to witness their signature in person.

If a party has added its electronic signature to a contract but we are still negotiating and amending the contract terms, do they need to sign it again?
Yes. If the contract is in draft format and the parties are negotiating/amending the terms, the parties will need to correctly execute the contract once the terms have been finalised.

Further information

For more information about entering into contracts, please refer to the Executing Contracts and Agreements guidance notes. For more information about Deeds, visit:

•    Who can sign deeds on behalf of the University? - dated 6 October 2021; 
•    Deeds: New Power of Attorney for Non-Real Property Deeds - dated 24 April 2023.  

For specific legal advice, please contact the Legal Helpdesk.

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