Board OKs policy to reduce risk for study-abroad programs
One U of S academic goal is to double the number of students taking study-abroad programs within the next few years – yet at the same time terrorism and natural disasters remind us regularly of the dangers of international travel.
In an effort to deal with these two issues, the University’s Board of Governors passed a new policy in April on International Travel Risk Management for Academic Mobility Programs.
And the two managers in charge of developing the policy say it’s a good start at helping both the University and the student and faculty travellers plan positive, relatively safe, academically sound study-abroad sessions.
Nowell Seaman, Manager of Risk Management & Insurance Services, and Laurie Pushor, Director of Enrolment, led the research and consultation in recent months that led to the new policy. Other university’s policies were studied, legal and insurance authorities were checked, and more than 100 people on campus were consulted.
Both Seaman and Pushor say the broad consultation across the University was a great strength, especially since one of their main themes is that risk and the efforts to minimize it are a shared responsibility of everyone involved in the travel program and the University units that support it.
“It is impossible to remove all risk from international travel, but we can minimize it,” Seaman says. He adds the new policy is an attempt to promote good choices by faculty, students and staff about proposed study-abroad programs, and at the same time to ensure risks are kept low and safety precautions are built-in.
The policy applies to all academic programs involving international travel.
It directs that all who travel abroad in a U of S program must register in a central database to be maintained by the Global Commons. The information – including medical, program, itinerary, and emergency contacts at home and abroad – will be kept confidential but will allow for prompt U of S response in case of an emergency.
The policy urges program co-ordinators to take care when selecting destinations, and trips to identified dangerous areas will not be allowed. Participants must also take pre-trip academic and risk orientations. They must also have out-of-country health insurance and must sign waivers.
Program co-ordinators must also have prepared emergency contingency plans.
Seaman says the new policy puts the U of S on a par with other universities on this issue.
“I think implementation of the policy brings us to a solid level in terms of standard of care” for study-abroad participants, he said.