International Travel: It's More Than Just Remembering Their Passport!

Do you have a policy to handle student foreign travel? Is it updated and monitored regularly? If not, it is a good idea to consider risk management strategies to improve each program’s activity.

Student international travel is becoming increasingly popular. According to the Institute of International Education during the 2010-2011 academic years, nearly 274,000 students left the US, up from about 130,000 in 1998-1999. With increasing political turmoil globally, and the growing interest in global travel, exposures to the risks associated with global international travel are at an all-time high. This does not mean that schools should discontinue their student travel opportunities, but rather that they should have policies established and ensure that they are followed.  

United Educators suggests if you can follow these seven road stops it will help limit institutional liability:

Careful Participant Selection

  • Screen potential host families, including performing extensive background checks.
  • Have selection criteria for students, faculty and staff. Make sure qualifications go beyond academic achievement, seek references and ask students about their goals and objectives for the trip.
  • Select the appropriate length of time to spend at each stop if the trip includes multiple destinations.
  • Prepare emergency contact information for the student traveling abroad.

Effective Communication

  • Encourage students to speak with former students about their experiences studying abroad.
  • Do not be misleading on the types of risks involved with the trip.
  • Require immediate reports of emergency situations.
  • Respond quickly and efficiently to injury reports and complaints and ensure they are all documented appropriately.
  • Encourage participants to seek medical advice from professionals about the country they are visiting.
  • Establish an open line of communication between the on-site study abroad director with the institution, student(s), local law enforcement, and U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

Established Expectations

  • Locate all discrepancies between your school’s expectations of “free” time and supervised time.
  • Create an itinerary for participants to determine which activities are considered “free” time and which activities are sponsored by the school.
  • Determine if your school’s code of conduct and employee policies are appropriate for the duration of the trip.
  • Have a key person who can efficiently investigate all violations of the code of conduct and employee policies.

Clear Safety Policies and Procedures

  • Make sure all “free” time activities are not sponsored events hosted by the campus.
  • Determine what type of transportation systems are to be used. Using public transportation versus employee owned car or charter bus can create lower levels of exposure.
  • Have on site personnel do inspection of living, learning and working areas to determine what safety equipment is needed, i.e. smoke detectors.

Realistic Crisis Management Planning

  • Have an emergency team in place before the trip so students and faculty know to whom to report and who will handle any and all incidents.
  • Make sure all safety issues are considered top priority.

Adequate Insurance Coverage

  • Make sure there are adequate levels of insurance including general liability, worker’s compensation, employer’s liability, and automobile coverage.
  • Make sure it is required of participants to have health and accident insurance.
  • Risk managers should examine certificates of insurance to verify coverage exists.

Appropriate Documentation Procedures

  • Keep documents of all insurance policies.
  • Have set guidelines for documenting incident reports.
  • Have records of all foreign inspections and repairs.

If your institution can follow these seven stops, then you should be able to reduce your exposure to the risks associated with global travel. RCM&D’s risk consulting team is dedicated to helping tailor resolutions to your institutions needs because we understand that each program is unique. You can contact RCM&D Risk Consulting or your Account Executive to review your existing plan, or to develop a new one to mitigate your exposures. 

For more information, please reference the following articles:

Conducting a Global Benefits Needs Analysis

Legal & Risk Management Issues Involving Student Foreign Travel