Build a Better Travel Risk Management Program: 3 Focus Areas for Higher Education Institutions

It’s unsurprising that the field of higher education has become as globalized as every other discipline in our modern mobile world. But are educational decision-makers fully aware of the ramifications? Increased complexity equates to increased responsibility on the part of academic institutions. This applies not only to safety, but also to the expanded duty of care that goes along with an increasingly global and remote educational framework.

For colleges and universities, duty of care is the moral and legal obligation to guard the health and safety of students, faculty and staff and protect them from foreseeable risk of harm, especially during education-related travel. Many campuses now comprise people who travel to and from other countries and will continue to do so throughout their scholastic careers.

In addition, there has been a 68 percent increase in new international enrollment for the 2021-2022 academic year, according to the Open Doors 2021 report, released by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education. This means even more travel risk management to coordinate among student bodies.

It’s therefore imperative for travel risk management protocols to be carefully developed and strategically implemented. An effective duty of care program is a proactive one. The right technology, policies and training build the foundation. Ready to start brainstorming your way towards a safer, more secure scholastic body? Here are three key focus areas and corresponding questions to help facilitate your process.

1. Develop Clear Policies

For policies to be thorough and effective, institutions of higher learning must first consider their own size, risk tolerance and culture. Review best practices and resources from authorities such as the CDC. Examine the composition of your students, teaching faculty and administrative staff relative to the following questions. Their answers should predicate your policies and procedures:

    • Is the sphere of travel local, multi-state, countrywide or international?
    • Is it mainly dependent on roads or airlines?
    • How many people do you typically have traveling during any given semester?
    • How complicated is your accountability and communications structure?
    • How much of your budget is dedicated to managing travel and its associated risk?

For example, you have faculty teaching and students studying at various institutions abroad that fall under your university’s umbrella. It’s important to create a reporting matrix that clearly identifies who everyone reports to on a regular basis, as well as who will keep accountability for which groups during a disaster. The proper policies will streamline this process and enhance convenience on both ends.

2. Deliver Consistent Training

Once your policies and procedures are in place, it’s important that everyone practices executing them. Create training materials and coordinate practice drills so everyone understands and can easily utilize them. Depending on the average age of your students, this may also include keeping parents informed. Stay on top of legal requirements for academic training and enforcement by utilizing resources such as those provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Questions to consider when planning training include:

    • Which groups will book their own transportation and lodgings? Will your student affairs department have a central travel manager who coordinates all flights, trains, car rentals and hotels?
    • What level of research is expected for any given destination? Consider which locations make it necessary to review State Department advisories, register visits with the U.S. embassy, obtain visas, utilize a local guide and/or translator and identify safe zones versus restricted areas due to road closures, severe weather events or civil unrest.
    • Does everyone know who to contact for regular check-ins and emergencies?

Let’s say there’s an earthquake in close proximity to one of your campuses in another country. Your means of connecting and communicating with all of the affected groups should be set up and tested well in advance of an actual disaster. In addition to accountability for your people, you also need a means of keeping their families informed. This is especially true in scenarios where there may be missing people in the zone of impact.

3. Determine the Right Technology

Supportive technology that enables rapid and reliable critical communications is vital for keeping your students, faculty and staff safe and secure, in transit and while abroad. Thinking through the criteria for selecting the right platform should be a top-to-bottom discussion. This means obtaining feedback from users in every group. Overall, research indicates the system you select should provide relevant information and deliver it quickly via an intuitive interface. Develop your additional specifications by working through these questions:

    • What event detection features are included, and do they incorporate the latest AI and risk intelligence?
    • Can you deliver targeted alerts quickly from anywhere, with two-way messaging capabilities?
    • Is the interface easy and convenient for users in a broad spectrum of age and comfort levels with technology?
    • Does the platform show you a map of all your people, as well as inclement threats in their locations? Can you locate travelers based on their itinerary, as well as mobile app location tracking?
    • Are you able to access a real-time audit trail of all communications?
    • Does the platform include an option for conference calls between users located across the globe?
    • Can you leverage pre-travel destination research and advisories?
    • Does the solution include traveler services including 24/7 medical and security assistance around the globe?

These questions are only a starting point. As security leaders work alongside educational decision-makers, this process will become more intuitive as well as more integrated throughout your institution. You’re already starting with the same goals – Safety. Security. Communication. Now it’s just a matter of defining the best way to achieve them and putting the right technology in place to make it happen.

Download our ebook to learn more about best practices for today’s travel risk management programs.


OnSolve® proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform allows organizations to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people and operations.