• Study Abroad
  • Report
  • Higher Ed

At Risk Abroad: Lessons From Claims

Joe Vossen, JD
April 2021

Why Read This

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students participate in academic study abroad programs. Organizing and overseeing these programs is an immense undertaking with many risks.

United Educators (UE) reviewed the 126 claims it received from 2005 to 2014 related to study abroad higher education. Those claims cost UE and our members more than $1.6 million. Among claims with losses, the average loss was nearly $50,000.

This report highlights nine areas that can be improved through proactive risk management.

Note: Health, safety, and security of international travelers and program risk management should be a concern across campus — not only in the study abroad office. Recommendations detailed in this report apply to any institution-sponsored foreign travel program, such as:

  • Noncredit-bearing student academic travel
  • Intercollegiate athletic competitions
  • Faculty, staff, and administrative travel
  • Arts performances
  • Registered student organization travel

Key Takeaways

  • Sexual misconduct was the most frequent and severe type of study abroad claim — these incidents were responsible for over half the study’s claims and more than two-thirds of its losses.
  • With study abroad claims, the most common theories of liability or “causes of action” lodged against institutions included failure to follow the institution’s policy, negligent supervision of students, inappropriate employee sexual misconduct, and improper medical care.
  • In more than half of the claims UE analyzed, the institution’s response to a study abroad crisis was thoughtful and helped mitigate potential losses.

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