Travel security in Higher Education: Managing the risks

A substantial proportion of Higher Education institutions have extensive overseas travel programmes. Today, many destinations, for which the highest risks were once petty crime and road safety, have now become actively dangerous to visit, while others have the potential to become dangerous with little or no notice.

Despite this, and due to its importance as a key element of a rounded educational experience, overseas travel remains a staple of many higher education programmes. As such, a decision to prohibit or cancel overseas travel is not one to be taken lightly. Travel security risks can be mitigated to a considerable extent when set within the parameters of a fully established travel security risk management framework.

Why is this important? 

Every higher education establishment has a duty of care to its staff and students and needs to ensure that security is taken into consideration for travel.

  • The Corporate Manslaughter Act (2007) and the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) could provide the legal basis for court action against the institution in the event of an incident;
  • Insurance providers expect their clients to take reasonable steps to mitigate risks and to not simply expect them to provide payment in the wake of a potentially avoidable and foreseeable incident; 
  • Claims may take years to settle, something which is of no comfort to those directly affected (injured parties and grieving families, in particular); 
  • Finally, unfavourable media coverage and court findings in the wake of an incident, may harm the reputation of the establishment and may even cause loss of funding and sponsorship.

What are the key warning signs of an incomplete approach to travel security?

  • Is there travel security programme leadership, oversight, and delegated powers of authority?
  • Is there a risk-based governance structure which makes clear how the travel security risk management framework will apply, who are the key stakeholders, what is the appeals and disciplinary process, and what sanctions may be incurred for non-compliance?
  • Are there sufficient interactions between key stakeholders such as risk, HR, heads of departments, legal, and travel management, to enable a complete understanding of who is travelling, where they are travelling, and what they will be doing at the destination?
  • Does the institution have a travel security policy by which to establish and maintain a clear statement of the establishment’s expectations?
  • Is there an over-reliance on insurance policy cover? Has this led to abrogation of responsibility for incident resolution to the insurance provider? Or has it reduced the likelihood of effective pre-travel mitigation?
  • Are there multiple travel booking channels which have reduce significantly the possibility of effective unified oversight?
  • Is there a culture of independent travel by which travellers do not feel compelled to share their travel plans with the institution? Amongst travellers, is there a casual approach to threats and risks (a tendency which is often associated with regular return trips to the same destination)?
  • Does the absence of risk-based pre-travel training lead to travellers being unprepared for the conditions they will meet on arrival?
  • In the context of lessons learned following an incident, has failure to identify and prepare measures essential for effective incident (and crisis) management been identified as a weak point?
  • Is there a lack of readily available information on all aspects of travel security, safety, and medical factors to which the traveller can refer when planning the trip?

If you believe that any of the warning signs above apply to your institution, we recommend that you act now to address them. Our travel security team is ready to help you identify any gaps in your approach to travel security and how to address them.

Contact us

Nicholas Innell
Enterprise Security, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 1450