This document outlines risk management policies for Lehigh student travel abroad and summarizes the process by which the International Travel Advisory Committee (ITAC) will review proposed travel.
- Overview of ITAC
- Scope of ITAC Responsibility
- Composition of the Committee
- Interaction with International Crisis Advisory Group (ICAG)
- ITAC Review Process
- Criteria for Evaluating Proposed International Travel
- ITAC Review Process
- Student Participant Eligibility
- Assessment of Elevated Risk
- Contract Review Requirements
- Group Program Leader Requirements
- On-going Review
- Additional Policies
- Companions Accompanying Faculty and Staff Leading International Programs
- Approved University Travel Vendors
- Health Insurance and Security Assistance
- When a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is required
- Additional Resources
1.1. Scope of ITAC responsibility
The International Travel Advisory Committee (ITAC) is responsible for oversight of issues related to safety and logistics of Lehigh sponsored international travel involving students at the graduate or undergraduate level. ITAC is responsible for reviewing and approving travel plans for all Lehigh sponsored international travel involving students. Lehigh sponsored student international travel includes experiences that receive funding of any amount from any Lehigh department/office, or experiences that are organized, directed, or coordinated by the university. This includes, but is not limited to, for-credit study abroad programs, travel with a Lehigh University group as part of a non-credit educational experience, travel for research, co-curricular programming, Lehigh student club travel, and conference attendance.
The scope of ITAC responsibility is limited to oversight of issues associated with health and safety risk management. ITAC does not exercise academic oversight of abroad programs. Courses taught completely or partially abroad are subject to the regular policy determined by Rules and Procedures of the Faculty of Lehigh University, the Educational Policy Committee, and the Graduate Research Committee.
ITAC members have extensive knowledge in planning and executing abroad programs, as well as a large network of international partners and resources. Faculty, staff or students preparing for a program that includes university sponsored international travel are advised to meet with a representative from ITAC during the initial planning stages to review program models/options, discuss pitfalls to avoid, and review planning resources available. ITAC is available to facilitate and guide through the planning process from early brainstorming through program launch. Consulting with ITAC throughout the process will facilitate program development that aligns with policy and best practices.
ITAC review may include an iterative process as ITAC works with program leaders or individual travelers to gather needed information. For new programs, this process may take 4-6 weeks. Importantly, none of the following should occur prior to review: student selection and notification, signing of contracts with vendors, payments for services, confirmation of faculty/staff program leaders. As such, the review process will ideally be initiated several months before any such program details need to be completed.
1.2. Composition of the committee
ITAC is chaired by the Vice President/Vice Provost for International Affairs. Other members include the Director of the Study Abroad Office; Director of the Iacocca International Internship Program; General Counsel or designee; Director of Risk Management; Dean of Students or designee; and a faculty representative. The assistant director of the Study Abroad Office serves as the committee’s secretary. ITAC may consult with other representatives from campus, as needed. ITAC-approved travel is coordinated with the International Crisis Advisory Group (ICAG), which includes all members of ITAC, and has responsibility for overseeing the International Emergency Response Plan.
1.3. Interaction with International Crisis Advisory Group (ICAG)
All international programming that falls under ITAC oversight will have access to on-call support from the International Crisis Advisory Group (ICAG) during official program dates. ICAG is made up of administrators and staff from across the university whose expertise may be critical in responding to a crisis abroad. In a crisis scenario, a designated on-call individual will coordinate with relevant members of ICAG as needed and share ongoing updates with the group. Current ICAG membership is listed on the Office of International Affairs website.
2.2. Criteria for evaluating proposed international travel
Lehigh University seeks to mitigate risk to the best of our ability as we provide high quality international experiences. ITAC reviews proposed travel on a case-by-case basis with consideration for the following criteria:
- The relative risk to students, staff and faculty vs. the educational benefit
- The familiarity of participants and/or program leaders with the host country and /or the project
- In-depth review of itinerary, with special attention paid to activities or destinations with elevated risk
- Review of transportation plans; what forms of transport will be used, who will drive, other considerations for location specific transportation risks
- In-depth review of any activity involving health care, volunteering, or interacting with minors
- Onsite infrastructure for program support, including, but not limited to, expertise and capacity of the partner organization, availability of on-site staff, quality of facilities
- Review of partner organization(s) in the host country. Refer to Guidelines on Selecting and Working with an Organization Abroad.
- Emergency preparedness, with consideration given to: at -site support; stability in country; medical care and treatment: availability, access, standard of care; laws, cultural practices that may impact individual based on identity;level of involvement of Lehigh faculty/staff to support student
- Travel risk assessments from the US State Department, independent risk management organizations, and peer institutions
- Existing Lehigh policies on international travel, academic programs, purchasing, and personnel
- Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad, prepared by the Forum on Education Abroad
Note: Section 4 of this document provides resources ITAC regularly consults for guidance
2.2. ITAC Review Process
ITAC meets on a bi-monthly, or as needed basis, throughout the academic year to review the following categories of travel:
- Group travel credit/non-credit
- Individual student travel (ie fellowship or other university sponsorship)
- Graduate (ie fellowship, research)
Group program leaders or individual travelers will be expected to complete the ITAC Review Forms and submit supplementary materials such as contracts or other agreements with partner organizations as requested.
2.3. Student Participant eligibility
All students traveling on Lehigh sponsored international travel must be in good academic, disciplinary, and financial standing. The Study Abroad Office verifies eligibility and ensures that students remain in good standing until departure. Student participant eligibility should be reviewed as early as possible. Individual programs may set additional eligibility or selection criteria.
2.4. Assessment of Elevated Risk
During proposal review, ITAC may identify an activity or region as high-risk. Regions or countries may be considered high-risk if they carry a level 3 or 4 Department of State Travel Advisory, if there is increased risk of disease, or if conditions at site are unstable. (Note: Some countries may have an overall country risk rating of Level 1 or 2, but have areas/locations designated as Level 3 or 4. For additional information, refer to the Department of State website.)
Some examples of high-risk activities are those including hands-on physical work, activities involving close interaction with human subjects, and health-related projects involving any level of patient interaction.
If ITAC determines that an activity or region is high-risk, the program leader may be requested to submit an addendum with information justifying the educational value of the trip and the steps taken to mitigate risk to the travelers. Students will be notified of the ITAC assessment of elevated risk and may be asked to sign an addendum acknowledging their decision to travel; for undergraduate students, parents/guardians will receive notification of elevated risk and may be asked to sign the addendum.
2.5. Contract review requirements
Most abroad programs will require entering into contract with partner organizations and/or vendors. All contracts must be reviewed by Lehigh’s Office of the General Counsel and can be submitted using the online system called “Lehigh University Contract Administration: LUCA”. No contracts should be signed prior to ITAC review. In general, the following Lehigh employees have signing authority: College Dean’s Office, Department Chair, Vice President/Provost. ITAC review will provide guidance on appropriate Lehigh authorized signatory. Contract review also applies to individual student travel requiring a contract.
2.6. Group program leader requirements
Lehigh faculty or staff may travel abroad as a group program leader. Approved program leaders must be employed by Lehigh as exempt staff, tenured or tenure-track faculty, or professor of practice. Dean and ITAC approval is needed for an adjunct faculty to participate as a program leader. Detailed Program Leader responsibility and expectations are outlined in the Lehigh Abroad program handbook (link to handbook). ITAC will consider the following points related to the role of group leader:
- Familiarity of the group leader with the host location
- Appropriate leader to participant ratio
- Review of group leader’s concurrent personal or professional responsibilities during program dates
Prior to program departure, all Group Program leaders must attend an emergency preparedness and response training led by the Office of International Affairs. If running programs over multiple years, leader training must be attended annually.
2.7. On-going review
ITAC regularly monitors current events and conditions. All ITAC approved travel is subject to ongoing review occurring up until the date of departure and throughout the duration of the program. Programs may be subject to additional review due to changing conditions.
3.1. Companions Accompanying Faculty and Staff Leading International Programs
Lehigh does not permit any individual to be included in, or to accompany, an abroad program who is not considered a “program participant” except under the limited circumstance involving the companion(s) of a program staff member. Non-Participant Companions include a spouse, partner, or dependent of the program staff member.
Conditions for participation by Non-Participant Companions:
- A Program Staff Member is solely responsible for covering all of his/her companion’s expenses
- The companion will be required to be covered by health insurance that is valid in the country of travel, as well as travel insurance that includes coverage for evacuations.
- A Program Staff Member is responsible for reviewing the following aspects of the program for suitability for travel by their companion: the length of the program, the age of children, the location of the program, the nature of the program, the extent of travel activity involved during the program, the availability of accommodation, the impact of the presence of the companion on the program, and any special needs of the companion.
- The presence of a companion, particularly a dependent child, must not disrupt or alter the abroad program in any way or otherwise affect the ability of the program staff member to carry out responsibilities associated with leading a Lehigh program.
- A minor child may only travel with the abroad program group if another adult/caretaker is present, and that caretaker must have 24/7 supervision of the minor child. A program staff member is not permitted to hire a program participant for childcare purposes.
A program staff member who is interested in bringing a companion with him/her on an abroad program must submit a justification to ITAC before funding has been committed (e.g., plane tickets, housing reservations). The justification should include information about the companion’s motivation for participating and the extent of the participation in the group’s itinerary. If the companion is a minor, the justification should include information about the items addressed above.
The complete Statement Defining Participants and Companions on Lehigh University International Programs is available at (insert website) and serves as the official explanation for the university review process.
3.2. Approved University Travel Vendors
The university requires student group travel on behalf of the university to be purchased through an approved university travel vendor, currently Travel Leaders. Individual travel tickets purchased with Lehigh funds are also required to be booked through an approved university travel vendor. Booking travel through the approved vendor allows Lehigh to provide travel support in case of emergencies that would require significant changes in flight schedules and use of ISOS flight management resources. Groups or individuals seeking to use a vendor other than the approved university vendor should provide a justification to ITAC for approval. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by ITAC in advance.
3.3. Health Insurance and Security Assistance
All students participating in Lehigh sponsored travel abroad will be enrolled in mandatory coverage under the Lehigh University Student International Services and Insurance program through International SOS (ISOS), which provides health insurance and security assistance. A registration fee will be billed to the student or sponsoring Lehigh program/department.
Faculty or staff who are ITAC-approved program leaders will be covered under a separate insurance policy and also have access to security assistance services. The insurance policy for faculty/staff provides up to $10,000 in coverage; medical expenses not covered under this policy, or those exceeding the $10,000 coverage limit, should be submitted to the faculty/staff own individual medical plan. Travelers are encouraged to review their medical insurance limits with their provider prior to travel.
Both students and faculty/staff should maintain their domestic health insurance policies while traveling abroad and are only covered by the Lehigh ISOS plan during official program dates. Information about ISOS and policy benefits for both students and faculty/staff is available at go.lehigh.edu/ISOS.
3.4. When a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is required
For program activities requiring a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with an educational institution, NGO, company, or other institution, program leaders should consult the International Partnerships Guidelines (pdf).
The following is a partial list of resources that may be consulted by ITAC as part of the program review. Program leaders are encouraged to access these resources as well.
ISOS is Lehigh's contracted medical and security services company for international travel and programs. ISOS is a group all Lehigh travelers can consult with before or during travel by going to this link (lehigh.edu/go/isos) and calling the phone number listed or starting a chat session.
OSAC promotes security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State.
Forum sets the "Standards of Good Practice" for education abroad programs
Governments of United Kingdom, Canada, Australia