Caring for students, faculty and staff at home and abroad
As the University of Alberta increases opportunities to engage with other institutions in knowledge transfer and to foster co-operation internationally, an increasing number of university staff, students and faculty are travelling throughout Canada and to the far reaches of the globe. This has led to the university developing its first travel policy to help ensure the safety of university community members as they represent the U of A across the world.
Bob Picken, manager of the Office of Insurance and Risk Assessment, says international travel has become higher on the priority lists of many universities. “As universities become much more international in scope, it has heightened awareness of the need to ensure that we have systems in place to assist our staff, students and faculty members,” Picken said.
The new policy, which was recently endorsed by the U of A’s Board of Governors, is aimed at protecting students, staff and faculty while they are travelling at home or abroad on university “business.” It provides guidelines and institutes requirements to ensure the university is better positioned to provide assistance when needed.
“The key thing about the policy is it provides the framework that allows us to know where individuals are and to be proactive in providing them with the assistance they may need, whether in a case of civil unrest, natural disaster or medical emergencies,” Picken said. “The policy also allows us to assess the risks involved in travel to a particular country. With the policy, we have appropriate measures in place to evaluate such risk and help mitigate it.”
As part of the new travel policy, a central database is being developed that will contain information about the travel plans of staff, faculty and students, such as emergency local contact numbers, where they’re staying and flight itineraries. Picken says that in the case of a crisis, the university’s emergency response team can more efficiently respond when equipped with such information.
“If something does happen, we don’t have to wait for people to call us, nor do we have to send out queries to the university community to ask if anyone knows someone who may be in a particular country where there might have been a natural disaster, for example,” Picken said.
The policy, he added, deals differently with travel plans for students, staff and faculty. Whereas staff and faculty are encouraged to provide such information, that is not the case with students.
“When students are involved, there’s a higher duty of care with the requirements that we have set in place,” he said. “Approval for student travel? It will depend on decisions by chairs and deans in individual faculties. But students will be required to provide certain information as a condition of travelling under the policy.”
There are certain instances where staff and faculty will also be required to provide information on their whereabouts. A risk assessment of their travel destination will affect how the policy applies, says Picken.
“We’ve designated risk levels from low to extreme, and the information that staff or faculty have to provide when they travel depends on the risk level assigned to a particular travel. If deemed a low risk, there’s a requirement to just make sure that certain information is in place; if it’s medium risk, we ask for the chair to sign off on the assessment; and once the risk gets higher, approval may need to come from the dean level,” he said.
“The policy is written and designed to ensure the university has the needed information to allow us to provide as much help and assistance as required in any emergency faced by our people when they are travelling as part of their work or studies,” Picken said.
Picken encourages faculty and staff to review the guidelines found in Appendix A in the policy as part of preparations for work-related travel. Anyone with questions about the policy can call his office call his office: 780-492-8886.
An online tool (http://www.offcampusactivity.ualberta.ca/ ) is also in place to help with travel plans.
For more information on the policy, visit: