Safety and Education Abroad

The safety and well being of students traveling abroad for University purposes is of the utmost importance to the University of Minnesota.

While there is always risk in international travel, and the University cannot guarantee the safety of students abroad, there are policies, processeses, and best practices engaged to help ensure student education abroad opportunities are as safe as possible.

Relevant University Units

The Global Programs and Strategy Alliance (GPS Alliance) is the University of Minnesota system-wide unit that coordinates the University’s international affairs. The Director of International Health, Safety and Compliance and team lead the University-wide effort to ensure students safely and successfully participate in education abroad opportunities, in partnership with the University education abroad offices:

Best Practices in the Field

The University of Minnesota complies with the best practices in the field of education abroad including those sanctioned by NAFSA: Association of International Educators (leading national professional organization for study abroad professionals) and the Forum on Education Abroad (standards setting body). The University is a full and active member of NAFSA and the Forum, including participating in conference presentations and in leadership roles. University policy and practice follows and reflects all industry best practices/standards. In addition, the University of Minnesota is frequently recognized as a leader in the field by other U.S. institutions, study abroad providers and professional organizations. The University was one of the first U.S. institutions to create a full-time international health and safety position, and the University remains active in the professional network of health and safety officers across the nation.

University Policy

All student international travel and education abroad is governed by the University policy on Student Travel and Education Abroad: Health and Safety. The policy requirements include sound health, safety and security measures that minimize risks to the traveler and institution and incorporate the best practices and regulations above. Highlights of the policy include:

  • Mandatory Insurance including:
    • Medical, political, security and natural disaster evacuation coverage
    • Mental health and prescription drug coverage
    • No alcohol/drug use exclusions
  • Mandatory Orientation including:
    • General health and safety information for international travel
    • Basic information on medications and immunizations
    • Tips for dealing with culture shock and adjustment
    • Discussion of drugs and alcohol use and other behavior issues
  • Additional optional student orientations including:
    • Online orientations for specific populations (LGBT, women, students of color)
    • Parent pre-departure orientations through education abroad offices
    • On-site orientation upon arrival by program leader or provider/host institution
  • Travel Approval: U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories
  • Prohibition of Students Driving Motorized Vehicles Abroad
  • Requirements for units and education abroad offices including:
    • Developing a 24-7 contact protocol and emergency plan
    • Implementing the student health disclosure form and process
    • Reporting of all student incidents (see additional information below)

Incident Tracking

All education abroad programs must include an emergency communications plan, including 24/7 personal and University emergency contacts, to allow University faculty, staff, and students to report health and safety incidents abroad centrally through the GPS Alliance. Incidents that must be reported range from petty crime to academic or behavior issues to major health issues.

The University tracks student health and safety incidents abroad to:

  • Provide real-time assistance and resources to students, on-site staff, advisors, etc.
  • Identify trends in order to inform future decision making and assist with advising
  • Comply with many of the federal and state reporting requirements (see below)

Student incidents that occur on programs managed through a University education abroad office should be reported to the relevant office. Incidents that occur on other programs should be reported directly to the Director of International Health, Safety and Compliance. Incident data is governed by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As such, no personally identifying information related to student incidents is shared in reporting to outside organizations, agencies or individuals.

Relevant Federal and State Regulations

The following is a quick overview of key regulations related to student health and safety abroad. While the first three regulations listed are not specific to education abroad, the University implements and complies with these regulations for programs abroad as they do in the U.S. For more information contact your campus education abroad office (see list above).

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all aspects of higher education, including sexual discrimination and harassment. It mandates that institutions address and remedy reports of sexual discrimination immediately and report all complaints to the University’s Title IX Coordinator.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It allows students to review their records, establishes guidelines for correcting records and gives students some control over disclosure of their records. The law prohibits University faculty and staff from releasing specific information about a student—for example, where a student lives on campus or during a program abroad—to anyone other than the student without their written consent, including parents, employers, the media, etc.

The University, in rare occasions, will allow disclosure of specific student information in a health and safety emergency to the students’ emergency contacts or otherwise as necessary for a students’ immediate health and safety. These decisions are always made by trained education abroad staff for emergency purposes only, and in conjunction with the student, if possible.

Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires higher education institutions to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses and respond appropriately to such criminal activity. The education abroad offices across the University-system report statistics to be included in the non-campus section of the report as required by law. The Report also includes institutional policies concerning campus security, such as policies on drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, and other matters. 

Minnesota Study Abroad Program Law

The “Minnesota Study Abroad Law” (Minnesota Statute chapter 312, article 1, section 5; August 2014) requires higher education institutions in Minnesota to report student hospitalizations and deaths resulting from program participation abroad as well as ensure its study abroad programs comply with health and safety standards set by the Forum on Education Abroad. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education will then post the reported information in aggregate on its website annually.