Duty of Care

Dynamic Spend Management in Higher Education: Establishing a Travel Program with Strong Duty of Care Principals

Katheryn Nolfo |

As colleges and universities work to relaunch and prioritize their travel and spend management programs disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions have an obligation – duty of care (DOC) – to protect their travelers. DOC processes have evolved over time to become more encompassing and now is top of mind of university leadership. Before the 1960s, colleges and universities were operating “in loco parentis,” or in the place of one’s parent, creating an expectation that a university would look after the welfare and safety of students under its care. When the United Kingdom passed the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (Manslaughter Act) in 2007 — which posed criminal liability on corporations that had a gross breach of duty of care — more organizations implemented DOC processes. While colleges and universities have now followed suit, challenges remain especially with staff, faculty and students dispersed worldwide.  

While DOC protocols have always been in place for domestic and international travel, the growing globalization of education and increased focus on student study abroad programs are catalyzing advancements in the field. Colleges and universities are now tasked with identifying areas of automation, streamlining supply and increasing communication with travelers. Here are four ways leaders can optimize DOC principles within their institution’s travel policy.


1. Establish a travel approval and booking process

For colleges and universities, setting up a travel management program means deciding what data to track and how, logistically, to do so. By adopting SAP Concur technologies, a university can streamline reporting, gain insight into spend and be informed should an emergency arise during travel. For example, when using Concur Request, universities can determine if the destination is safe to visit and if the risk outweighs the need for the travel. By including additional criteria on the request form, universities can modify workflow and check if a medical screening is needed prior to trip approval. This formal request process for all travel helps to mitigate possible risks. Universities can also minimize risk by mandating travel programs that traditionally have not been enforced. We are hearing from many institutions that are now mandating, at minimum, air travel to be booked with Concur Travel or promoting the usage of TripLink to gather this data inside of SAP Concur. For example, in the SAP Concur case study on the University of Alabama, the university outlines its plan for mandating all non-essential travel to be booked through Concur Travel. Recent discussions with our clients suggest that these processes appeal to faculty, staff and students because traveler sentiments have shifted surrounding safety in wake of the pandemic.


2. Optimize traveler communication

Once a trip has been approved and booked, it is up to the university to communicate important messages to the traveling population, including briefing students and faculty on travel risk, and implementing communication/check-in protocols. This is a partnership between the traveler and the university to provide the best possible service to the traveler. One of the more challenging aspects of university-based DOC programs is understanding where the traveler is always. For example, a faculty member or student my fly into one location but drive to their destination. If an event occurred in that destination and the university only leveraged air booked data, they would not know to support the traveler. Universities need to leverage and send intended travel data, booked itinerary data and mobile check-ins to the DOC worldview/map partner so that the Risk Managers can quickly develop the list of impacted travelers and send out mass communications to those that need support or ground evacuation.


3. Encourage campus-wide engagement in travel programs

Universities should ensure that their duty of care program is free of gaps and that their partners, technologies and policies are not operating in silos. Leadership can create stakeholder engagement by forming a committee including representatives from public relations, human resources, safety and security, campus travel and international program departments. This committee should also include program directors and deans that can drive more awareness, compliance and consistency in communications. This would ensure awareness and the success of the university’s travel program, allowing the university to protect the well-being of faculty and students, as well as helping to attract top talent and students.


4. Use tech to mitigate foreseeable risk

Using the right combination of technologies and removing manual reporting and processes, universities can streamline reporting, be better informed and, when needed, speed up the ability to track and rescue those at risk. SAP Concur has stated that in their 25+ year history, what propels them forward is by asking themselves the question, “Is there a better way?” for solving complex business challenges. For over a decade, SAP Concur has focused on how to solve the gaps in Duty of Care programs, especially in universities where managed programs were not mandated. Duty of Care needs have rapidly evolved and considering the post-pandemic DOC-related needs such as providing medical assistance or security needs, DOC providers have become very specialized. However, they are still in need of comprehensive data to provide the best service to their clients. In 2021, SAP Concur moved to the model of providing all itinerary services from Concur Request, Concur Travel, Concur TripIt and Concur TripLink for outside bookings via API automation to university-based DOC providers, thus sunsetting Locate and providing their consolidated data to their partners. As the travel and technology providers continue to evolve in supporting DOC regulations, universities should consistently review their DOC needs and combine technology partners to develop best-in-breed programs to support travelers.


Huron is a global consultancy that collaborates with clients to drive strategic growth, ignite innovation and navigate constant change. Through a combination of strategy, expertise and creativity, we help clients accelerate operational, digital and cultural transformation, enabling the change they need to own their future. By embracing diverse perspectives, encouraging new ideas and challenging the status quo, we create sustainable results for the organizations we serve. As a Certified SAP Concur Advisor, Huron has extensive experience in implementing travel and expense solutions and understanding the unique challenges of assessing, building, and optimizing best-in-class travel and expense management programs. Learn more at www.huronconsultinggroup.com

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