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Risk Management in Higher Education - Building a Solid Foundation


In 2011, Marsh Canada released the study “Risk in Canada’s Higher Education Landscape” commenting on the state of risk and risk management in Canada’s universities and colleges. With a focus on understanding the top risks for these institutions, the survey revealed that many key risks cannot be managed simply through insurance market solutions.

This reinforces the importance of a well designed and executed risk management program. A risk management program will dictate how institutions decide to actively manage and respond to their primary risks.

Two key findings from the study were:

  1. Canadian universities and colleges face very similar risks in achieving their strategic goals and objectives
  2. Many institutions have begun to develop an institutional risk framework, but the level of coordination and maturity is relatively low on average

Additional analysis, along with our industry expertise, revealed further key challenges that many institutions face in developing an institutional risk management program including:

  • Commitment and engagement of senior administration;
  • Resource availability and capability;
  • Failure to execute beyond initial assessment;
  • Generating useful conclusions from assessment;
  • Developing effective action plans to manage risks; and
  • Sustainability of the risk management process.

A common driver of many of these challenges is ineffective planning. Institutions who fail to clearly set their risk management objectives and define the scope, processes and intended outcomes, will be challenged to develop a useful, sustainable program. This report focuses on the importance of planning within the development of an institutional risk management program.