Evaluating Study Abroad Programs for Health and Safety Good Practices

According to NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisers and Administrators, evaluation of education abroad programs and the assessment of activities and student learning are vital, ongoing tasks for every program sponsor and for every sending institution. Evaluations from faculty, staff, and students should include the following:

  • On-site orientation programs (arrival and pre-departure)
  • Field trips and excursions
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Academic program, internships, grading practices/standards, credit transfer, effectiveness of instruction
  • Academic resources, facilities, library resources
  • Home stays
  • Health and safety issues
  • On-site student program evaluations

This information from NAFSA is viewable on The SAFETI (Safety Abroad First – Educational Travel Information) Clearinghouse, initiated in 1998 to create and disseminate resources to support study abroad program development and implementation, emphasizing health and safety issues and resources for U.S. colleges and universities supporting study abroad.

NAFSA’s Interassociational Advisory Committee on Safety and Responsibility in Study Abroad created the guidelines “Responsible Study Abroad: Good Practices for Health and Safety, as “a set of good practices so that practitioners, educational administrators, students, and parents have a common set of expectations about what is involved with study abroad, and what preparation is necessary to minimize risk.

This purpose of developing these guidelines is “Because the health and safety of study abroad participants are primary concerns, these statements of good practice have been developed to provide guidance to institutions, participants (including faculty and staff), and parents/guardians/families. These statements are intended to be aspirational in nature. They address issues that merit attention and thoughtful consideration by everyone involved with study abroad. They are intentionally general; they are not intended to account for all the many variations in study abroad programs and actual health, safety, and security cases that will inevitably occur. In dealing with any specific situation, those responsible must also rely upon their collective experience and judgment while considering their specific circumstances.”

To learn about the responsibilities of Program Sponsors, participants, and recommendations to parents/guardians/families, go to NAFSA’s “Responsible Study Abroad: Good Practices for Health and Safety“.

The Forum on Education Abroad provides support for the study abroad field to evaluate their programs. The Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad involves queries which “provide the basis for self-evaluation by individual professionals, their programs and their institutions, for internal or external review. The query basis allows programs to be evaluated by their adherence to the Standards, and most significantly, in relation to institutional missions.” The Standards for Short-Term Education Abroad Programs complement this by additional Standards more relevant to short-term programs to provide specific guidelines for short-term education abroad programming, particularly programs that are organized and/or led by home campus faculty. The Code of Ethics for Education Abroad “provides a guide for making ethical decisions to ensure that those in the education abroad field provide services in accord with the highest ethical standards, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that students’ international educational experiences are as rich and meaningful as possible. These three documents can be viewed on the Forum’s website.