International SOS Foundation Reveals Top Reasons for Repatriation and Evacuation in Education Sector

18 December 2019 ,  —

Students on International Travel Three Times More Likely to Need Mental Health Support than Business Travellers

By 2025, eight million students are expected to be crossing borders to pursue exciting and new opportunities afforded to them through ever popular study abroad programmes.1 Each trip, alongside the broadening of the educational opportunity, presents potential threats. In the new white paper, ‘Managing New Risks in Higher Education’, the International SOS Foundation highlights the importance of mitigating safety, security, health and wellness risks for students, staff and faculty travelling overseas, for short or long-term study or assignments. It explores the key mobility risks and challenges faced by universities and higher education institutions as well as some of the solutions and best practices.

As part of the study, it was found that among the 13,500 cases from the educational sector worldwide that International SOS handled in 2018; 47% were in Asia Pacific, 25% in Europe, 18% in the Americas and 10% in Africa. And while Asia was the destination for only 13% of all international students’, it represented 46% of the medical cases and 37% of the security cases.

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The review of cases included in the paper also uncovered the top reasons for evacuation and repatriation within travellers from the educational sector. These were:
• 30% injuries
• 16% gastrointestinal disease
• 8% mental personality and psychotic illnesses, and travelling students are three times more likely to need mental health support than business travellers

Prof. Robert L. Quigley MD, SVP and Regional Medical Director, Assistance & MedAire, Americas Region at International SOS comments, “The education sector faces extraordinary and multiple challenges compared to other industries, as a result of the diverse student / employee base and the institutional culture and governance. This makes educational institutions especially vulnerable to fully mitigate foreseeable health, wellbeing and security risks of their people.”

Rajika Bandhari, international higher education expert and former Senior Advisor, Research & Strategy at the Institute of International Education, comments, “We’re finding that the field of global student mobility is undergoing tremendous shifts right now due to a variety of factors. Globally, the demand for a higher education is escalating and while some of this demand will be met by countries’ domestic institutions, other host countries also play a role in meeting this demand. At the same time, political and social shifts and restrictive immigration policies in many countries are also affecting where students will go to study.”

‘Managing New Risks in Higher Education’ is a comprehensive review and guidance paper and includes:
• Student mobility trends and International SOS assistance cases.
• Universities’ legal responsibilities.
• Protecting the emotional wellbeing of students, faculty and staff.
• Mitigating LGBTQ travel security risks.
• Global teleconsultation services for students, faculty and staff.
• Interviews with higher education risk practitioners from around the world, including: Bocconi University, Wintec Waikato Institute of Technology, London South Bank University, RMIT University Vietnam, Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education – Sommet Education Group, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, University of Calgary, Singapore Institute of Management, and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Click to download the Out in the World paper.


1. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Notes to Editors

About International SOS Foundation - Ambassadors for Duty of Care

The International SOS Foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation, established in 2011 with registered charity status. The International SOS Foundation commissions and shares research and best practice for a greater understanding and mitigation of risks in areas of Duty of Care for the global workforce. Key topics supported via thought-leadership programmes are: risk management, sustainability, prevention and work health. For more information: