Back to school: ERM in universities and colleges

Seeing how the day after Labour Day is traditionally the first day of school, it seemed fitting to answer the question: “Hey, Riskczar, can ERM work in universities and colleges?”

The short answer is, yes. (It works anywhere silly.)

So on the first day of school, let’s look at some of the risks facing institutions of higher learning.

Whether or not your Provost or President agrees, universities and colleges are businesses with many of the same uncertainties affecting their people, processes and systems as any for-profit Fortune 500 organization. By their very nature, universities and colleges are exposed to an assortment of risks common to all organizations and unique ones common to the education sector.

When you tell your Provost that the organization has risks and he or she replies: “Risks? What risks? Where are they?”, point out that here are some of the places on campus where inherent risks may be found:

  • Construction of new buildings
  • Endowment management and the investment portfolio
  • Campus information systems and privacy
  • Complying with athletic programs (i.e., NCAA rules)
  • Physical safety of students on campus or at the Saturday football game
  • Threat of H1N1 or bird flu
  • Attracting and retaining professors to your school

And these are just some that come to my mind and I am not even a subject matter expert. Imagine now many we could identify if we spend a day brainstorming with university administrators, teachers, coaches and students?

As a leader of a school or any business, if you have not taken the time to identify (let alone assess and manage) your uncertainties, well, then you get an F on your report card and it’s only the first day of school.

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