Managing institutional risks: A framework

Rick N Whitfield, University of Pennsylvania


The focus of this study is on an institutional-wide risk management framework for colleges and universities. The changing business environment is challenging leaders at major research universities specifically, but most colleges and universities generally, to develop strategies to safeguard their core mission of teaching, research and service. Strategies to address change will be accompanied by business risks: strategic, financial, operational, compliance and reputational. The for-profit corporate sector has evolved a common language and framework for enterprise-wide risk management. The University of Pennsylvania has embraced a vision for institutional-wide risk management and is assessing implementation options. Can models from the for-profit sector be adopted into the core leadership and management processes at colleges and universities? In what context can higher education support the selection of someone to champion the discussion, evolve the model and develop a common language for continuous consideration of institutional-wide risks in higher education institutions? I selected two for-profit sector organizations outside higher education, one not-for-profit health care organization, and six higher education institutions, for study using purposeful sampling, interviewing chief risk officers and other key leaders. I collected data through the review of relevant documents. My research study indicates that institutional-wide risk management is an important and timely topic among higher education leaders. The enterprise-wide risk management models evolving in the for-profit sector have provided guidance for early adopters in higher education. Early adopters are defining risk as any issue that impacts an organization's ability to meet its objectives and that risks fall typically into five categories: strategic, financial, operational, compliance and reputational. Key success factors necessary to effectively adopt and implement an institutional-wide risk management framework include, but are not limited to: trustee and presidential support; a knowledgeable person/s from within the industry, preferably the institution, to champion the initiative; and connectedness of the initiative to the overall institutional mission. Currently institutional-wide risk management does not attract a large higher education audience. Until three or four of the top tier university presidents recognize the value of institutional-wide risk management and adopt a framework as a model for creating or sustaining success, adoption will be incremental.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Whitfield, Rick N, "Managing institutional risks: A framework" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3089860.