Risk Management

What is a risk assessment and how should it be conducted?

A risk assessment can be a valuable tool to help your unit identify, evaluate and prioritize its risks in order to improve decision-making and resource allocation. Harvard’s Institutional Risk Management (IRM) program recommends the process linked below for conducting risk assessments. We are here to consult with and assist in the development and facilitation of risk assessments for all Harvard groups. To learn more or request assistance, please contact Nick Hambridge at nick_hambridge@harvard.edu or (617...

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What is the University Risk Management Council?

The University Risk Management Council (URMC) administers a structured approach to risk management that identifies and manages, to an acceptable level, the key risks that may adversely affect the University’s ability to achieve its goals and objectives. The Council reports to the President and the Harvard Corporation's Joint Committee on Inspection regarding the effectiveness of the University’s risk management program. The URMC works with Harvard's schools and central administration units on continuous improvement of the University’s capabilities around managing...

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What is my role in managing risk?

Harvard staff and faculty have two roles in managing risk. The first role is to be aware of and understand what areas of risk are present in your current position. For example, if you manage people you need to consider employment laws, discrimination laws and union contracts. You also need to consider the University's policies and practices around hiring, firing and creating a safe work environment.

Once you know your risk areas, you need to consider the implications of these risks on yourself, your department and the University. This second role in managing risk requires that...

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Who manages risk at the University?


As employees or agents of the University, we are all risk managers. Whether "risk manager" is in our job title or job description is irrelevant. We all are presented with risk in the workplace and must act to address risk in an informed manner. 

A list of risk management leads at Harvard's schools and central administration units can be accessed below. These individuals can help you think about how best to address your risks and/or connect you with other risk management leaders at the University.


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What types of risk is the University concerned about?

The University broadly defines risk as any issue that could impact Harvard's ability to meet its objectives. We categorize risks under the following areas:

  • Academic risks
  • Compliance risks
  • Financial risks
  • Operational risks
  • Reputational risks
  • Strategic risks


What is risk management?

Risk management is a process of proactively identifying issues and assessing their potential likelihood and impact on the University. Taking a proactive approach allows the University to anticipate risk and make informed decisions. Depending on the circumstances, the University may choose to either avoid risk or assume it.

Institutional Risk Management (IRM) Program

The Institutional Risk Management (IRM) program provides Harvard's schools, central administration and senior leaders with a structured process to identify, assess, prioritize and manage risks and opportunities in support of the University's academic and research mission.

The IRM program is led by the University Risk Management Council, co-chaired by the Executive Vice President and Deputy Provost, and staffed by Risk Management and Audit Services (RMAS). A list of Harvard's school and central administration risk leaders can be found...

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