In addition to required and elective coursework taken at Harvard, university students often pursue academic and research opportunities through co-curricular programs at other institutions, study abroad, and formal, structured internships. Such opportunities provide students with a chance to expand learning and skill development beyond their campus classrooms.
An internship is considered to be any work experience undertaken by a student for the purposes of gaining hands-on experience in a field closely aligned to the individual’s academic studies.
Internships(1) at Harvard can take different forms – paid vs. unpaid practicums, full or part-time, single semester to 12 months or longer duration, pre-established structure or customized to an individual’s needs. While those distinctions are important for determining the applicability of other types of benefits and insurances (namely health, disability, and workers compensation), most are not directly relevant to determining applicability of the University’s liability insurance.
Insurance for Student Internships away from Harvard University
For individuals to avail themselves of the University’s liability insurance protections while participating in internships at organizations that are not Harvard, the internship must satisfy all of the following criteria:
- The internship is sponsored and supported by one of the ten University faculties, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, or any of the Harvard’s Central Administration TUBS. Sponsorship entails: 1) academic credit is earned for the internship by the student; 2) the sponsoring faculty, institute or department pays the student a stipend or wage; or 3) the sponsoring faculty, institute or department arranges the internship.
- Primarily intended to be an enriching educational or research experience with a defined educational purpose (vs. primarily for the benefit of the employing/hosting organization);
- Time-limited, generally not exceeding two academic semesters (6 months or less in duration);
- The internship must take place in the United States of America, its territories and possessions, or Canada;
- Participant must not otherwise be a current student, employee, or fellow at any hosting institute or subsidiary of that organization; and
- Participant must be 18 years of age or older
Harvard University will extend its liability insurance (up to $1,000,000) to its student-interns while at the host institution for the duration of a qualifying internship (see criteria above). The insurance is applicable only for damages, including reasonable defense costs, sustained by a third party resulting from negligent acts committed by the student-intern resulting in bodily injury or property damage to that third party. Further, for the liability insurance to apply, any contract or agreement with the host institution must not require the University or intern to indemnify or release that organization or its representatives from the host’s own negligent, intentional or deliberate acts or omissions.
Individuals pursuing an internship with an expected duration (longer than 6 months) should request they be added to the liability insurance coverage of their host institution, with equivalent terms and conditions.
Professional Liability Insurance
For activities performed in the course of non-medical internships (2), the duty of care imputed to interns is such that it precludes the need for those individuals to carry professional liability (a.k.a. errors and omissions or E&O) insurance particularly if the internship is not a prerequisite towards professional licensure. Consequently, the University does not maintain dedicated insurance for financial damages caused by a Harvard University intern arising out of their assigned duties by the host organization.
Insurance for Student Internships at Harvard University
Persons, both enrolled and those unaffiliated (3) with Harvard University, seeking an internship at any one of the ten University faculties, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, or any of the Harvard’s Central Administration TUBS are insured under the University’s general liability insurance policy but only to the extent that the actual or alleged negligent acts causing the third party bodily injury or property damages are related solely to their official internship duties.
Additionally, for the University’s general liability insurance to apply, the internship must satisfy all of the below criteria:
- If sponsored by another school, college or university, there’s a written contract or agreement between Harvard (as host) and the sponsoring organization establishing the terms of the internship. Such agreement shall not require the University or intern to indemnify or release that organization or its representatives from the sponsor's own negligent, intentional or deliberate acts or omissions;
- Is supervised by an authorized University department head, faculty member, or School dean;
- Participants must not otherwise be a current employee or fellow at the University or any affiliate organization;
- The participant must also be 18 years or older; and
- The participant executes a waiver of liability in favor of Harvard.
Insurance for Non-Sponsored Student Internships
Internships that do not fall into one of the two categories above or do not meet either any of the noted eligibility criteria, are considered non-sponsored and not covered under the University’s liability insurance policies. Persons wishing to participate in a non-sponsored internship are strongly advised to confirm with the host organization that its liability policies will cover the actions of the student intern or, barring that, secure their own liability insurance from a reputable company before accepting any internship offer.
Study Abroad, Independent Coursework, & International Internships
The majority of study abroad programs, independent coursework, and research projects(4), are considered self-directed, rather than University directed, and, as such are not eligible for the University's liability insurance policies. Moreover, the University's liability protections for students undertaking internships do not extend to jurisdictions outside of the US and Canada. Persons wishing to participate in such programs are strongly advised to confirm with the host organization that its liability policies will cover the actions of the student intern or, barring that, secure their own liability insurance from a reputable company before accepting any study or internship offer.
(1) Short term internships (<2 semesters) and unpaid practicums are also know as externships.
(2) These guidelines apply to non-medical type internships. Internships related to the delivery of medical professional services such as internal medicine, surgical, dental and nursing treatment, veterinary services, pastoral, social work, counseling and mental health services, and the work involving the furnishing or dispensing of drugs or medical, dental or surgical supplies or appliances have a different exposure profile and therefore fall outside of these rules. Please see our Medical Malpractice Liability page for details.
(3) “Unaffiliated” means: a) a person that is not currently enrolled at any of the ten University faculties or at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, or b) they are not currently a benefits eligible employee at the University or any recognized affiliate organization.
(4) Independent coursework and research projects include all off-campus study or projects that are not sponsored and directed by a University department, as well as any on-campus ones that are not closely aligned with an individual's specified course of study