Student Experience in the Research University (SERU)
The Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey is a census survey of undergraduate students. It asks about a wide range of aspects, from academic skills through global engagement opportunities to civic engagement to financial considerations.
In Spring 2012, IRA began administering a new survey, the SERU survey to undergraduate students. The product of a consortium of peer research universities, SERU asks about a wide range of aspects, from academic skills through global engagement opportunities to civic engagement to financial considerations. All degree-seeking University undergraduates—first-years through fourth-years—are invited to take the survey every other year. In Spring 2021, IRA began administering the graduate and professional student version of SERU – the gradSERU – to degree-seeking graduate and professional students whose primary school of enrollment elected to participate.
History and Purpose
The Student Experience in the Research University Survey was created and used first in 2002 within the University of California system. Based at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of California-Berkeley, the survey is now used by a growing consortium of peer research universities. In addition to the University of California campuses, the US participants are also members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Opened to international members in 2010, the consortium now includes research universities in Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. National and international consortium members cooperate to create a longitudinal, multi-campus database on the educational experience of undergraduates at major research universities. The purpose is to promote institutional self-improvement by serving research, policy analysis, and programmatic assessment needs. As a consortium member, the University can compare results with other institutions in the consortium, even at the program level. The longitudinal data base, representing many years of survey results, is available for research purposes. In spring 2017, after piloting a graduate student version of the SERU, the consortium began widely administering the gradSERU survey at participating research universities.
The survey offers potentially valuable information for academic program management: it asks third- and fourth-year students to identify their major and then to provide feedback about their major—their reasons for choosing the major, the academic challenge, degree requirements, communications, learning opportunities, advising, and climate for students. They are also asked to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of their program. Where enough majors have responded to the survey, a summary of the feedback regarding the major is provided to academic programs.
The gradSERU is administered to degree-seeking graduate and professional students whose primary school of enrollment elects to participate. The gradSERU conceptualizes the graduate student experience as encompassing five domains that reflect the complexity of graduate and professional education: curricular experiences, cocurricular experiences (including public/community service), research experiences, teaching experiences and professional development (including employment and internships in business and government), personal life and conditions (including financial resources and external commitments), and the social life and conditions in which students pursue their degrees. The intention of the gradSERU Survey is to examine how differences in the graduate/professional education experiences of students relate to their intellectual, emotional, ethical, professional, and psychosocial development. SERU Consortium campuses use gradSERU to evaluate their graduate programs, enhanced by the ability to benchmark data at the discipline level with other participating gradSERU Universities.
The survey is administered in the spring semester and students receive up to five communications from various University administrators encouraging their participation. Student participation is voluntary and students can opt out of the survey. Incentives are offered as one way to encourage student participation in the survey. Participants are entered in a random lottery through which they could win one of 200 $25 gift certificates to their retailer of choice.