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Student Experience in the Research University (SERU)

In Spring 2012, IRA began administering a new survey, the SERU. 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 University undergraduates—first-years through fourth-years—are invited to take the survey.

Survey Results

2020 SERU survey results

2018 SERU survey results

2016 SERU survey results

2015 SERU survey results

2014 SERU survey results

2013 SERU survey results

2012 SERU survey results

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 has the opportunity to compare results with other institutions in the consortium, even at the program level.  The longitudinal data base, representing ten years of survey results, is available for research purposes.

The Survey

All undergraduates, from first- through fourth-years, are invited to take the survey so as to provide an understanding of the student experience at each stage, from matriculation through graduation. Organized as a set of modules, SERU asks students about multiple aspects of their undergraduate experience—academic engagement, their majors, global skills and awareness, community and civic engagement, and student development. Finally, one module is devoted to institution-specific questions.

All students are asked to answer questions in the core module, which covers academic development and engagement, climate for diversity, time use, satisfaction, personal and family background, and evaluation of the major. To keep the survey feasible to complete, each of the other four modules is administered on a random basis to one quarter of the respondents:

  • Academic Experience and Globalization Skills module
  • Community and Civic Engagement module
  • Student Life and Development module
  • UVA-specific module

The survey offers potentially valuable information for academic program management: within the Core Module, 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 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 are able to opt out of the survey. A mix of 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, for example, an Apple iPads, Beats speakers or headphones, or one of 100 or more $50, $25, or $10 gift certificates to, iTunes, or Netflix. 

Questions regarding the administration of this survey, the questionnaire, or the results can be directed to Sarah Schultz Robinson, Institutional Assessment and Studies, 434-924-3417 or