Climate Study of the Graduate School

In spring 2010, 4,493 UT Austin graduate students responded to an online survey commissioned by the Graduate School to help campus leaders better understand the attitudes, opinions and experiences of students enrolled in both academic and professional fields.

A research team, led by sociology professor Chandra Muller, and staffed by both graduate and undergraduate students, analyzed the data and facilitated comparisons between UT Austin and peer institutions such as the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.

The survey addressed the overall satisfaction and confidence of graduate students, and revealed data on such factors contributing to success in graduate school as mentoring and faculty-student relationships, funding, diversity, and student services.

Overall, graduate students express great satisfaction with their experiences at UT Austin. 85% would recommend their departments or programs to friends, and 92% would recommend the UT Austin Graduate School. Only nine percent of the respondents said they would choose a different university, a percentage lower than the national comparison at 15%.

The study’s strongest findings relate to the crucial role that the faculty plays in determining the climate for graduate students. The majority (86%) said faculty helped them grow as scholars, and 92% stated that their faculty cared about teaching and scholarship and demonstrated high ethical standards.

Purpose of the Report

In 2008, the Report of the Gender Equity Task Force recommended that the Graduate School conduct a climate survey of graduate students to glean insights into gender issues and the experiences and attitudes of graduate students across campus.

The Graduate School decided to expand the scope of the survey to gain a holistic understanding of the lives of University of Texas at Austin graduate students. The following goals were outlined for the survey:

  • Understand the attitudes, opinions, and diverse experiences of graduate students in both academic and professional fields.
  • Gain an honest assessment of life as a graduate student at the university with regard to academic and professional preparation, resources, support, and achievement, as well as quality of life, work/family balance, and equity.
  • Ensure that all data collected from the survey is maintained under strict standards to protect confidentiality and that findings are presented in such a way that it is impossible to link individuals to their responses.
  • Develop recommendations to promote successful completion of graduate degrees and ensure a productive, positive, and equitable climate.
  • Create policies and programs that will enhance the quality of academic preparation and the personal satisfaction of graduate students in all disciplines.