CSHE Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Pilot SERU/UCUES Survey

April 22, 2022

April 22, 2022 – This week marks the 20th anniversary of the pilot launch of the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES), the first survey of all undergraduates at the University of California. UCUES was initiated as part of CSHE’s Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) project.

Balancing academic research interests and administrative needs and having an innovative online census and core plus modules design made SERU/UCUES unique. SERU/UCUES results, spanning twenty years, are now a valuable resource for both campus administrators/policy makers and academic researchers.

The success of the SERU/UCUES survey facilitated the expansion of SERU, now an international Consortium with over 40 top tier research universities. In addition to the University of California undergraduate campuses, a majority of all leading North American public research universities regularly administer the undergraduate (ugSERU) survey, and an increasing number administer the graduate student (gradSERU) survey. Distinguished universities in China, Japan, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries administer SERU surveys.  

SERU survey data has many administrative uses, including analysis of student success, academic department review, accreditation, analysis of campus climate and diversity, accountability, and other policy uses resulting in improvements in university practices. SERU survey data is used for a growing number of journal articles, book chapters, published reports, and Ph.D. dissertations

The idea of SERU/UCUES was first proposed in 1999 by John Aubrey Douglass (CSHE Senior Research Fellow and Research Professor at CSHE) and Richard Flacks (Professor of Sociology at UCSB), with Douglass as the Berkeley Founding Principal Investigator and with the project based at CSHE. At that time, UC had no systematic approach to collecting UCwide survey data on the student experience.

With seed funding provided by Dennis Galligani (UC Office of the President Associate Vice President for Student Academic Services), and in consultation with Linda Guerra (UCOP Director of Policy Analysis), Douglass worked with Gregg Thomson, Director of Student Research at Berkeley, to form a faculty-IR team to determine the feasibility, uses, and content of a systemwide survey. 

Guided by a SERU Oversight Group (Neil Smelser, Sociology, Chair), the 2002 SERU/UCUES pilot was administered by the Social Science Survey Research Center at UC Santa Barbara. Berkeley’s Office of Student Research (OSR) administered another pilot in 2003. See the 2004 CSHE report with UCUES results, Learning and Academic Engagement in the Multiversity

In 2006 Steven Brint (Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, UC Riverside) joined John Douglass and Gregg Thomson as a SERU Principal Researcher (PR) as did Ron Huesman at the University of Minnesota in 2008. More recently, Daniel Jones-White (University of Minnesota) and Igor Chirikov (CSHE) have joined the PR team. UCUES is now administered by the department of the Institutional Research and Academic Planning at the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) in collaboration with the SERU Consortium. UCOP publishes detailed interactive dashboards with UCUES results that are available to the public and support institutional self-improvement across UC campuses.

Contact Information: For more information on SERU, and for queries about joining the Consortium, contact SERU Founding Principal Investigator John Douglass (douglass@berkeley.edu) and CSHE SERU Director Igor Chirikov (chirikov@berkeley.edu)