3 students talking with gradSERU logo and text, "Every student has a voice."

Objectives and Design


The gradSERU Survey is a comprehensive, longitudinal study initiated by the Center for the Study of Higher
Education (CSHE) and the University of Minnesota’s Office of Institutional Research to help answer questions
about the potential relationship between graduate education experiences, program characteristics, and
development outcomes of Masters and doctoral students at the leading research universities across the globe.
After piloting the survey instrument at three different doctoral universities in the United States, the gradSERU
research team is currently enrolling institution in North America and abroad to participate in the study in
spring 2017.

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. Other important questions assessed by the gradSERU survey include:

  • Exploring the differences in the graduate/professional education experience of students both within and
    between institutions of higher education in the United States and abroad, and how the experiences may
    change over time;
  • Identifying demographic and individual characteristics associated with different patterns of enrollment in
    graduate/professional school;
  • Documenting the changes graduate/professional students undergo while enrolled in
    graduate/professional school;
  • Comparing the experiences and development of graduate/professional students in different institutional
  • Identifying the specific links between certain features of graduate/professional education (advising,
    financial support, research and teaching experiences, etc.) and graduate/professional student
  • Exploring the impact of various institutional support systems (e.g., financial, research, career, etc.) on
    graduate/professional student educational outcomes;
  • Understanding how program characteristics are related to graduate/professional student development;
  • Researching the relationship of contextual influences such as the effects of student engagement in
    relation to the quality of advising, the program environment, and campus context on outcomes such
    as: proficiency levels, career plans, and overall satisfaction;
  • Documenting trends in graduate/professional student career plans/aspirations and employment
    outcomes and how they change over time.

Survey Design

The gradSERU Survey is characterized by a modular design that allows institutions to administer a common
Core Survey that is administered across institutions and a subset of modules that institutions can select
from to administer based on interest or need.  

gradSERU Module Design

Core Survey

The Core Survey employs a cross-sectional framework that explores the three distinct stages of graduate education: the Entry Stage, the Development Stage, and the Exit Stage.  The Entry Stage highlights the student’s transition from undergraduate to graduate education.  Related sections explore how graduate/professional students seek to build new relationships in the academic and social communities of the research university. The Development Stage underscores the period where graduate/professional students acquire the knowledge and competencies needed to engage in research or pass certification/licensure exams.  Sections associated with this stage consider how students integrate with the different academic and social systems of the university and begin to develop and cultivate a professional persona.  The Exit Stage emphasizes the graduate/professional student’s transition from graduate/professional education into academic and professional careers.  

Topical Modules

Affiliated sections explore how students reflect on their graduate/professional education experience and what they plan to do in the future.  Three modules are being offered for the 2017 administration of the gradSERU Survey. These include:

  • Health and Wellbeing Module
  • Professional Development Module
  • International Student Module. 

The Health and Wellbeing Module is designed to highlight the physical, psychological, and emotional wellness of students and assess how personal and educational factors may relate to student’s feelings of depression and levels of stress.  Based on Stanford University’s Graduate Professional Development Framework, the Professional Development Module is designed to help assess whether today’s graduate/professional students believe they are developing the requisite skills crucial necessary to succeed in the high-skilled labor market, including skills in areas such as communication, teaching, leadership and management, personal development, and career development. The International Student Module is designed to help explore issues unique to the graduate/professional education of students studying abroad.   

Study Participants

Beginning in 2017, invitations to administer the gradSERU Survey will be extended to leading research universities in the North America and Europe. This will initially include the 62 member institutions of the Association of American Universities in North America and the 21 institutions making up the League of European Research Universities. Expansion to include institutions designated as a Doctoral University: Highest Research under the classification developed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education and to other research universities in Asia, Europe, and South America is being considered for future administrations.