Ninety-two percent of University of Texas at Austin graduate students who participated in a recent survey would recommend the university to their friends, and 85 percent would also recommend their department or programs. Nine percent said they would choose a different university, significantly less than at peer institutions nationally.
The survey's strongest findings relate to the crucial role that faculty members play in determining the climate for graduate students.
"From recruitment to training to job placement, from financial support to psychological support, from providing professional advice to modeling professional roles, faculty members are key to creating a positive climate for graduate studies," according to the "Report of The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School Climate Study," released this week by the Graduate School.
The study, however, also revealed areas for improvement. It contains more than 30 recommendations for improving graduate education at The University of Texas at Austin, including enhancing university policies to support families and diversity, and creating university-wide career planning assistance for graduate students.
In spring 2010 nearly 4,500 University of Texas at Austin graduate students responded to the online survey designed to help campus leaders better understand the attitudes, opinions and experiences of students enrolled in academic and professional fields. The survey addressed the overall satisfaction and confidence of graduate students, and revealed data about factors contributing to success in graduate school such as mentoring and faculty-student relationships, funding, diversity and student services.
A research team led by Sociology Professor Chandra Muller and staffed by graduate and undergraduate students analyzed the data and facilitated comparisons with peer institutions such as the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley.
There are several positive key findings of The University of Texas at Austin study, including:
- Eighty-six percent of respondents said faculty members helped them grow as scholars, and 92 percent stated that their faculty cared about teaching and scholarship and demonstrated high ethical standards.
- Eighty-seven percent of professional students and 84 percent of doctoral students said that they were confident in their ability to be successful in their field.
- Three-fourths of the respondents said that, given the chance to do graduate school over again, they would choose the same adviser, compared with only two-thirds (63 percent) in a comparative national study.
- Nearly all students (95 percent) said that their adviser treats their ideas with respect, and the vast majority (92 percent) said that their adviser's intellectual interests match their own.
- Most students (89 percent) said that their adviser is available when they need help, and most (87percent) also said that their adviser fosters a positive working environment.
However, there are also areas where improvement is needed:
- Many students described problems with student-faculty relationships: one-fifth said faculty members exploited students for labor; one-third believed their department's faculty paid a disproportionate amount of attention and resources to a select group of students; and one-third reported problematic "unwritten rules."
- One of the greatest sources of frustration for graduate students is the difficulty of finding information about funding. Only two-thirds (67 percent) of graduate students were satisfied with the availability of information about their current and future funding status.
- Women were less likely to receive funding than men, regardless of the field of study, and 17 percent of the women responded that they had experienced discrimination based on gender, compared with only 5 percent of the men.
"I'm pleased to hear that overall our graduate students are satisfied with their experiences at the university, but I can also see areas where we need to improve. The data collected by Dr. Muller and her team will be used to create new policies and services that will help us better serve our graduate student community," said Victoria Rodríguez, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies.