Student Experience in the Research University (SERU)

The Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey is a multi-institutional survey focusing on undergraduate students’ experiences at top-tier research-intensive universities. The SERU survey is an online census survey designed to promote and enhance data-driven decisions and provide a path for institutional self-improvement. The SERU survey is a partnership between the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Minnesota, the survey manager and administrator. The SERU Consortium of institutions also offers a graduate student survey (gradSERU) and surveys at international institutions (SERU-I).

The University of Minnesota participated in the SERU survey in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017. The SERU survey instruments for all years are available on the Survey Instruments page.

View the 2017 SERU Results

Response Rates
The University of Minnesota received responses from approximately 11,870 students in 2017 (~41% response rate), 6,780 students in 2015 (~24% response rate), 8,332 students in 2014 (~30% response rate), 9,700 students in 2013 (~34% response rate), 9,100 students in 2012 (~32% response rate), 9,600 students in 2010 (~34% response rate), and 5,882 students in 2009 (~28% response rate).

Demographic Data
The SERU survey collects additional demographic data, such as students’ sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, and more, that are not listed in the online results so that we can retain students’ anonymity and confidentiality. Those demographic data, in addition to data collected within SERU special topic modules (including the University of Minnesota-specific wildcard module), are available by contacting OIR.

Data Guide - Report Navigation and Terms

PDF of Data Guide


The data presented in the online reports is a distribution of student responses to each survey question. Each response column represents the number and percentage of respondents whose answer falls into the available response options. For example, if you see the number 1,825 and 21.6% under the value “Agree” in a data table, this indicates how many students responded “Agree” for that survey question.

For each report, users can select from twelve different survey categories, ranging from academic engagement to time use. Users then can select the specific survey questions related to that category. In addition to showing responses for all students on campus, the survey responses are also viewable by college. Users with administrative access can also view survey responses by student major and student dimensions, ranging from student level to registration status.


Category: The organization of the survey is based on several categories used to group related survey questions and responses into meaningful and manageable groupings. For example, “Academic Engagement” is a category with three related survey questions about students’ academic activities and course participation.

Dimension:  In the administrative reports, users can select from 11 specific student characteristics through the “Select Dimension” drop-down menu. The “Dimension Selector” column on the report then shows the results grouped by the dimension selected. For example, if “Gender” is selected, the report shows survey responses broken down by Female, Male, and Unknown.

Item:  The item number is used to place the text for each survey prompt in order as it appeared on the student survey.

Item Response:  Columns on a report that shows the total percentage and total number of responses for a given item and question. Item response options range from a yes or no to the use of a likert scale that includes response options such as “Never,” “Rarely,” or “Often.”

Item Text Description:  Associated with a given survey question, item text is further detail or a finer set of sub-prompts students were asked. For example, the survey question “Please answer the following questions about your major” displays text for the related items “Are the program requirements well defined?” and “Are department rules and policies clearly communicated?” Student responses are reported for each item text description.

Major: In the administrative version of the survey results, students’ academic majors are included only if students had a declared major (as determined by University records) and whether or not they chose to evaluate a specific major (even if it is not their official major on record).

Question:  Survey questions are organized into related categories and offer users an easy way to review the results. The full survey question text appears right above the response data table. Most questions have one or more items or sub-questions associated with them listed under the item text description; however, there are a few questions that do not have any items/sub-questions and instead repeat abbreviated question text in the item text description column.

Summed Responses:  A row on the report that summarizes each column of data and provides a total for both the number of responses as well as the percentage of those who responded to a survey item.

Term and Year:  Indicates the term and year (e.g., Spring 2017) a given student completed the survey. It is used for reporting purposes as well as for doing longitudinal studies where there is a need to compare one year to the next over time.

Available Dimensions (Data Breaks)

First Generation: Students who indicated on their admission application that they are the first in their family to attend college.

Gender:  The gender (female, male, unknown) of the student taking the survey.

Graduating Seniors:  Students who applied for graduation and expect to receive their degree during the term in which the survey was administered.

Greek Member:  Identifies responses from students who are part of the Fraternity and Sorority system on campus.

None - All Records:  Indicates that no data breaks or filters are applied and all responses for a question and item are included in the results.

Pell Eligible:  Identifies responses from students who are recipients of a federal Pell Grant through financial aid.

President’s Emerging Scholars: Indicates if a student is part of the merit-based President’s Emerging Scholars Program (PESP). Participants are selected based on a holistic review conducted by the Office of Admissions.

Registration Status (NHS, NAS):  Includes both New High School (NHS) and New Advanced Standing (NAS) or transfer students. NHS students are admitted to an undergraduate degree program at the University and have not completed any college level work after high school graduation. NAS or transfer students are admitted to an undergraduate degree program at the University and have completed post-high school college level credits at another institution.

Student of Color:  Groups responses into three student categories: Domestic SOC, International, and White. Domestic SOC - Includes all non-international students who identify their primary ethnic background as African American, American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hawaiian, or Hispanic; International - Includes all International (non-resident alien) students; and White - Includes all non-international students who identify as White and students with unknown race/ethnicity.

Student Level: Freshmen are classified as students with 0 to 29 credits; sophomores are students with 30 to 59 credits; juniors are students with 60-89 credits; and, seniors are students with 90+ credits.

University Honors:  Indicates those students who were in the University Honors Program during the term in which the survey was administered. This dimension is only available starting in Spring 2012.

  1. Item groups where some items show data while others show “No data available” signify that items were removed or changed substantially over different administrations of the survey.

  2. Due to sensitive data in some response options, a number of questions have been removed from the Public Results.

View the data load table for details on the scheduled updating and staff contact for these data.