Graduate survey expresses opinions, raises concern

Rachel Thompson

Ninety-two percent of UT graduate students surveyed would recommend the University to friends, according to a student satisfaction survey the University conducted.

Sociology professor Chandra Muller led a research team in conducting a survey to identify the strengths and weaknesses of UT’s graduate programs. The survey got online responses from 4,493 students, providing feedback on how well the school is succeeding in serving its students in both academic success and career preparation.

“It’s something the graduate school is excited about,” said Graduate Student Assembly president Manny Gonzalez.

“It’s going to give our organization a lot of ideas and things to work on in terms of policy suggestions to address a lot of issues in the graduate school and student issues.”

The survey found that students are generally very satisfied with the faculty they study under. Eighty-six percent said the faculty in their department aided their growth as scholars.

According to the study, faculty members provide professional advice, assist with training and job placement and create a positive atmosphere for students.

The survey also addressed student satisfaction with non-academic issues, including quality of life, which Gonzalez said was one of several factors that brought him to UT to pursue his doctorate.

“I picked UT because of the caliber of research that was occurring here. It’s one of the best and brightest public research institutions,” he said. “GSA has the privilege of working and meeting with graduate student leaders from other institutions, and we talk about these issues. It seems that Texas is a leader in terms of quality of life.”

A major point of frustration among graduate students was difficulty finding information about funding for University sponsored internships or research projects to help finance their education. Only 67 percent of students were satisfied with the availability of this information. The survey also found that students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are more likely to receive funding than students in other areas such as education and humanities.

Gonzalez said pointing out these flaws was an important part of the survey that will benefit the graduate school in the future.

“Not everything in the graduate climate survey is positive, and using it as a marketing tool was never the purpose of the survey,” he said. “They recognize there are certain areas that graduate students feel concerned with, especially funding, and additionally, the experiences of underrepresented students. The graduate school is now aware of some of that and is planning on how to address those needs.”

According to the survey, women were less likely to be funded and felt they had more limited career opportunities.

LGBTQ students were the most likely to experience discrimination. In addition, students of color were less satisfied with their programs than white students. Graduate school assistant dean John Dalton said these discrimination issues are important and should not be ignored.

“We encourage those students who feel they are being discriminated against to follow the University’s policies and file a complaint,” he said.

While Dalton said the survey was not created to recruit new graduate students, he said some of the data could help with recruitment in the future.

“We will probably use a lot of the data in the survey in the recruitment process because such a high number of students express satisfaction,” he said. “They have wonderful things to say about faculty. I think it will help us attract graduate students to the University.”