Fall 2020 Graduate Student Experience Survey

This KB document provides information for graduate programs, departments, and schools/colleges about the results of the Graduate Student Experience Survey.

Where indicated, spreadsheets of tabulated responses are available in Box, within subfolders by school/college. The ALL subfolder contains the spreadsheets for all graduate students. NetID is required to access the files in the Box folder. 

Click here to access tabulated responses. UW-Madison netID is required.

Faculty and staff within these areas are encouraged to use the results to make decisions on issues such as access to research facilities, course offerings, course modalities, and resources for teaching assistants, as well as advocating for and advising on services such as libraries in the Spring 2021 semester.

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, UW-Madison Graduate School sent out a questionnaire to all graduate students. The questionnaire was in the field for about three weeks, closing on November 16, 2020. The main purpose of the questionnaire is to assess how the pandemic-related campus decisions for the Fall 2020 semester have affected graduate students’ ability to make academic progress. The questionnaire seeks to help campus leadership better understand what has worked well and what has been challenging, and in turn help the university maintain its commitment to providing the support graduate students need to be safe, healthy, and successful.

Students accessed the questionnaire with a unique link provided to them via email. Participation was optional, but strongly encouraged. Students could choose to skip any question they did not wish to answer. Most questions also allowed a response of “Not Applicable,” to allow respondents to only answer questions relevant to their situation.

The questionnaire was emailed to 5423 doctoral students and 3850 master’s students, for a total of 9273 graduate students. A total of 1821 doctoral students (33.57%) and 1393 Master’s students (36.18%) responded to the questionnaire.  This amounts to an overall response rate of 34.56%. Among the respondents, 1340 respondents (41.80%) are male and 1865 respondents (58.20%) are female as compared to 49.12% males and 50.88% females in the graduate student population. 69.39% of the respondents were citizens of United States.

The questionnaire started out with background questions. Responses to these two questions are as follows.

Q4. Currently, do you live in the United States?

A total of 2480 respondents answered this question. Out of this, 93.06% live in the United States and 6.84% reside outside the United States.

For respondents who reside in the United States, the questionnaire asked:

Q5. Currently, do you reside within commuting distance of Madison?

A total of 2066 out of 2380 respondents (89.51%) answered that they reside within commuting distance of Madison. The remaining respondents answered that they do not reside within commuting distance of Madison.

For respondents who reside within commuting distance of Madison, the questionnaire asked:

Q6. Currently, how comfortable are you coming to campus for in-person activities? 

The respondents were asked to rate their comfort on a 5-point Likert scale (Not at all, A little, Somewhat, Very, and Extremely Comfortable) for four different activities

  • Class
  • Research
  • Work
  • Social

Respondents also had the choice of Not Applicable.

The responses are tabulated in Q6out.xlsx.

For respondents who reside within commuting distance of Madison, the questionnaire asked:

Q9. In Fall 2020, how often have you been on campus for classes, research, or work?

The respondents were asked rate the frequency as Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, or Extremely Often.

The responses are tabulated in Q9out.xlsx.

For respondents who answered Rarely, Sometimes, Often, and Extremely Often to question Q9, the questionnaire asked:

Q10. In Fall 2020, have you used the following mode of transportation to commute to campus for classes, research, or work?

The respondents were asked Yes or No for Public transportation, Drive to campus and park on-campus, Drive to campus and park off-campus, Bike to campus, and Walk to campus.

The responses are tabulated in Q10out.xlsx.

The questionnaire has two questions focused on different challenges to academic progress. 

Q7. Currently, how much are the following factors affecting your academic progress?

The respondents were asked to rate their challenges on a 5-point Likert scale (Not at all, A little, Somewhat, Quite a bit, or A great deal of challenge) for ten different factors:

  • Access to research lab
  • Access to office
  • Access to studio
  • Access to library
  • Access to core facilities
  • Access to field experience
  • Access to required courses
  • Access to course technology
  • Access to software, computing, & storage
  • Ability to collect face-to-face data

Respondents also had the choice of Not Applicable.

The responses are tabulated in Q7out.xlsx

Q8. Currently, how much are the following factors a barrier to your academic progress?

The respondents were asked to rate their challenges on a 5-point Likert scale (Not at all, A little, Somewhat, Quite a bit, or A great deal of barrier) for fourteen factors:

  • Restrictions on travel
  • Family responsibilities
  • Physical health issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Limited in-person interaction with faculty advisor
  • Limited in-person interaction with faculty in program
  • Limited in-person interaction with fellow students
  • Limited networking opportunities
  • Difficulty paying rent/mortgage
  • Difficulty putting food on the table
  • Financial challenges due to COVID-19
  • Transportation to campus
  • Lack of on-campus spaces available to work
  • Inconvenience of working at home

Respondents also had the choice of Not Applicable.

The responses are tabulated in Q8out.xlsx.

The responses to questions Q7 and Q8 are combined and tabulated in Q7Q8out.xlsx.

The next set of questions focused on the teaching experience of respondents who are teaching assistants. To direct the questions only to the teaching assistants, the questionnaire first asked:

Q12. What types of graduate assistantships do you have in Fall 2020?

The respondents were asked to answer Yes or No to Teaching Assistantship, Project Assistantship, Research Assistantship, Fellowship from UW Madison, and Fellowship from external sources.

For respondents answering Yes to Teaching assistantship, the questionnaire asked:

Q13. How many courses are you teaching in Fall 2020 semester? Possible responses are One, Two, or Three.

Depending on the response to the question Q13, the respondents were asked three questions for each of the courses they are teaching.

Q14. In Fall 2020, what is the name of the department where you are teaching?  

Q15. What is the modality of the course you are teaching?

Q16. In teaching the (course, how much are the following factors a challenge? 

The respondents were asked to rate their challenges on a 5-point Likert scale (Not at all, A little, Somewhat, Quite a bit, or A great deal of challenge) for ten factors:

  • Teaching technology (Canvas, Blackboard, Zoom, Teams, etc.)
  • Asynchronous interaction with students
  • Synchronous interaction with students
  • One-on-one interaction with students
  • Personal protection equipment
  • Classroom facilities such as projection equipment, microphones, etc.
  • Classroom space, especially for social distancing
  • Laboratory space, especially for social distancing
  • Studio space, especially for social distancing
  • Library resources
The response to Q15 was used to pivot the analysis based on whether the modality is remote or in-person. The responses for all the courses taught by a teaching assistant in the same modality are aggregated. 

The responses for remote and in-person sections are separately tabulated in QTaout.xlsx.


Responses to qualitative (open-ended) questions are currently being analyzed. When available, additional information will be made available in this KB document. 

Please direct any questions about the Graduate Student Experience survey to Parmesh Ramanathan, parmesh.ramanathan@wisc.edu.




Keywords:Fall 2020 Graduate Student Experience Survey COVID-19 Data   Doc ID:107389
Owner:Alissa E.Group:Graduate School
Created:2020-11-24 17:07 CDTUpdated:2020-11-30 11:38 CDT
Sites:Graduate School
Feedback:  0   0