Skip to main content

Students give UW–Madison high marks for academic quality, overall educational experience

November 4, 2020 By Doug Erickson

UW–Madison seniors overwhelmingly gave the university high marks for academic quality in a recent survey and rated their overall educational experience higher than students at peer institutions.

UW–Madison seniors also were more likely than their peers to report that if they were to start over again, they would choose to attend the same institution.

The results are from the latest National Survey of Student Engagement, administered in spring 2020 by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. The survey of college freshmen and seniors assesses aspects of student learning, what students think of their undergraduate experience, and how they are benefiting from their studies. The survey was in the field from mid-February —about a month before COVID-19 forced changes on campus — through early April.

UW–Madison participates in the survey every three years. A detailed look at UW–Madison findings can be found here.

“What we’ve consistently seen over time is that our students report very high satisfaction with the quality of the education they receive at UW–Madison,” says Provost Karl Scholz. “Again this year, their responses indicate experiences and levels of engagement that are often more positive than other participating public research universities.”

Among the UW–Madison findings:

  • 89 percent of seniors rated their overall experience as good or excellent, higher than the peer average of 85 percent.
  • 88 percent of seniors would attend UW–Madison again, higher than the 85 percent of students at peer institutions.
  • 91 percent of seniors rated the academic quality of UW–Madison as good or excellent, significantly higher than the peer average of 82 percent.
  • UW–Madison first-year and senior respondents reported statistically significant higher quality interactions with academic advisors, faculty, student services staff, administrative staff, and other students as compared with respondents at peer institutions.

UW–Madison students gave high scores on questions that speak to the four areas of growth laid out in the Wisconsin Experience — the university’s vision for the total student experience in and out of the classroom. The four areas and some of the related survey scores:

  • Intellectual confidence: The majority of seniors reported substantial learning gains on thinking critically and analytically (90 percent), analyzing numerical and statistical information (72 percent), writing clearly and effectively (71percent), acquiring job-related skills (67 percent), and speaking clearly and effectively (61 percent).
  • Empathy and humility: 60 percent of first-year students and 62 percent of seniors reported that UW–Madison contributed “quite a bit” or “very much” to them understanding people of other backgrounds (economic, racial/ethnic, political, religious, nationality, etc.), similar to rates at peer institutions.
  • Relentless curiosity: UW–Madison seniors were more likely than peers to work with faculty on a research project: 39 percent, compared with 33 percent of peers.
  • Purposeful action: The majority of UW–Madison seniors (67 percent) reported that their experience at UW–Madison contributed “quite a bit” or “very much” to learning to solve complex real-world problems.

“The Wisconsin Experience embodies the traits we hope this university can instill, and it’s gratifying to see so many of our students embracing those qualities and excelling at them,” Scholz says.

A total of 601 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada participated in the 2020 survey.