To help improve student services, a group of University of California researchers are once again conducting a systemwide survey about undergraduates’ lifestyles, demographics and opinions about their education.

All undergraduates at the ten UC campuses have been e-mailed with questions for the Student Experience in the Research University project, which is attempting to collect data to evaluate the effectiveness of University services and identify demographic characteristics of the UC student body.

The University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey, which runs through July, will allow researchers to gather feedback on such aspects of student life as access to classes, advising and overall satisfaction with the UC experience. The survey has been sent out almost every year since 1997.

According to the SERU website, UCUES is funded by the UC Office of the President and Student Affairs departments at each UC campus, and is a collaborative effort between academic and institutional researchers.

Richard Flacks, a recently retired sociology professor and one of three principal researchers for the project, said UCUES gives students an opportunity to express their opinions about the University’s shortcomings.

“The survey enables faculty, administrators and students themselves to understand what it means to be a student,” Flacks said. “It gives students a chance to make their opinions heard about where the University could improve. I don’t think there’s any other way for the great grassroots of the student body to express these opinions.”

This year’s survey has three parts: student life, personal background and civic engagement. Questions range from “How much of your assigned course reading have you completed this year?” to “During an average term, how often do you use the campus libraries?”

The last UCUES survey was administered in 2004, during which about 45,000 students responded. About one-quarter of UCSB’s student body participated in the last survey, Flacks said.

Flacks said survey participants vary greatly in their socioeconomic backgrounds, a subject of particular interest to him. He said previous survey results have indicated that wealthier students generally devote more time to the social aspects of college life.

“The kids who have had to overcome a lot of hardship tend to focus more on their academics,” Flacks said. “This is important to understanding admissions policy.”

The survey has revealed some unexpected results about UC student diversity, Flacks said.

“The majority of students systemwide have either come from another country or their parents have come from another country,” Flacks said. “The University didn’t even know that this was the case before the survey was done.”

Flacks said a comparison of the characteristics of the general student body – as found by admission statistics – and survey-takers found that the two populations were similar, leading researches to believe that the sample is representative. However, he said increased participation would yield more precise data.

“The higher proportion of students that take the survey, the more accurate it will be,” Flacks said.

Flacks said UCUES has broad plans for the future, including long-term correlations of data.

“The expectation is that this is now going to be a regular research program within the University,” Flacks said. “Some of the people taking the survey this year took it two years ago. A good deal of what the survey might be used for is to track change.”

The survey can be found online at