Survey Review and Approval

Surveying students, faculty, staff, and alumni allows us to better understand their experiences and needs, assess the impact of our work, and improve the campus experience. Given the high volume of surveys that involve members of the UW–Madison community, Student Affairs requires its units to submit student, faculty/staff, and alumni surveys that meet certain criteria for review and approval prior to distribution.

Submission Deadlines

Fall 2022 surveys: August 15, 2022
Spring 2023 surveys: December 1, 2022
Summer 2023 surveys: April 1, 2023

Submit survey request


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Which surveys need approval?

Surveys that meet the following criteria must be submitted for review and approval:

  • Target specific subpopulations based on characteristics such as enrollment status, race/ethnicity, gender, etc.
  • Request a random sample of students, faculty, staff, or alumni
  • Data can be generalized to the broader student, faculty, staff, or alumni population
  • Sample size larger than 500
  • Results could inform Student Affairs practices and decision making


Surveys that meet the following criteria do not require central approval:

  • Point-of-contact surveys within a specific department or office that target those who receive their assistance (e.g., Student Conduct non-academic misconduct violation survey)
  • Evaluation surveys administered to program participants or service users at the conclusion of the program/service (e.g., Badger Family Weekend post-event survey, Student Organization Fair evaluation)
  • Course or teaching evaluations (e.g., CP125 course evaluation)
  • Feedback from clients at the point of service (e.g., Union guest survey)

How does the process work?

  1. Submit a survey request by the appropriate deadline. Be prepared to provide the following information:
    • Project purpose
    • Survey length
    • Proposed survey administration timeframe
    • Target population
    • Sampling criteria and sample size
    • Incentives
    • Survey instrument and invitation letter
    • Data analysis plan
    • Use of survey results
    • Request for assistance or consultation
  1. The Student Affairs cabinet may recommend adjusting the survey administration timeline, reviewing existing data, or exploring potential collaboration for the data collection effort.
  2. Approved surveys will be published on the Student Affairs survey calendar. (Note: The calendar will be available on this page once fall 2022 approvals have been made.)
  3. Departments are encouraged to share key findings, next steps, and recommendations. Contact Ning Sun at to share findings.

What are the approval criteria?

Purpose of the survey

  • What is the purpose of the survey?
  • How does the survey provide information useful for planning or improving Student Affairs offerings?

Use of survey results

  • How will the results be used?
  • Who will have access to the results, and will it help them make better decisions as a result?
  • Is the information solicited from survey respondents duplicated or redundant? Are there existing data that can be used?

Content and design of survey

  • Will the survey generate valid and reliable information?
  • Is the survey well-designed (appropriate content, length, and easily understood)?
  • Is the sampling methodology appropriate and sound?


  • Is it conducted at a time when invitees are more likely to respond?
  • Does it overlap with other survey projects using the same sample?


  • What is the potential impact on survey respondents?
  • Does the survey overburden survey respondents?
  • If identifiable information is collected, what practices are put into place to protect the confidentiality of individual survey responses?
  • Can the survey be combined with other planned surveys?
  • Does the survey follow university, state, and federal policies for collecting and managing data (e.g., FERPA, HIPAA, IRB)?

When are decisions made?

The Student Affairs cabinet will make approval decisions on surveys within a month after the submission deadlines. Surveys that explore urgent issues and cannot meet the deadlines will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. In cases where expedited approval is needed, please include an explanation in the request.

Departments may seek early approval. For example, if a survey is planned for the fall, rather than using the summer deadline, a department may choose to submit their request at the December or April deadline for earlier review.