Background on Architecture Graduate Survey
Assessment of Current Needs
This page includes information about the background and development process for the Architecture Graduate Survey that ACSA is deploying beginning in October 2014. Click here for the most recent updates on this project.
On this page, you can read about what ACSA learned about our member schools' current practices, existing survey questions, challenges, and priorities based on an initial call for input in August 2013. We heard from nearly thirty schools in depth, representing all of ACSA’s regions and a broad range of schools and programs, both accredited and non-accredited. Enthusiasm for this ACSA-wide effort was high, and we encourage the continued participation of all ACSA member schools as this initiative takes shape over the coming months.
- Many schools have post-graduation and alumni surveys (annually or less frequently), and some have exit surveys for every graduating class. Many schools do not yet have either survey type, while a few have both.
- A few schools have other formalized feedback systems, including in-person exit interviews, internship surveys, and—in the case of community colleges—data collected from universities to which students transferred. Many schools also described anecdotal tracking through informal contact with alumni.
- The majority of schools with current instruments use an email with a link to a website where the survey is completed. Some schools also offer surveys by email-reply, phone, or mail.
- A summary of questions that schools are currently employing in their exit and/or post-graduation surveys can be found below.
The biggest challenges that schools described are maintaining alumni contact information
and increasing response rates
. Reported response rates ranged from around 10% for alumni or post-graduation surveys based on a single blast email with incomplete or out-of-date contact lists, to near 100% for exit (pre-graduation) surveys and post-graduation surveys with follow-up calls and emails.
Effective ways to address contact information and response rates include:
- Making responses mandatory or near mandatory for pre-graduation exit surveys, by tying surveys to graduation essentials such as pick-up of cap and gown.
- Alumni response rates were increased (to over 95%) through automated reminder emails followed by individual, repeated personal follow-ups via email and phone, combined with confirmation of contact information through social media (e.g. LinkedIn and Facebook).
- High response rates (to over 80%) were also reported by schools employing automated or streamlined systems for generating targeted reminder emails without personal follow-ups.
- Capturing a permanent, non-institutional email address at the time of graduation was cited by many schools as a crucial tool for keeping in touch with alumni. This reduces the need for schools to update alumni contact information through more involved methods such as online searches.
- Some schools are automating contact information updates by inviting alumni to connect their LinkedIn accounts when accessing an institution-maintained job website.
Related to the above, another challenge mentioned by many schools is the demand on staff time. A related hurdle lies in negotiations with central institutional offices regarding access to or responsibility for contact lists and data collection efforts.
While no single survey could equally address all issues, here is a list of priorities identified by schools, which we should consider together as we move forward.
- quick and simple for respondents
- gives back to respondents by following up with relevant survey results
- helps gather and maintain alumni contact information
- builds or at least does not harm alumni loyalty
- ties into ongoing alumni engagement (e.g. career services, mentoring, events)
- supports or is compatible with survey’s for a department’s non-architecture programs
- accommodates participation of schools with existing surveys and requirements
- results benefit all schools as well as prospective students and employers
- use of a branching question structure to avoid asking irrelevant questions
- avoids duplicating existing information that the school already knows
- have versions for both accredited and non-accredited architecture programs
- remain consistent over time for internal benchmarking
- are consistent across schools for external benchmarking
- line up with NAAB criteria to inform curricular changes and facilitate accreditations
- provide solid placement details to help with accreditation, university reporting
- avoid vague “rate your school” or “how happy are you” phrasings
- identify socioeconomic and other demographic factors beyond race and gender
- focus on facts that respondents can reliably report
- identify alumni intentions as well as facts (e.g. expectations relative to employment status)
- consider prior work and education through to career outcomes and subsequent education
- support cross-referencing with surveys of employers’ perceptions of alumni
- support cross-referencing with school-specific data from NAAB, NCARB, AIA
- suitable for both American and Canadian schools, with alternate wordings as necessary
- delivered to students by schools
- avoids survey fatigue by keeping survey requests to a minimum
- is compatible with FERPA
- is as low-maintenance as possible for participating schools
- offers a streamlined or automated system for respondent reminder emails
- is consistent in format and delivery for reliable data
- offers schools direct access to their raw data
- offers schools discretion in publicly sharing identifiable information about their school
Bank of Existing Questions
This section provides a summary of existing exit, post-graduation, and alumni survey questions currently in use by ACSA member schools, which we hope will fuel productive discussions as we launch our career outcomes data effort.
Questions asked by all or nearly all surveys
- Current primary activity/employment status (or for exit surveys: post-graduation plans) (Responses can include full and part time, but also self-employed, caring for family, working two or more jobs, employed on a temporary contract, traveling, volunteering, etc.)
If not employed:
- Salary/income from primary activity
- Job title, employer, and location (follow-up: primary responsibilities, size of firm, sector of firm)
- Current sector/relatedness of employment to studies in architecture
- Reasons for not being currently employed
- Impact of formal and informal institutional resources (listed) on employment and career
- Current geographic location/zip code
Questions very frequently asked
- Length of time spent seeking employment
- Job satisfaction and employment characteristics such as paid overtime, hours worked per week, raises and promotions, employment benefits, length of time in current position
- Plans or active participation in IDP (IAP in Canada) as a step towards licensure (follow-ups for more advanced alumni: completion or length of time to complete IDP/IAC)
- Progress and plans to complete ARE (ExAC in Canada) towards licensure
- Membership in AIA (RAIC in Canada), other organizations and credentials
- Enrollment in or plans for further education
- Self-assessment of preparation for employment/further education
- Experience in (internships, study abroad, extracurriculars) during enrollment
- Program offered opportunities and training in various objectives (based on NAAB/CACB SPCs)
- Pre or post-enrollment experience in self-employment, contracting, freelance, non-profits
- Courses, faculty members, institutional resources that made a particularly em impact
- Overall assessment of educational experience; strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions
- Advice for current students, willingness to be contacted by program's students in future
- Willingness to recommend program
- Permanent, non-institutional contact information
- Firm characteristics regarding size, financials, client base, current hiring
- Use and relevance of specific tools and skills taught, and/or NAAB/CACB SPCs
- Formal and informal career services and other resources used since graduation
- Means for covering costs of education, size of student debt
- Parental education level, zip code before enrollment
- Marital status, children/dependents