NORC at the University of Chicago to Conduct Study on Graduate Programs Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

Senior officers for graduate education will complete an online survey on behalf of the 300 top producing colleges and universities of STEM masters and doctoral graduates in the United States.

CHICAGO, July 1, 2020 — NORC at the University of Chicago is conducting a new study to identify challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at leading universities around the United States. Over the course of the study, NORC will also document and share innovative strategies institutions employed during the crisis that:

  • stimulate the success of current and future STEM graduate students
  • sustain STEM graduate programs during and after the crisis
  • transform and improve future graduate STEM education

The study, led by Debra Stewart, NORC senior fellow, and Ann Kearns Davoren, NORC senior research scientist, is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant supports three main activities:

  • web-based national survey of graduate deans in summer 2020
  • virtual assemblies in late summer 2020 to refine results and identify promising practices
  • multipronged dissemination of project results to assist institutions addressing ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic

“Anecdotal evidence overwhelmingly suggests that a large majority of graduate programs are being impacted by the effects of COVID-19,” said Debra Stewart, senior fellow, Higher Education Analytics Center at NORC, and president emerita, Council of Graduate Schools. “Only by understanding—institution by institution—the nature of the actual impacts and how universities are responding will we generate insights critical to assist university leaders as they work to ensure graduate students continue to make progress in the face of COVID-19 disruptions. But beyond documenting the present, we hope our work will highlight those bold innovations in graduate education that will endure, guaranteeing a more robust graduate enterprise in the post-pandemic era.” 

Basic data on how universities’ graduate programs are coping with the challenges of COVID-19 will be collected by an online survey to be completed by graduate school deans on behalf of 300 top STEM-producing doctoral- and masters-level colleges and universities in the United States. This is the first-ever systematic effort to collect these data. Information gleaned from the survey will guide the framework for the working-assemblies, which will bring together senior leaders from graduate schools and universities, as well as research experts, to share knowledge about the impacts and innovations across three key areas of inquiry:

  • graduate student academic and research progress
  • graduate student health and well-being
  • graduate program continuity and sustainability

NORC will distribute its findings widely, through a final, publically available working paper and other publications, briefings of government and academic leaders, and conference presentations.


About NORC at the University of Chicago
NORC at the University of Chicago is an objective, non-partisan research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.

Contact: For more information, contact Eric Young for NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).