Feb. 29, 2024

New guidelines introduced for institutional surveys

Revised guidelines aim to foster greater community engagement and collaboration at the University of Calgary
Fall on campus
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is committed to excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement. In pursuit of these goals, surveys are implemented to gather valuable insights from stakeholders —  students, faculty, and staff. To ensure these surveys are conducted with the utmost care, effectiveness, and compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act, new survey guidelines have been introduced that will apply to all UCalgary surveys conducted for institutional purposes. (Please note these do not apply to surveys conducted solely for academic research purposes.)

The updated guidelines can also be found on the University Access to Information & Privacy website.

Determining if these guidelines apply to your survey

If you are faculty or staff and are conducting a survey for institutional purposes, the survey is subject to these guidelines. A survey is considered as institutional in purpose if the collected data is used for strategic operations and planning, accreditation, program quality assurance, evaluation, or improvement purposes. The guidelines do not apply to surveys conducted solely for academic research purposes.

Surveys conducted by external organizations do not fall under these guidelines; however, it is still important to assess how these surveys deal with issues of privacy.

Creating guideline-compliant surveys

Before starting a survey, it is important to get approval from the faculty, department, or administrative unit. Getting approval will make sure the survey aligns with the goals of the university and will help maintain consistency.

When making a survey, ensure the purpose is clear to the participants. The data collected in the survey must be essential to achieve the purpose, so make sure the survey is not collecting any unnecessary data. The purpose of the survey will shape what kind of information can be asked for.

When designing a survey, adding an incentive to get participants to complete it may be beneficial. While contests are great incentives, they must follow certain rules. Information on creating compliant contests can be found in the new guidelines.

Collecting and using survey results

Be as transparent as possible with survey participants about all aspects of the survey. Be clear about what information is being collected and how that information is intended to be used. The best way to get informed consent from participants is through a clear collection notice.

Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of respondents is of utmost importance and is also a legal obligation under FOIP. Consider how collected data will be protected and stored, and who will have access to it.

To protect participants, data should be de-identified as soon as possible, especially when reporting the results. Data should only be kept for as long as it is strictly necessary; otherwise, the data should be destroyed.

By adhering to these survey guidelines, UCalgary faculty and staff can contribute to a more coherent and responsive approach to data collection, benefiting the university community, advancing the university’s shared mission, and complying with the FOIP Act.

UCalgary is excited about the positive impact these guidelines will have on the way institutional surveys are conducted.