Interview Topics and Baseline Questions for Site Researcher

The following questions in each topic area are only suggestive of the range of questions the researcher may need to explore in order to gather sufficient information in each topic area to make a meaningful statement in the final report. The researcher may need to add to these questions in order to capture any idiosyncratic characteristics of the local situation, but in doing so you be sure to note such changes in their report and how it helps us to better understand each topic area. To the extent possible, the researcher should endeavor to answer these questions in order to facilitate maximum comparability across countries. For questions that ask for an individual—i.e., “who” is responsible for something or does something, proper names should be avoided. Focus should be on institutional and organizational roles and positions.

Student Participation in Governance

These questions relate more to issues of constitutional standing than to democratic practices per se.

What opportunities exist for students to participate in university governance?

Are there any university governance bodies that give students a say and vote in its deliberative processes?

Are there any issues in university governance that require the concurrence of the student organizations?

Student Self-Governance

Does the university have an organization for student self-governance?

Is this and elected of appointed body?

Do students manage any clubs, societies or organizations that function outside of the curriculum or academic programs (”extracurricular activities”)?

Do students have any independent financial responsibility in the organization and administration of student-centered clubs and organizations?

Do constitutional or legal mechanisms exist to ensure openness of the decision-making process?

Student Participation in Creation and Evaluation of Courses and Programs

Since the process of the creation and evaluation of courses may be institutionally embedded in the local organizational and national culture, examples of how these processes operate in the university will provide better information than simply accounting for the presence or absence of these processes.

Are students represented on school or university-wide curriculum committees?

Do mechanisms exist for channeling student demands regarding course content, grading policies, and other issues of “relevance” to faculty or academic administrators?

Does the university or any of its constituent academic departments routinely solicit input from students in the structure and content of the curriculum? (i.e., to what extent do students affect or create change in curricula and degree programs?)

Does the university or its constituent academic departments provide an explanation or rationale relating to the mission and purpose of the structure of the curriculum?

To what extent are students actively engaged in teaching (self-propelled and peer-to-peer) and the creation of knowledge?

The intent here is more than typical “lab” experiences, but is focused on whether there are examples of problem-based learning or autonomous learning through problem-solving that facilitates democratic dispositions.

Does the university require student evaluations of courses and instructors?


Are evaluations anonymous?

Are the results of evaluations forwarded to department chairs and higher levels of university administration?

Are there means for students to see summary results of the evaluations? (Are the results communicated to students?)

Are student evaluations solicited in reviews of faculty being considered for tenure?

University Informing Students about their Rights as Students

Keep in mind that the existence of “rights” necessarily implies concomitant responsibilities e.g., students may have a right to vote, but may not exercise their civic responsibility to vote). In other words, we are interested not only in the existence of nominal or legal rights, but in practices and policies that affect the exercise of such rights. Also, when the “national context” appears to override the institutional context as the source or basis of student rights, this should be made clear so that we do not attribute excessive influence or failure to the university. Likewise, the national context or constitutional rights within the larger society should not deflect attention away from the role of the university and the local institutional expression of more rights and responsibilities and their manifestation within the organizational culture of the university.

Does the university encourage students to exercise their rights and privileges as a member of the student body?

Does the university encourage students to exercise their rights and privileges as a citizen of the larger society?

Does the university have a published policy on student’s rights?

To what extent do students actually utilize these rights?

Where would students most likely locate information concerning their rights as a student?

Does the university provide avenues or mechanisms for students to lodge complaints, voice grievances, or otherwise express concern about potential violation of their rights?

Are there any types of campus organizations, agencies or departments that are (at least partially) devoted to the promotion, maintenance and protection of student rights?

If a student finds themselves accused of violation of university rules concerning academic integrity (e.g., cheating), are there institutional resources (individuals and/or departments) available to help the student understand their rights and access to procedural due process?

Where would a student go to file an official complaint about university faculty, staff, or administration?

University Informing Students From Other Countries in Student and University Life

What facilities and resources does the university provide for ensuring equality of treatment for students from other countries as for local national students?

University offices for Supervising Observance of Student’s Rights

Does the university assign a specific office or person with a responsibility for overseeing rights?

Does the university provide a mechanism for students to appeal unfavorable academic, social or legal decisions of university-affiliated organizations, departments or personnel?

Participation of Students from other Countries in Student and University Life

Do students from other countries think about civic responsibility in the same terms as local nationality students? (i.e., What are the degrees to which students from other countries have significantly different views than local students?)

Are non-mainstream views tolerated and allowed to be expressed?

How are students from other countries accommodated and treated?

To what degree does the institutions establish mechanisms to allow groups to engage one another?

Tolerance/Trust in the Governance Process

There are “horizontal” and “vertical” organizational dimensions to tolerance and trust: by “horizontal,” we mean people tolerating each other; by “vertical” we mean those in superior positions or governing bodies’ tolerance for certain behaviors within the organization, institution, or society.

Are those who may disagree with the policies and decisions of the university administration permitted to express dissenting views?

Have issues of due process or the lack of due process affected support for the decisions of university administration?

Does the university have procedural mechanisms or administrative offices whose function is to protect those who may express unpopular views?

Does the university support or have a history of “shared governance”—i.e., division of responsibility for decisions affecting teaching, research and the administration of the university?

Do decision-making processes in the university allow for the expression of diverse and divergent viewpoints?

  • At the departmental level?
  • At the school level?
  • At the university level?

How would you (subjectively) describe the climate of the university with regard to faculty, staff and student trust of the governance process?

Transparency of Governance

What mechanisms exist for communication of policies and decision-making in the university?

Are major decisions within the university (eg., trustee meetings, university deliberative bodies, etc) open to the public?

Are meetings of university governance bodies open to the public or receive public coverage via outside observers or media reporting?


In addressing these topics the researcher should make as many explicit references as possible to efforts at teaching democracy.

Encouraging Students to be Good Citizens

Does the “mission” (the officially espoused purpose and goals) of the university and its constituent units include explicit references to the tasks of educating for democracy, or for teaching the duties and responsibilities of citizenship?

Beyond the statutory expression of the university’s purpose, try to locate official pronouncements (e.g., convocation exercises and statements) that reveal any university policies in support of the promotion of “good” (i.e., responsible; engaged; active) citizenship.

Be attentive to the notion of what “good citizenship” expresses. Somebody in a particular instance could be very active in the community and in civic organizations but does not or can not vote. Ultimately we want to get at notions that citizenship is a global concept.

Discussion Political Issues or Politics of University Governance

Does the university schedule public hearings and solicit input and feedback on matters of university governance from the university community at large?

Do mechanisms exist to allow faculty, staff, or students to raise governance issues with the administration?

Are there any limitations placed on the activities of political parties at the university?

Does the university provide a forum for the public debate or discussion of societal political issues?

Are there groups that promote or opportunities for democratic activism?

Are members of the university community more likely to engage in political activities concerning societal “issues of the day” or concerning political issues within the university itself?

Do people engage in political activities independent of the degree of political party’s presence at the university?

Do political parties restrict or increase the amount of political participation on campus?

Are there political groups that may not have a party affiliation but are organized around political or policy-oriented issues?

Languages and Cultural Studies Regularly Taught and/or Required

The goal here is to identify any specific linkages between diversity and multiculturalism and democratic practices or the promotion of democracy.

Are multicultural approaches to the study of society available at the university?

Are foreign language skills required for graduation from the university?

Does the university have hiring policies that ensures that multicultural perspectives are present on the faculty?

Are there opportunities for a comparative approach in the study of social and political issues?

Does the university value diversity, not only in terms of the acceptance of and opportunities for minority groups, but of differences within majority groups themselves?

Courses that Explicitly Address Democracy

In what ways are learning opportunities outside of lectures and the classroom (the “extracurriculum”) employed in teaching citizenship? How?

In what programs or departments would one most likely find courses that explicitly address issues of democracy?

Can you give an example of a specific course that addresses issues of pluralism, political participation, civic duty, and the philosophical and psychological foundations of democratic government?

Be sure to make a distinction between teaching democracy and democratic teaching (e.g., self-directed, peer-to-peer, problem-solving approaches).

Special Institutes, Centers, Programs on Democracy

Does the university house any institute, centers or programs whose espoused purpose it the study or promotion of democracy or democratic practices, civic responsibility or participation in community activism?

Does the university support any programs, departments, centers, or institutes with specific connections or relationships to the outside community?

Primary funding and other material support for centers, programs or institutes on democracy come from what sources?

Are any interests beyond those of the university’s educational mission, served by the activities of these centers?

Relations with the Community Environment

The issue in this section is to what extent do universities do the type of activities discussed in order to promote democracy. Be sure to make distinctions between activities, such as economic development of the community surrounding the neighborhood, that may be primarily in the university’s self-interest as opposed to the promotion of civic responsibility and democracy.

Are there contested issues with specific constituencies between the university and the local community? If so, what groups are involved and what issue(s) is the basis of contention?

Did the university approach the issue with the best civic interests in mind? What has it learned from it?

What are the civic dimensions of the problem? That is, does debate or dispute occur in a particular forum? Does the issue require the use of legal and political mechanisms outside the university for resolution of the problem? To what extent does this hamper the university’s options in facilitating a solution to the problem?

Have new community organizations, agencies, or associations been created to facilitate resolution of issues or conflict between the university and the surrounding community?

Teaching Programs Addressed to the Local Community

Does the university offer opportunities for non-traditional students—community residents, business persons, government and civil servants—to take courses at the university?

Do such “extension” or “outreach” efforts include the possibility of deeper participation in the university?

Through degree programs?

Through participation in research projects?

Through special vocational or training programs aimed at a specific business or sector of the economy?

Are community residents with special expertise ever invited to lecture or teach at the university?

University or Joint Projects Addressed to the Local Problems and Needs

Can you cite examples of joint programs between the university and community?

Does the university solicit input from community groups in any projects the university sponsors in the community or that affects the community the university is located in?

Research Projects Conducted in the Local Community

Are students encouraged to conduct research projects in connection with classroom assignments that are field-based, or draw upon the surrounding community or region for data or cases?

Does the university provide any incentives (funding; leave time; teaching relief, etc.) for faculty conducting research in conjunction with community agencies or for the benefit of the surrounding community?

Are there any on-going research projects devoted to civics, civic responsibility or democracy education that foster student learning through interaction with the community?

University Facilities Open to People from Locality

Does the university give access to its facilities to residents of the community?

Is access to university facilities restricted in any way? If so, how? (e.g. I.D. cards, cost, proof of residence, time of day)

Are university facilities available for use by community groups? Examples?

Does the university make its facilities available for public debate of political issues? Is access non-partisan?