IRB Approval for Conducting Higher Education Research

Higher education research is generally considered exempt under IRB regulations. Due to a new law related to institutional data, UCI’s IRB office has announced that education research that leverages institutional data (e.g. student demographic data, grades, etc acquired from institutional research), while still potentially exempt, can no longer be self-determined. This does not drastically change the IRB application process, as you will still need to complete an IRB protocol in Kuali Research. The main difference is that the IRB must now review your protocol prior to you beginning your research.

If your education research does not include institutional data, it may still be eligible for self-determination of exempt status. If that is the case, review the following page to confirm that your work is exempt. You must still complete the steps below, but your protocol will not be reviewed by the IRB.

Exempt education research is defined as:

Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings [that] specifically involves normal educational practices that are NOT likely to adversely impact students’ opportunity to learn required educational content or the assessment of educators who provide instruction. This includes most research on regular and special education instructional strategies and research on the effectiveness of or the comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods. (source: IRB)

Self-determination can occur if the work does not involve:

  • Children
  • Adults (age 18 or older) who may not be legally/mentally/cognitively competent to consent
  • Prisoners
  • American Indian/Alaska Native tribes
  • Non-UCI personnel engaged in research: a) intervening or interacting with the participants and/or b) having access to participant identifiable private information for research purposes.
  • Use of the UCI Social Science Human Subject Lab (SONA).
  • International Research
  • A study team member with a Disclosable Financial Interest.

(source: IRB)

Below is guidance to complete the IRB process for education research.

  • Complete the CITI Human Subjects tutorial.
  • This site will also be able to tell you have completed this within the past 5 years (look for: “(Social/Behavioral) CITI Human Subject Research”).
  • Complete the FERPA tutorial regarding protection of student records.
  • This tutorial is in the UC Learning Center – log in here: and search for “FERPA” to find the tutorial. It should take 10-15 min to complete.
  • Create the appropriate IRB documents in Kuali Research Protocols. A step by step guide for completing the KR narrative for exempt education research purposes can be found here.
  • Create a Study Information Sheet that you share with your students (or any subjects you will be interacting with in this research). A template study information sheet can be found here.

If you have any additional questions, we recommend that you reach out to the IRB directly.