The ability of students to move between colleges and universities is an activity, often expected by students, intended to combine the strengths of both sectors and support the pursuit of continuous lifelong learning. Students in Ontario have been ahead of educators and planners in “discovering the value of combining the strengths of the colleges in hands-on learning with the
strengths of the universities in academic education” (Jones & Skolnik, 2009, p.22). The College University Consortium Council (CUCC), established in 1996, was created, in part, to facilitate such activity. The Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education produced a report, Excellence, Accessibility, Responsibility, which endorsed the CUCC as the objective body that would facilitate “province-wide information collection and comparative analysis” to assist all stakeholders in decision-making affecting postsecondary education (Smith et al,1996, p.48). The Investing in Students Task Force cited the CUCC in its 2001 report, advocating, among other things, for the body to “assess and evaluate the existing mechanism” of transfer
between the college and university systems (Investing in Students Task Force, 2001, p.20). Traditionally, Ontario has not held a coherent postsecondary education system with collaborative sectors, but rather two systems, college and university. The colleges were established to be comprehensive institutions that were occupation oriented and designed to meet the needs of the local community. These institutions were an alternative for those who were not inclined to purely academic pursuits and who did not have the qualifications to gain entry to university.
In 2004, in the discussion paper launching the Ontario Postsecondary Review, a student expressed his desire for “the freedom to move between programs or institutions with recognition of my previous work so that I can obtain an education as unique as I hope my career will be” (Rae, 2004, p.19). However, the paper continued by describing the existing situation as a
patchwork of institutional agreements that “cover only a fraction of existing programs”; therefore,in order to “ensure that its public institutions can meet the growing expectations of students and employers, and operate as a coherent system”, Ontario would need to establish a system to set “standards for credit recognition and student transferability between institutions” (p.21).
Attempts to formalize seamless pathways, however, have been confounded by a lack of data to support claims of student demand and actual movement, particularly from college to university.
Ontario colleges were not established to facilitate transfer, but the pursuit of articulation agreements by the institutions themselves and the historic movement of students into universities have legitimized this function as one of its main activities.
The Ontario government’s mandated collection of key performance indicators (KPIs) provides one opportunity to analyze provincial data that is systematically collected in a consistent manner. The Graduate Satisfaction Survey is used to calculate the results of two of the KPIs1, employment rate and graduate satisfaction. Additionally, the survey asks graduates if they have enrolled in an educational institution; students identify which institution and program. In 2005,the colleges and the MTCU decided to expand the survey for those who indicated that they had continued their education after graduation. Therefore, in 2006-07 a modified Graduate Satisfaction Survey with new transfer related questions was introduced. These additions and changes have enabled a deeper analysis of student movement between and within institutions or sectors.
The new questions were included to capture data that could better inform colleges about the students who graduate from their respective institutions. The questions on transfer were also intended to assist the government on matters that could affect policy with respect to student movement, particularly between postsecondary sectors. In addition to documenting the program and institutional destination of graduates seeking further education, the graduate survey now gathers information on the motivation for continuing, the source of transfer information, the amount of transfer credit received, the timing of notification for credit, the relationship to the previous program, the satisfaction with the transfer experience and the satisfaction with college preparation for further studies. This report is the first comprehensive analysis of the new questions from the first year of administration (2006-07).