This week I had the opportunity to attend the Student Pathways in Higher Education conference in Toronto, hosted by the College University Consortium Council. This conference brought together registrars and administration from every university and college in Ontario, officials from the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, as well as sector stakeholders groups such as the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Student Alliance. They were gathered at in order to discuss research findings and progress from the previous year on the Ontario credit transfer system, as well announcing this coming year’s projects and next steps. The Honourable Glen Murray, HEQCO President Harvey Weingarten as well as several university presidents spoke to the importance of moving Ontario towards a more open credit mobility system in Ontario, showcasing examples from across the world where other countries are leading Ontario in the field in student mobility. In particular, the Minister spoke about the increasing mobility of the European and Australian higher education systems.

Credit transfer is the ability for a student to move from one institution to another while receiving recognition for previous learning, and is becoming an ever more central piece of the discussion around academic reform and post-secondary efficiency. It is clear for all stakeholders that the ability for students to have mobility between parallel institutions and as well as between colleges and universities is going to be key to improving accessibility as well as reducing student and government cost duplication. The future success of the Province of Ontario is going to be built on an educated work force that can adapt to new technologies and new ways of doing business, and having a post-secondary education sector that can accommodate this dynamic economic environment is going to be essential for the long-term prosperity for all Ontarians.

From a student perspective, it will be incredibly important that the system become more transparent, consistent and supportive for transfer students. Transparency refers to the ability of students to know how many of their credits will transfer, what expectations will be put upon them, and why decisions to transfer some credits and not others are finally made. Though the number of articulation agreements between colleges and universities has grown, credit transfer is a particularly daunting process for students who transfer outside the boundaries of these agreements (as is the case with most university-to-university transfer). Consistency refers to a common set of criteria, language and processes being used to transfer credits across higher education institutions. Currently, students face differing policies and expectations of transfer students at each university and college, creating an unreasonably complicated system for students to navigate. Support refers to an assurance that students transferring from institutions with real differences will be adequately transitioned. Whether this takes place through orientation weeks, bridging programs or increased use of credit transfer advisors, it is important that credit transfer networks set students up for success.

This conference is the first of what hopefully becomes an annual gathering of representatives from across the sector to explore and develop the credit transfer system in Ontario. From what I have learned in the past two days, I believe the value of it can not be overstated. I want to thank the organizers and participants for their openness and dedication to improving our system. This year my policy paper is on Credit Transfer and this conference has provided me an with incredible amount of new knowledge and exciting ideas on where credit transfer is and where it needs to go to enable the post-secondary sector in Ontario to move forward with a robust system of student mobility.

-Luke Speers
Vice President University Affairs
Brock University Students’ Union