@ Issue Paper No. 4 Forging Pathways: Students Who Transfer Between Ontario Colleges and Universities


Streamlining transfer process could improve access

Making it easier for students to transfer between college and university could increase access to university for students from traditionally under-represented groups.

Streamlining the transfer process could particularly benefit these groups, according to Forging Pathways: Students Who Transfer Between Ontario Colleges and Universities, a new @ Issue paper by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

Project Description

This @ Issue paper is a synthesis of existing data from sources including the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) Graduate Satisfaction Survey, the MTCU Student Satisfaction Survey and the College Applicant Survey (Academica Group, Inc.), as well as a review of existing research on student transfer in Ontario and elsewhere.


Although Ontario’s postsecondary education (PSE) system was not originally designed for movement between colleges and universities, the number of students continuing their education by transferring between colleges and universities has increased over the last decade and could further improve through centralized coordination, greater student awareness of existing support services and an increase in services available.

HEQCO analysis found that 7.7 per cent of college graduates furthered their education in a degree program in 2008-2009, up from 5.3 per cent in 2001-2002. The percentage of college students who are university graduates has also increased: 10 per cent in 2009-2010 compared to 8 per cent a decade earlier.

The @ Issue paper notes that individuals from under-represented groups such as Aboriginal students, students with disabilities, first generation students and low-income students would particularly benefit from more seamless transfer opportunities from college to university. When  looking at university applicants, students from under-represented groups are more likely to be college transfer students than direct entry students, indicating that colleges play an important role in access to university education for these students.

Policy Implications

If increased university participation by under-represented groups is a priority, streamlining transfer opportunities from college to university would be an effective mechanism and would build on the province’s Open Ontario plan to improve student mobility. As suggested by other PSE organizations and student associations, a provincial body mandated to oversee the coordination of and transfer between colleges and universities would improve system-wide accountability and reduce student confusion through clear, accessible, and consistent information about the transfer process. British Columbia is among other Canadian provinces that have created a centralized coordinating body.

Although analysis of students surveys indicates general student satisfaction with transfer programs, this report notes contrasting evidence that existing support services for transfer students are either not utilized effectively or are seen as insufficient to ease the transition process. Greater student awareness of existing programs and increased support would also assist students who are unprepared for the differences in culture between colleges and universities. 

Suggestions include university-college liaisons to serve as a link between the institutions, a web link on college and the university websites to expedite information for transfer students, and the development of a database at each university and college that includes course-based information.

​This @ Issue paper was prepared by Angelika Kerr, Ursula McCloy and Shuping Liu of HEQCO.