Credits to Graduation

Author: A. Tikina | Published: Apr 03, 2020

The number of credits completed to earn a baccalaureate degree continues to be an important criterion for measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of transfer between post-secondary institutions.

The current study compared the total number of credits completed for a baccalaureate degree by 2015/16 direct entry and transfer graduates at Simon Fraser University, Thompson Rivers University, the University of British Columbia, the University of the Fraser Valley, the University of Northern British Columbia, and the University of Victoria.

Transfer students’ total number of credits was obtained as a sum of the number of credits in the university data and the number of credits the students had obtained at selected “high volume” BC public sending institutions. The sending institutions’ data were available through the province-wide Student Transitions Project (STP).


Study Cohort Description

Overall, transfer students constituted 12% of the students in the study cohort. About 65% of transfer students with a known high school graduation date registered in post-secondary programs at a CDW institution within one year of high school graduation. About 40% of transfer students received one or several credentials from an institution contributing to the BC Central Data Warehouse (CDW) in addition to a baccalaureate from their receiving university.

Roughly 60% of transfer students graduated from Arts programs. The proportion of direct entry students was smaller: 41% of direct entry students graduated with a BA degree. By comparison, only 24% of the transfer student cohort graduated from Sciences programs, while 33% of direct entry students graduated in Sciences.



  • Transfer in BC does not appear to add significant barriers on the pathway to a bachelor’s degree: transfer students from selected sending institutions performed well. The program and overall average difference of attempted and earned credits between transfer and direct entry students was marginal.
  • Transfer students graduated with a somewhat higher number of credits than the direct entry students (on average, nine more credits), the overall small difference reflects a high alignment of articulated courses. The difference in number of completed credits between direct entry and transfer students was greater for students in Engineering, Business and Sciences programs, and marginal for Arts programs.
  • The finding that both transfer and direct entry students completed somewhat more credits than required for their baccalaureate possibly reflects the exploratory nature of undergraduate studies rather than systemic inefficiencies.
  • The findings that direct entry students earn additional credits at selected sending institutions, and that transfer students earn credentials besides bachelor’s degrees confirm that students’ pathways through post-secondary education are rarely linear.

Related publications: 2010 Credits to Graduation Report and Summary