Spotlight News

  • REPORT: Competency-Based Assessments

    REPORT: Competency-Based Assessments


    Prepared for BCCAT by J. DeDominicis & B. Zabolotney

    Published July 20, 2020


    This project sought to understand how post-secondary institutions in BC and elsewhere are working with competency-based credentials and assessments in their admission processes. For the purposes of this project, competency-based assessment was defined as a framework to collect evidence of competence, in order to evaluate applicants holistically, i.e., not relying solely on required subject-area grades or demonstration of learning through other academic benchmarks or criteria. The research revealed implications and opportunities for BC post-secondary institutions which can inform next and best admissions practices and policies.

    This project adopted a primarily qualitative design, including interviews and surveys with Registrars, Deans and Directors of Admissions, literature review, appreciative inquiry, participatory research methods, and reflective practices. Over 80% of survey respondents indicated that competency-based evaluation criteria were being used at their institution, in addition to academic requirements, for admission to undergraduate, diploma, and/or certificate programs. Respondents mentioned types of competency-based materials required for applications, in addition to academic transcripts, such as letters of recommendation, written personal profiles, essays, or questionnaires, followed by interviews, portfolios and other materials.

    Interview findings pointed to an inconsistency in the use of the term “competency”. Post-secondary institutions used “non-cognitive”, “competency-based”, “broad-based”, and “holistic” to describe their practices of evaluating students on the basis of criteria beyond their academic transcripts. Some interview participants indicated that programs sought to implement competency-based assessment criteria as a means to diversify the incoming cohort. Representatives of institutions that managed in-house competency assessments reported that their processes were resource-heavy and difficult to scale up.

    A number of exemplary admissions practices surfaced during our interviews, and the study discusses structural and systemic attributes which support such practices.


  • REPORT: Who Decides Transfer?

    REPORT: Who Decides Transfer?

    A Review of the Policies and Practices at BC Transfer System Member Institutions

    by Dr. Fiona McQuarrie, Special Projects Officer, BCCAT

    Published November 2020

    Download/View:    REPORT    

    The purpose of this research was to examine transfer credit decision-making processes at BCTS member institutions, to identify the roles or areas that make decisions on transfer credit requests. This comparison is not intended to be evaluative, but rather to provide contextual information for institutions assessing or revising their own policies.

    We collected publicly available data such as transfer credit policies and calendar copy from the websites of 38 of BCTS’ 39 member institutions. This information is challenging to summarize because of the wide range of variation in processes and participants. The full text of the report provides a more complete and nuanced analysis of transfer credit decision processes across the BCTS.

    The broad outcomes of the analysis indicate that approximately 20% of BCTS member institutions do not explicitly identify the decision-makers and/or participants in the transfer credit decision process. Registrars and program heads are the roles that most commonly have the authority to decide on transfer credit requests. More than one role or area, in either a decision-making or advisory capacity, is generally involved in assessing transfer credit requests.

    The study recommends that institutions have a clearly written and publicly available transfer credit policy that identifies all participants in assessments of transfer credit requests, and that defines each step in the assessment process. This information is important to provide consistency and guidance for students, staff, faculty, and administrators. The study also recommends that an academic representative from a relevant discipline be involved in all transfer credit decisions.

  • REPORT: BC Transfer Students Profile and Performance

    REPORT: BC Transfer Students Profile and Performance

    BC TRANSFER STUDENTS: Profile and Performance Report (2013/14-2017/18)

    Prepared for BCCAT by Plaid Consulting
    Published June 2020

    View/Download:     REPORT    INFOGRAPHIC (4 pages)   VIDEO (8 minutes)

    This report examines transfer student pathways and performance from BC Transfer System institutions into BC's public research-intensive universities: Royal Roads University, Simon Fraser University, Thompson Rivers University, University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia, and University of Victoria. On average, transfer students represent about one third of all student population at these universities in a given academic year; and thus are important to these institutions.

    The data from the 2013/14 academic year through to the 2017/18 academic year support the findings of the previous similar reports, which were published for nearly 30 years, with the latest editions completed in 2010 and 2015. These studies compare transfer students’ performance with the performance of students who enter the universities directly from high school (“direct entry students”).

    While the educational journeys of transfer students differ from those of direct entry students in a number of ways, most performance trends seen for direct entry students are echoed in the data from the transfer student population. Transfer students differ demographically: they are older, more often take slightly smaller course load in a given semester, and more often enrol in arts baccalaureate degree programs than their direct entry counterparts. However, the current analysis highlights the continued overall success of transfer students following their transfer to research universities. Their post-secondary success is demonstrated by their course and semester GPA, and degree completion.

  • REPORT: Assessing Sending Institutions

    REPORT: Assessing Sending Institutions

    Outside the BC Transfer System

    By Dr. Fiona A. E. McQuarrie

    Published September 2021

    Download/View:    REPORT    

    At many BC Transfer System member institutions, the assessment of a transfer credit request includes an assessment of the sending institution, to determine whether the sending institution is academically comparable to the receiving institution. 

    This study reviewed the criteria that BC Transfer System (BCTS) member institutions use to assess sending institutions. Of the 39 BCTS member institutions, 21 have specific evaluation criteria for domestic sending institutions, and 16 have specific evaluation criteria for international sending institutions. The evaluation criteria range from short descriptors such as “recognized” and “accredited” to detailed explanations of specific characteristics that the institution and/or course must have in order for transfer credit to be awarded. 

    The  study recommends that:  

    • Each BC Transfer System member institution should define the institutional characteristics that it considers indicators of acceptable academic comparability for sending institutions, in the context of transfer credit. 

    • Each BC Transfer System member should ensure that its policies and procedures for assessing sending institutions align with and reflect the institutional characteristics it has identified. 

    • Each BC Transfer System member institution should clearly communicate to internal and external audiences, on a regular basis, the specific characteristics that sending institutions are expected to possess to be considered academically comparable, for the purposes of granting transfer credit. 

    • BC Transfer System member institutions using external assessments (e.g. association membership, accreditation, transcript evaluation service) to evaluate sending institutions should regularly review the institutional characteristics used by external assessors, and ensure that these align with the institutional characteristics the institution itself has identified as indicators of acceptable academic comparability.   

    • If acceptable institutional characteristics vary at the program level (e.g. if an occupational regulatory body licenses programs at both public and private post-secondary institutions), BC Transfer System member institutions should consider how to accommodate these program-level variations when assessing the academic comparability of sending institutions.
  • REPORT: Credits to Graduation

    REPORT: Credits to Graduation


    By Anna Tikina, Research Officer, BCCAT
    Published April 2020

    Download/View:  REPORT   SUMMARY (4 pages)

    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

  • REPORT: Academic Dual Credit Students

    REPORT: Academic Dual Credit Students


    Experiences and Performance in the BC Post-Secondary System

    Prepared for BCCAT by Plaid Consulting

    Published April 2020

    Download/View:    REPORT    INFOGRAPHIC (4-pages)   VIDEO/PRESENTATION

    Dual credit in BC occurs when credit is granted at both a secondary school and post-secondary institution for completion of a course (FitzGibbon, 2015). With its focus on academic dual credit, this study examines a subset of dual credit programs and follows a 2017 study on dual credit programs that assessed transitions of dual credit students into further post-secondary.

    The analysis of provincial Student Transitions Project (STP) data identified 9,317 academic dual credit students in BC public post-secondary institutions for years 2010/11 through 2016/17. The analysis shows that 68% of academic these dual credit students participated in further BC public post-secondary education. Of them, 41% continued to the same PSI where they took the dual credit course, and 27% transitioned to a different PSI. Thompson Rivers University, the University of Victoria, and the University of the Fraser Valley were the institutions with the highest rates of academic dual credit students returning to the same PSI where they were previously enrolled in dual credit course.

    Of the dataset that contained 10,524 aggregate records for students who took academic dual credit courses at BC’s public institutions between 2010/11 and 2017/18 academic years, 2,353 students (roughly one in five) completed one or more credentials, most often in business, health or in multiple disciplines.

    The 4,146 academic dual credit students who studied at four case-study institutions (Camosun College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, North Island College, and Thompson Rivers University) during the period 2010/11 to 2017/18 were characterised by the following:

    • They tended to take academic dual credit courses in Grades 11 and 12
    • They were predominantly female
    • They tended to have high grades in English 12, and
    • They were typically high academic performers overall.

    An online survey of students who completed a dual credit course and continued to one of the four case-study institutions gathered information on the experiences of 727 students. More than half of respondents (56-64% varying by case-study institution) undertook post-secondary programs related to their academic dual credit courses. The student respondents chose academic dual credit courses because they were keen on obtaining post-secondary experience. They identified three most influential motivators for them to take academic dual credit course: high school teachers, someone with dual credit experience, and high school counsellors. When asked for suggestions on how to improve academic dual credit programs, the respondents’ most common answer was “More academic dual credit opportunities”.

  • BCCAT Commemorative Video

    BCCAT Commemorative Video

    Reflections on BC’s long history of transfer credit pathway development to the present day can help to inform us as we map a continuing path through the years ahead. In 2020, we look forward to continuing our collaboration with post-secondary partners as we build on the successes and strengths of this remarkable transfer community! See video

  • REPORT: Block Transfer & Degree Partnerships

    REPORT: Block Transfer & Degree Partnerships


    Prepared for BCCAT by P. Merner & M. Bennett
    Published September 2020

    View/Download:  REPORT

    The main purposes of this research are to describe the volume, features and trends of block transfer agreements (BTA) and degree partnership (DP) pathways in the BC Transfer System (BCTS); to determine existing business practices that determine collection of data on degree pathways; and to identify successful practices that may assist institutions in collecting data on tracking BTA/DP usage by students.

    The analysis utilized the Central Data Warehouse (CDW) transfer credits data covering the period 2009-10 to 2018-19. The sending and receiving institutions identified in the CDW data were compared to similar information in 1,424 block transfer or degree partnership agreements drawn from the BC Transfer Guide (BCTG).

    Over the ten-year period, CDW institutions assessed transfer credits at block transfer for 3,481 students from BCTS member institutions. These students transferred 125,843 credits as block, or 7.4% of the total transferred through all credit types. Only approximately 27% of transfers occurred with a block transfer or degree partnership agreement between the sending and receiving institution posted on the BCTG.

    There was a fair amount of variation in what information on incoming students was collected and recorded. Most institutions recorded block credit awarded, although many assessed block credit transfers on a course-by-course basis “sometimes” and in a few cases “always or most of the time”. Most institutions treated degree partnership transfer the same as block transfer. A majority of survey respondents (63%) reported that they accommodated block transfer without a formal agreement being in place. Some institutions did not record block credit, despite the apparent presence of block transfer agreements.

    The study concludes with a discussion of possible strategies for improving institutional and system-level data. Institutional data and information support are discussed, as well as the possibility of creating a comparative base for system reporting.

    Related publications: 2019 Implementing Block Transfer Agreements report, 2014 Block Transfer in the BC Transfer System report

  • REPORT: International Transfer Credit Practices

    REPORT: International Transfer Credit Practices


    Prepared for BCCAT by Joanne Duklas, Duklas Cornerstone Consulting
    Published January 2019

    Download/View:    REPORT    SUMMARY

    International assessment of academic documents by post-secondary institutions and other bodies represents a complex field guided by quality assurance frameworks, formal conventions and best practice. It is a formal field of practice and requires system-level supports and expertise that are not easily replicated within individual institutions. This research reviewed and showcased exemplars across Canada of use innovative and promising practices in assessing international transfer credit.

    Often course equivalency is established by looking for substantial equivalence. This requires highly detailed assessments of inputs, such as credits, weighting, and text used, with the intent of establishing maximum comparability in program content. The Lisbon Recognition Convention and best practice guides encourage the adoption of quality assurance and access practices informed by concepts such as substantial difference and a focus on learning outcomes. Assessing substantial difference in courses identifies areas sufficiently significant to impede a student’s subsequent success in further study, and encourages the granting of credit recognition when such significant gaps are not found.

    A survey of institutions and qualitative interviews, with a particular focus on members of the BC Transfer System showed that most of the review processes of international documents rely on hand review of individual credentials and/or supporting information submitted by individual students and/or sent directly from other institutions in paper or PDF formats. Documents reviewed to support the transfer and exchange equivalency assessment processes tend to include academic transcripts, other academic credentials, detailed course information, and translations (where needed). The Registrar’s Office remains pivotal in policy and partnership development, and the Admissions Office tends to support individual document evaluations, while faculty members within program areas conduct most of the course equivalency assessments.

    The report contains a sample list of service providers of international transfer credit assessment practices across the globe, a list of institutional resources with transfer policy examples and tools, a list of associations that support credential evaluation service providers, as well as a list of challenges in assessing international transfer credit and recommended responses to those.

  • REPORT: Admissions Policies and Practices for Underrepresented Students

    REPORT: Admissions Policies and Practices for Underrepresented Students


    Prepared for BCCAT by P. Merner & P. Beatty-Guenter

    Published September 2018

    Download/View:    REPORT    SUMMARY (4-pages)

    The key purpose of the research project was to assess the policies and practices at the BC Transfer System institutions for admitting underrepresented (equity) groups of students, as well as to summarize the data sources available on the underrepresented groups. Beyond the review of Canadian and international literature, this analysis involved scanning websites and other digital documentation for the 38 institutions of the BC Transfer System, as well as provincial government webpages and other online material. A survey of the institutional research offices at public BC post-secondary institutions provided information on institutional data collection practices and the identification of underrepresented groups. The final stage of information gathering involved interviews of admissions and other professionals to garner first-hand information about equity initiatives and access practices in an operational context.

    The literature review identified key groups and factors (often correlated) that influence access to post-secondary education: low socio-economic status, parental education, low secondary school success, family, Indigenous identity, rural location, gender, ability limitation, and cultural distinctiveness. While some barriers may be amenable to change, others are not and must be addressed in other ways.

    Typically, post-secondary institutions have responded to access and equity issues in three main ways: through creating or improving programs, through services, and through policy and practices. In many cases institutional responses were multi-faceted, and it was also often difficult to delineate what underrepresented groups the practices were aimed at.

    The strongest policy statements were found with respect to the more visible and defined groups (e.g., Indigenous people and those with ability limitations). In other respects, such as with first-generation learners or those from rural origins, policy was almost entirely absent. This served to underline the differences in visibility among the underrepresented groups. As with policy, some underrepresented groups are well supported by admissions practices designed specifically to support their needs, while other groups less so, or not at all. This is not to say that individuals are not supported during admissions processes, but that practices are not targeted specifically towards them, by dint of group membership.

    The report contains a review of availability of data sources that support current and future research on underrepresented groups. The sources of data on underrepresented groups include many Statistics Canada resources, such as the Census, data sets and surveys available through CANSIM (PSIS, NGS and the LFS), and discontinued but available YITS, PEPS and SLS/F; BC provincial/institutional data sets include the CDW and STP, and the BC Outcomes Surveys; and Institutional / Consortia data sets such as CUSC, NSSE, and UCAS.