By Jodie Scoular

McMaster is part of an agreement between seven Ontario universities to launch a new credit transfer initiative.  McMaster students taking first-year classes will now be able to take arts and science courses from participating universities in their hometowns that will contribute towards a bachelor’s degree.

The new credit transfer consortium will come together to create one master list of 20 first-year courses that will make transferring a simpler process.

Previously, it was difficult to tell if other schools would accept credits from other institutions without being subjected to a long, drawn-out affair.  Now, some universities are looking to create a database of widely accepted courses that students can take to get rid of the guessing game.

Sevan Taghelian, a third-year social science student at Mac, commutes to school each day all the way from St. Catharines.  She says that an initiative like this has the potential to help students in her type of situation, and that distance prevents her from taking summer courses at Mac.

“It would cut down commuting time, which is less stressful because that’s less of my time and money wasted on travel,” she said. “Distance is one of the reasons I hold back from summer school because it’s too far and not worth the commute for one class a day.”

At this point, the initiative will only benefit people taking first year courses; the rationale being that these courses cover general subjects that are not specific to one institution.

Ryan Kinnon, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Association, and the MSU’s Huzaifa Saeed pointed out that the new system will not benefit students who don’t live in the vicinity of Ontario’s ‘leading’ universities.

“Northern and rural students will not benefit from this because all these universities are central. So you can’t really say that we are improving mobility for them,” said Saeed.

Peter Smith, McMaster’s associate vice president (academic), says that eventually the university hopes to include upper-year classes and expand into programs other than arts and science.

Upper-year classes will take more work to convert into universally accepted credits because each institution has their own tailored curriculum.

Ultimately, the new credit transfer system provides a boost to McMaster’s “letter of permission” program, which already has many of the benefits the new system offers.   The letter of permission allows all students to take courses from other universities, perhaps in their hometowns, including online classes.  A consultation with an academic advisor is necessary to find out which credits are transferrable.

A more streamlined credit transfer plan may benefit summer students and those taking courses through correspondence.

Currently, McMaster does not offer online courses or courses in “distance format” of any kind for undergraduate degrees, so this type of credit-transfer program could be beneficial for students who wish to take online courses offered at other universities.

School officials say that meetings to determine the finer points of the plan for this program have just begun, and specific details will be released once all participating institutions confirm them.

The other six universities involved in the consortium are Queen’s University, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University.

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