Senate Source

February 2011

Faculty Groups Explore Streamlining Transfer


In November and December of 2010, the University of California Office of the President and systemwide Academic Senate convened meetings of faculty in five disciplines from all nine undergraduate campuses to discuss lower-division major preparation. The meetings explored commonalities among major requirements at different campuses with the aim of facilitating a successful transition to UC for transfer students. While UC is extraordinarily successful in recruiting and retaining transfer students, anecdotal reports indicate that would-be transfer students have difficulty deciphering major requirements and that some of these students must take additional courses after they enroll before they can begin work in their majors. Such challenges arise in part from differences in departmental curricula between campuses.


For years, the Legislature has urged UC to simplify and streamline the transfer process. The Transfer Preparation Paths online tool is one way that UC has responded. It provides information to prospective transfer students about how to prepare for specific majors (so far, the top 21). The paths highlight significant differences across UC campuses. In a related action, the Senate previously approved Senate Regulation 477 as another tool to streamline transfer articulation. It provides that when four campuses agree to accept a course as transferable preparation for a major it will be considered transferable for the same major on all campuses unless a department announces within a year that it will not accept the course.


In 2010, the legislature passed SB 1440 requiring that the California Community Colleges develop Associate Degrees for Transfer, which would guarantee admission to a specified major at CSU, and AB 2302 requesting that UC work with the CCC to develop associate degrees for transfer to UC. In response, the Commission on the Future identified streamlining transfer as one of the goals that the University should pursue, and President Yudof asked the Senate to examine the topic. Working with the Division of Academic Affairs in the Office of the President, the Senate has begun to examine its degree requirements across the campuses in the most popular majors.


The Senate and Academic Affairs jointly convened groups of faculty in mathematics, biological sciences, history, psychology, and computer science to explore whether they might create common lower division major prerequisites. These majors are among the most popular transfer majors and represent a range of disciplines and complexity. The meetings were productive and revealed significant commonalities across the campuses. Four of the five majors found substantial overlap in their requirements to the extent that one group is considering adopting a uniform textbook for an introductory course, although one major found too many differences to strive for consistency, rooted in substantively different approaches and emphases within the field.

"We strongly recommend that UCOP continue to fund efforts to convene additional disciplines from the twenty high-demand transfer majors,” stated Senate Chair Daniel Simmons. He also emphasized that any revisions to individual departments’ requirements for pre-major requirements must be managed through normal Senate procedures on the campus involved.


In addition, Simmons noted that through its participation in the Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates (ICAS), the Senate will communicate to CCC and CSU faculty the results of the internal UC conversations so that they can incorporate information about UC’s expectations into the design of transfer degrees under SB 1440. "We will recommend that undergraduate programs examine CCC’s proposals for transfer degrees to determine whether they meet their major requirements," he said. "Student Affairs staff have also participated in discussions with CSU and the Community Colleges through the Course Identification Numbering (C-ID) project that is identifying Community College courses that are transferable into majors at CSU."


Finally, an ad hoc committee consisting of members of BOARS, UCEP, and UCOPE considered whether UC could adopt CSU’s GE Breadth pattern of general education courses as an alternative to the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) as a means to simplify transfer requirements and as a step toward unifying the two GE paths. The ad hoc committee did not recommend further pursuit of this idea for several reasons. First, UC highly values the IGETC writing requirement, which is not included in GE Breadth, and is critical for success at UC. Second, the ad hoc committee was concerned that the proposal did not address the issue of adequate major preparation, a concern that was validated in the disciplinary meetings convened in the fall. The math, biology, and computer science groups all noted that students who are advised to focus on completing GE courses do not take enough science and mathematics courses before they transfer, resulting in heavy science and math course loads at UC, and increasing time-to-degree. The ad-hoc committee has proposed that BOARS develop Comprehensive Review guidelines for selecting transfer students with criteria for admission that are grounded in major preparation, supplemented with a sufficient number of GE courses. Admissions criteria would be designed for each major to select those transfer students with the strongest preparation to complete a major in two years.

- Michael LaBriola