Research Archives

Pathways to Education and Work Research Archives


Moodie, G., & Wheelahan, L. (2018). Implications of the human capability approach for relations between Australian vocational and higher education. Retrieved from

This paper uses explores the limitations of human capital theory for education-to-work pathways, and proposes a human capabilities framework as a more equitable and imaginative basis for tertiary education policy. The report presents Australian data to show that present policy frameworks anchored in human capital theory fail to capture how qualifications are actually used in the labour market. Human capital theory further fails to capture the non-economic benefits of tertiary education.

Skolnik, M., Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Liu, Q., Adam, E.G., Simpson, D. (2018). Exploring the potential contribution of college bachelor degree programs in Ontario to reducing social inequality. Policy Reviews in Higher Education. Early online,

Abstract: During the past two decades community colleges and technical institutes in several jurisdictions, including parts of Canada, the United States and Australia, have been given the authority to award bachelor degrees. One of the motivations for this addition to the mandate of these institutions is to improve opportunities for bachelor degree attainment among groups that historically have been underserved by universities. This article addresses the equity implications of extending the authority to award baccalaureate degrees to an additional class of institutions in Canada’s largest province, Ontario. The article identifies the conditions that need to be met for reforms of this type to impact positively on social mobility and inequality, and it describes the kinds of data that are necessary to determine the extent to which those conditions are met. Based on interviews with students, faculty, and college leaders, it was found that regulatory restrictions on intra-college transfer from sub-baccalaureate to baccalaureate programs and lack of public awareness of a new type of bachelor degree may be limiting the social impact of this reform.

Arnold, C., Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Beaulieu, J., & Taylor-Cline, J-C. (2018). Mapping the typology of transition systems in a liberal market economy: the case of Canada. Journal of Education and Work, Early online. doi:

Abstract: This research explores links between tertiary education institutions and between tertiary education and the labour market as determinants of provincial and national transition patterns in Canada. The study consists of a provincial analysis that maps the typology of transition systems across Canada’s devolved federated tertiary education structure. The results show that, nationally: the links between education and work are relatively loose aside from regulated occupations; there is an emphasis on general education; and qualifications are used as a screen for entry to the labour market. However, while Canada can be broadly understood as a liberal market economy, there is provincial diversity within the nation; and there are varying logics for the development of skill, deployment of labour, and relations between institutions. The institutional and policy frameworks, structure of jobs, and formation of skill in Canada’s largest provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec reveal diverse characteristics of transition systems. However, despite internal differentiation in the value of vocational education, variations at the provincial level have not been enough to shift the federal pattern as a whole. Instead, in Canada vocational education is generally stigmatised and viewed as signalling low ability and motivation.


Wheelahan, L. (2017). Differentiating pathways: Why they are not all the same. Opening keynote presentation to the 2017 Pan-Canadian Consortium on Admission and Transfer (PCCAT) conference: 150 Ways to Transfer: A Celebration of Pathways Initiatives and Research, 8-9 June, Toronto.

The presentation draws on research from Australia and Canada to analyse different types of pathways between colleges and universities, and the ways in which they are linked to labour markets. Pathways policy is predicated on building linear connections between credentials within the same field of education. This research shows that instead, many students change their field of education when they undertake a second credential. Further, the linearity of a pathways varies by field of education. This presentation shows the ways in which labour markets help to condition the types of pathways that students follow, and considers policy implications based on this revised understanding.

Moodie, G., & Wheelahan, L. (2017). General principles and local contexts in student pathways. Presentation to the 2017 Conference of the Pan-Canadian Consortium on Admissions & Transfer [PCCAT], 8-9 June 2017, Toronto.

The presentation considers broad factors that affect student transfer: system design, system supports, institutional factors, and pathways. Four levels of analysis for pathways policy are proposed: goals, principles, guidelines, and frameworks. The analysis is applied at five organisational levels: jurisdiction, system, institution, faculty/program, and individual.

Liu, Q., Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Skolnik, M., Adam, E., & Simpson, D. (2017, March 27). College baccalaureate students and their perspectives. Presentation at the College Degree Operating Group meeting. George Brown College, Toronto.

This presentation focused on the findings from the Ontario College Baccalaureates project that addressed three questions: Why college baccalaureates from students’ perspectives? What’s the impact of college baccalaureates on degree accessibility? And how do college baccalaureate students perceive the benefits and challenges in pursuing college baccalaureates? The analysis of quantitative data (Student Satisfaction Survey and enrolment data in the year 2015-16) and interviews with 30 degree students at five Ontario colleges shows that college baccalaureates have widened access to baccalaureate education for students who are less mobile, those who did not perform well enough in high school to get admitted to universities, and those who have financial concerns in their decisions for postsecondary education. The study also found that students consider the applied nature, the professors and their accessibility as the major benefits of college baccalaureate programs, and the stigma attached to program recognition constitutes the biggest challenge for these programs. The presentation encouraged Ontario colleges to celebrate the strengths of college degree programs, continue to support baccalaureate students to deal with existing challenges and make efforts to raise the profile of the degree programs.

Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Skolnik, M., Liu, Q. Simpson, D., and Adam, E. (2017). The college baccalaureate project. Presentation at the Second Annual Meeting of the Sociology of Education Cluster, Canadian Sociological Association. Jan. 27; McMaster University, Hamilton, ON Canada.

In this double session, PEW researchers discussed two aspects of a research project conducted by Ontario CAAT Baccalaureates research team. The research project, funded by Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (OHCRIF), explored the impact of college baccalaureate degrees on colleges and students in Ontario. In “Apples to Apples? Are College and University Baccalaureates the Same?” Diane Simpson, a doctoral student at OISE, presented a curriculum analysis comparing college and university baccalaureates from the same fields of study. Her findings provided insight into the orientations of the degree programs offered by different types of institutions. In the second part of the session, entitled ‘”Access and the Identity of College Baccalaureate Students in Ontario,” Edmund Adam, a doctoral student at OISE, focused on the impact of college baccalaureates on access and identity issues for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. His analysis was based on interviews with baccalaureate students at five Ontario colleges. Findings provided empirical evidence for the role of college baccalaureates in widening accessibility to undergraduate education in the province.


Moodie, G. (2016). Australian colleges’ roles in innovation and regional development. Presented at the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Strategic Policy and Programs Division and the Corporate Coordination Branch Conversation on Innovation: Part III. MaRS Discovery District, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This presentation discusses the relationship between Australian colleges and the Australian federal government. While Australia’s colleges are valued by regional communities, the colleges have a minimal role, if any, in the federal government’s policies and programs for regional development. Given a well established distinction between invention and innovation, Australian data shows that innovation is not concentrated in high technology industries, and that innovation is not mainly the commercialisation of research. The presentation concludes with the observation that presently, the role of Australian colleges is limited to upgrading and mid-skill vocational training. Moodie concludes that colleges have potentially valuable roles to play in accelerating the diffusion of new techniques among existing industry hubs, and in building alliances among firms with common interests.

Arnold, C., Beaulieu, J., Taylor-Cline, J. C., & Wheelahan, L. (2016). Qualifications in Canada: Links between educational and occupational pathways provincially and nationally. Paper presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education’s Annual Conference, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This presentation investigated the nature of pathways within post-secondary education and between post-secondary education and the labour market. In the initial phase of a SSHRC funded investigation of pathways in Canada, the PEW team used detailed document and website analysis of provincial policies, organizations’ missions and mandates, and chronological developments in educational and occupational pathways to craft provincial case studies detailing the history and structure of relations between pathways, qualifications and labour market outcomes in each province.

The second phase used the 2013 National Graduate Survey (NGS) to investigate links between qualifications and occupations.Findings demonstrate that at the national level, the links between qualifications are weak but vary by broad field of education. The links between qualification, occupation, and licencing are much tighter in regulated occupations, and very weak in unregulated occupations.

Lennon, M. C., Brijmohan, A., Lavigne, E., Moodie, G., & Wheelahan, L. (2016a, April). Supporting credit transfer at every level: Guiding principles and a practical framework for building better credit transfer and pathway articulation agreements. Paper presented at the annual Student Pathways in Higher Education conference. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This session presented guiding principles and a practical framework for building better credit transfer and pathway articulation agreements at the system level, within an institution, and within a program. Based on a study that included desk research, data analysis, and consultation with experts, this presentation presented a “decision-making tool” to discern the nature and type of educational pathways needed, and the types of policies and practices needed to support student access, transfer, transition, and success.

Grounded in the theory that higher education qualifications support labour market entry or mobility, transition into higher education, and social mobility, it follows that pathways and transfer are a means to support individual and societal goals. This research developed principles and criteria that departments, institutions and government can use to make decisions about the types of pathways that should be developed, the fields of education that should be linked through pathways, and the institutions that should be involved.

Brijmohan, A., Lavigne, E., Lennon, M. C., Wheelahan, L., & Yang, J. (2016, April). An examination of how transfer pathways are used in Ontario post-secondary education. Paper presented at the annual Student Pathways in Higher Education conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This session presented findings from a project investigating student use of current transfer pathways across Ontario postsecondary institutions. The project analyzed transfer pathway datasets made available through ONCAT, student transfer rates and patterns from the 2013 National Graduate Survey, and the 2013/2014 College Graduate Satisfaction Survey. Findings suggest most pathway agreements are between institutions that are not within commuting distance. A closer examination of the transfer pathways between the College and University sectors reveals that only 17% of universities facilitate transfer from colleges within commuting range.  Second, the findings show that most pathways are underused by transfer students, and for the students who do transfer, most are from institutions within commutable range. Third, the extent to which students stay within the same field of education when they undertake a second postsecondary education qualification varies, but overall, most students change their field of education.

The data highlights the need for more evidence-based transfer pathway policy development that takes into account student use, transfer trajectories, and geographic proximity.

Lennon, M. C., Brijmohan, A., & Lavigne, E. (2016, April). Ontario’s transfer system: Examining PSE students’ trajectories. Paper presented at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Pathway Symposium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This presentation summarized findings from a research project funded by the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) on college to university transfer students. Bringing together data from four different datasets, it finds that the Ontario system provides students with a great number of pathways, but that further efforts should focus on increasing usage.


Lavigne, E., Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Childs, R., Brijmohan, A., & Yang, J. (2015). Canadian college and university pathways as seen through the eye of the 2013 National Graduate Survey: Results and methods. Presented at the Canadian Institutional Research and Planning Association Annual Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

This presentation explored new data from the 2013 National Graduates Survey on graduates’ progression to further post-secondary education. The researchers also discussed the methods used to access the data. Of interest for policy-makers and institutional researchers, the research group found that the NGS provided valuable information relevant to student pathways that could in turn inform policy. The research group also found that most graduates’ further post-secondary education did not reflect a linear and upward progression within the same field of education and varied by field and level of education.

Lavigne, E., Brijmohan, A., Yang, J., Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., & Childs, R. (2015). Pathways to education and work in Ontario and Canada. Presented at the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and University Policy Research Symposium, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This project examined pathways within and between fields of education, and between fields of education and occupations, in Ontario and Canada. Using the 2013 National Graduates Survey, the project found that links between qualifications within the same field of education were weak, as were links between fields of education and occupations. Most students changed their field of education when they undertook a second post-secondary education qualification, but this varied by field of education and by whether pathways were within or between colleges and universities. Similarly, the links between fields of education and occupations were quite weak, but this also varied between fields of education and was related to whether the occupation was regulated or not. This presentation reported the project’s findings as well as discussed the similarities and differences between Ontario and all of Canada, and implications for policy and practice.