Community College Research Initiatives

December 14, 2018

Data Note 6: A Typology of Transfer Partnerships

While there is increasing interest in how transfer partnerships between colleges and universities impact student outcomes, a clear definition of partnerships remains elusive. Researchers at the Community College Research Initiative (CCRI) developed a framework that institutions can use to evaluate the quality of existing partnerships, or as a guide for starting new partnerships.

As part of the High-Performing Partnerships study, CCRI researchers spoke to 201 faculty, staff, and students from institutional partners that have higher transfer, retention and completion rates than others in their state. The interviews revealed that collaborations between institutions can range from simple articulation agreements to shared goals, policies, and programs. CCRI researchers defined four levels of collaboration based on findings from the interviews, and a model used to understand multi-organizational strategic alliances. The levels are:

Cooperation: Institutions share information with each other to facilitate student transfer between them.

Coordination: Institutions align some of their activities or sponsor particular events in order to support student transfer from one institution to the next.

Collaboration: Institutions collaborate to develop common strategies, policies, and/or systems to actively promote student transfer from one institution to the next.

Alliance: Institutions integrate some of their procedures to create new programs or structures that create a seamless transfer experience from one institution to the next.

In Data Note 6, researchers provide examples of the activities that take place at each level of the continuum. The activities are also divided by culture, policies, and practices, which are the three categories of partnership characteristics described in Data Note 1. Here is the table of those activities:

Partnership Activities

For more information about the researchers’ findings and how these frameworks can be used by institutions, download the full PDF below.

Download Data Note 6


This Data Note is part of CCRI’s High-Performing Partnerships Study (HPTP) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study focuses on how higher performing transfer collaborations between two and four-year colleges and universities work on the ground. Researchers identified high-performing partnership pairs from a dataset collected for the national initiative on reverse credit transfer called Credit When It’s Due (CWID). Read the full series of Data Notes and more about the project here