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Admissions: Accreditation of Prior Learning


This policy is designed in line with the QAA expectations and requirements set for the Recognition of prior learning and in line with the College’s collaborative partners and awarding bodies.

What do we mean by Recognition of Prior Learning? 

RPL is the process for recognising learning that has its source in experience and/or previous formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts. This includes knowledge and skills gained within school, college and university and outside formal learning situations, such as through life and work experiences[1].

Aim: this policy seeks to enable learners to avoid the duplication of learning and assessment. There are two ways in which this will be achieved:

  • The opportunity to transfer credits, i.e. to recognise previously accredited achievement from within or outside the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) to count towards other qualifications.
  • For individuals with learning or achievements that have not been certificated/accredited it may be possible to assess and validate these through the RPL process. These achievements may then count towards a qualification.
The Policy
  1. In order to achieve the above, a learner must produce valid and reliable evidence of learning to support any claims based on experience. A learner may claim RPL against a whole unit or several units. It is not possible to award part units, but where the RPL evidence does not fully meet the needs of a complete unit, the missing information may be provided via the same assessment processes that are undertaken by a taught group of learners.
  2. For RPCL, the College allows a maximum of 10 years prior to the start of study on the registered qualification and the minimum RPL credit claim permitted is 20 credits.
  3. For RPEL, in order to achieve recognition of achievement there are two options open to the learner:
    • Undertake the same assessments as those following the formal course of learning and assessment that lead to the desired unit or qualification. These assessments may be undertaken without attending the teaching sessions.
    • Submit a portfolio of evidence based on previous learning, skills and/or competence cross referenced to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of the unit or units for which RPL is being sought.
  4. Under some circumstances there may be a limit to the proportion of a qualification that can be achieved by either credit transfer or RPL. For example within Access to HE Diplomas, not more than 50% (i.e. 30 credits) may be achieved by either or both of these processes.

A student may be awarded recognition for prior learning (certified, experiential or uncertified), towards the requirements of a named award up two-thirds[2]of the total credit requirements for that award.

       5. RPL cannot be recognised against the following:

    • level 6 of a full 360 credit bachelor’s degree
    • the thesis/dissertation module of a bachelor’s degree, where the student is required 120 credits to gain the award
    • the thesis/dissertation module on a Postgraduate Programme.

6. The learner must play an active role in the process as s/he must produce evidence and map it to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of all units they wish to claim. Appropriately trained staff from the learning provider organisation concerned should be available to give specialist advice on this process. The individual wishing to make the claim may also require the support of their employer or other organisation (e.g. if they have worked as an unpaid volunteer) in order to be able to confirm achievement of assessment criteria for which there is no tangible evidence, e.g. practical tasks.

Principles of RPL

According to ‘Claiming Credit – Guidance on the recognition of prior learning within the Qualifications and Credit Framework’, the five principles of RPL are as follows:

    • RPL is a valid method of enabling individuals to claim credit for units and qualifications of the RQF, irrespective of how the learning took place and the assessments undertaken. There is no difference between the achievement of the required standards through prior leaning and through a formal programme of study.
    • RPL must comply with all regulatory requirements for assessment. RPL policies, processes, procedures, practices and decisions should be transparent, rigorous, reliable, fair and accessible to individuals and stakeholders to ensure that users can be confident of the decisions and outcomes of RPL.
    • RPL is a learner-centred voluntary process. The individual should be offered advice on the nature and range of evidence considered appropriate to support a claim for assessing RPL, and be given guidance and support to make his or her claim.
    • The process of RPL is subject to the same standard of quality assurance and monitoring processes as any other form of learning and assessment.
    • Assessment methods for RPL must be of equal rigour as other assessment methods, must be fit for purpose and relate to the evidence of learning. An individual may claim RPL for any whole unit unless the assessment criteria of a unit states otherwise. For example if an external assessment sets the standard of learning outcome that a learner must achieve, then the learner must pass the external assessment to achieve the unit and gain the credit.
[1] Recognition of Prior Certificated Learning (RPCL); Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL)
[2] two-thirds of RPL is only permitted for full, three-year bachelor’s degrees (360 credits) or full Masters degrees (a minimum of 180 credits) and not sub-awards, where the usual maximum is 50%.