Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is the name for the process whereby students are given credit for learning they undertook before joining a QMU programme. It covers the following situations:

  • Non-standard entry, ie applicants who don’t have the standard qualifications defined as the normal entry criteria for the programme. (The normal entry criteria are always defined in the programme document.) A decision will have to be made as to whether their prior learning – academic qualifications and work experience – is equivalent to the normal entry criteria.
  • Advanced Standing, ie applicants who want to enter a programme at a higher level than normal because they have already studied elsewhere. (For example, students transferring from another university.)
  • Applicants who want exemption from specific modules because they have already studied a similar module (in another university) or because they have significant professional experience.

In all of the above situations, the programme leader should consult their CAL for advice. In most cases the final decision will need to be referred to the QMU RPL Panel. The RPL Panel has been set up to ensure that students are treated equitably and consistently across all the different programmes.

Full guidance on Recognition of Prior Learning.

Application forms for Recognition of Prior Learning.



Where the situation relates to admission to the programme and where the applicant’s previous learning is fairly straightforward, the CAL will normally make a decision. This will then come to the QMU RPL Panel for noting.

In cases where a large number of students are affected, a Group Agreement can be approved by the Panel and subsequent applicants can be noted without full paperwork scrutiny being required. This may apply when a number of students are transferring from one course to another.

Certificated and experiential learning

Certificated learning is normally straightforward to deal with. The key things to remember are that:

  • The learning should be relevant to the learning outcomes of the programme / module.
  • The learning should be at the right academic level.
  • It should be current (normally not more than five years old – see guidance).

Experiential learning is less easy to deal with. Students / applicants may wish to use their previous professional experience to apply for two different types of credit:

  • General credit towards a programme as a whole
  • Exemption from individual modules (specific credit)

If the application is for general credit, the applicant must normally demonstrate how they meet the overall programme learning outcomes. If the application is for specific credit, they must normally demonstrate how they meet the module outcomes.

Learning may be evidenced through a portfolio, an essay or even a viva. In some cases it will be more practical for the evidence to be assessed by the partner locally, especially if material is in another language. However, the RPL panel will need to see how the evidence was mapped against the learning outcomes. Partners should ask the CAL, in the first instance, to guide them about the type of evidence that is appropriate and how to set it out systematically for the RPL panel.

Please note, it is not just the fact that experience has been gained that is important, but that the student is able to evidence what they have learned, at the correct academic level. For example, a student might have worked in a bank for three years. What they learnt from that depends on the type of work they did, the extent to which they simply followed set procedures or were involved in developing and defining procedures, and the level of autonomy they were allowed within their role. 

The SQCF level descriptors are a useful guide.

Programme Leaders are encouraged to contact their CAL for advice, so CALs should be aware of the process and the RPL guidance. It is important that CALs know who their divisional representative is on the Panel, as this will be their first point of contact for specific queries. The chair and secretary may also be approached for advice.



Collaborations and Partnership Development

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Collaborations and Partnership Development

Sheila Adamson Partnership Development Manager 0131 474 0000