Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition or Accreditation of Prior Learning

(Please note - this policy is currently under review)

1  Introduction

The Recognition of Prior Learning encompasses the whole process whereby you can identify, explore and claim academic credit for previous certificated and/or experiential learning. The main ways RPL is used is to enter a programme or to save repeating previous study and thus reduce overall student workload. RPL can be gained from a number of different places.

You may be able to gain RPL credit for previous certificated study, undertaken elsewhere (see section 3.2). You also may be able to gain academic credit for experience; for example experience gained through volunteering, or in your workplace (see section 3.3).

For learning to be awarded as credit towards your programme of study, it needs to match learning outcomes and to be evidenced. This guidance explains some of the key terms and the processes followed by QMU. The guidance has been developed to ensure parity and consistency when considering claims for credit for prior learning.

2 Terminology

2.1  Specific Academic Credit can be applied for when specifically matched against the learning outcomes for a module(s) of a QMU programme.

Specific academic credit is normally matched against a whole module. There may be occasions where previous academic credit gained outwith the QMU programme matches the learning outcomes for a specific module component and therefore partial matching (usually exemption from one element of assessment) may be applied for.

2.2  General Academic Credit is the term for academic credit points applied for at a particular SCQF level but not matched to specific module outcomes.

This would usually be applied for:

  1. where module exemptions are sought at a specific level of study or;
  2. where direct entry through advanced standing is granted to a specific level of study (e.g. direct entry to Level 2 of a programme). This general academic credit may be deemed acceptable for the named award but does not specifically match QMU named modules (see section 3)

2.3 Academic Credit Frameworks

There are numerous academic credit frameworks. Using these frameworks allows comparison between qualifications gained through different systems. The frameworks most commonly encountered in the UK include:

2.3.1 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)

This is the credit framework used at QMU and across Scotland. It means that we can be confident that 30 Level 7 (first year undergraduate) credits from another Scottish institution are equivalent to 30 Level 7 (first year undergraduate degree) credits here.

2.3.2 Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) and (CQFW)

RQF is the English Qualification Framework and CQFW is the Welsh Credit and Qualifications Framework that allows us to benchmark qualifications based on size and level. These frameworks allow comparison between qualifications gained in different areas of the UK.

2.3.3      European Credit Transfer Scheme (ECTS)

This is the same principle as the SCQF but is Europe wide. 10 credits on the SCQF are equal to 5 credits on the ECTS.

2.3.4.  National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC)

NARIC is a group that matches international qualifications and UK qualifications. This enables us to be confident that a UG Diploma in Singapore is broadly equivalent to completing Level 9 (year 3) study in the UK. NARIC equivalence is usually ascertained by Admissions department colleagues prior to a student being admitted to a programme

3 Types of RPL

There are three main types of Recognition of Prior Learning.

3.1    Advanced Standing

Applications for Advanced Standing normally relate to the Admissions process for a specific programme. Advanced Standing applies when learning that can be evidenced allows entry to a programme at a later point than the usual admissions point (e.g. directly into Level 2 of an undergraduate programme or directly into the final 120 credits of study in a Masters degree where a student has a PG Certificate).

Advanced Standing for some programmes may be captured by a group agreement that has been drawn up by the Programme Leader or Collaborative Academic Lead AND an appropriate person from the Division of Registry and Academic Administration (e.g. School Manager). A copy of each group agreement is held in the Academic Administration.

Numerous examples of individual applications for Advanced Standing exist. For example, a student with an HND in a relevant subject may apply for entry with Advanced Standing into year two or three of a relevant degree, depending on the extent of shared subject matter covered in the HND. Alternatively, a student with over 10 years of managerial and leadership experience in a large international corporation may wish to apply to an MBA rather than an Honours degree programme (depending on core requisite entry qualifications) and might be eligible, once a matriculated student, to apply for exemption from specific modules through RPEL (see 3.3)

Entry to a programme via Advanced Standing must be notified to the RPL Panel Secretary on RPL form-AS/RPCL-2018 in order for the academic credit to be added to the student record.

3.2.   Recognition of Prior Certificated Learning (RPCL)

RPCL refers to learning that has previously been assessed and certificated by a Further/Higher Education Institution or training provider. Applications for Recognition of Prior Certificated Learning can only be considered for already matriculated students.

RPCL applies when a student can provide appropriate evidence of academic learning by provision of relevant documentation. This would normally include student transcripts, module descriptors indicating recognised academic level of study (e.g. SCQF; RQF, CQFW, ECTS; see above), and evidence of matching either specific or general academic credit (see section 2.1 and RPL form-AS/RPCL-2018). At times, a challenge essay may also be required, to meet the requirements of entry to a programme.

Students are required to complete RPL form-AS/RPCL-2018, which includes a section to be completed by the Programme Leader indicating how the application has been reviewed, how the credit applied for matches against specific or general credit, and a recommendation to the RPL Panel. Applications for RPCL must be notified to the RPL Panel Secretary on RPL form-AS/RPCL-2018 in order for the academic credit to be added to the student record.

3.3    Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL)

Learning which has been achieved outside a formal experience with an education or training provider may be appropriate to use in a Recognition for Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL) claim. This type of learning may be gained through voluntary or workplace experiences.

Applications for RPEL can only be considered for already matriculated students. Students are always advised to seek academic guidance regarding how to best submit an RPEL claim – e.g. for a large amount of credit (over 40 credits), it is often easier to partition the work into different “packages” to allow depth and focus to be evidenced.

Students do need to be aware that the RPEL process requires considerable student effort and can be time-consuming as it involves academic supervision, student work and an assessment, and therefore there is an associated fee, as per publication on the University website. Students and academic supervisors are required to familiarise themselves with the timelines of RPL Panel meetings in order that appropriate deadlines are met and students are facilitated in their RPEL claim and overall student journey

Applications for RPEL follow a two-stage process:

Stage 1 applications must be notified to the RPL Panel Secretary on RPL form-RPEL-2018 at least one week ahead of RPL Panel dates in order for the RPL Panel to scrutinise the application. If approval is granted, an RPEL fee is charged and students can progress to Stage 2, which involves preparation and submission of a package of work to evidence learning. The RPL Panel normally identifies the package, but indications, from the Programme Leader, of potentially appropriate work in the Stage 1 application are welcomed.

Stage 2 concludes with submission of work by the student, to an agreed timeline, and the work is assessed and feedback provided (RPL form-RPEL-2018).

Students who successfully complete Stage 2 will have the appropriate academic credit added to their student record.

4 When can RPL be used?

Section 3 has identified the three main processes whereby RPL can be claimed. However, there is a maximum amount of academic credit which can be claimed through RPL.

The maximum allowed under QMU regulations is up to 50% of the total module credits for a programme. It must also be noted that students are not able to use the same credit twice on the same programme.

Specific QMU regulations that apply are:

5.12 However, any credit approved under RPL and based on a specific episode of prior learning can be used only once on any programme of study.

6.17 At least 50 per cent of the level at which a student enters a programme must be completed at Queen Margaret University in order to gain an award from the University

Full details available from the Registration regulations.

In exceptional circumstances, generally on professional programmes, there may be programme specific circumstances which affect how RPL is used (e.g. specific elements in the V300 Non-Medical Prescribing module.)

5 Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Panel

The purpose of the RPL Panel is to assess applications made by current students for the recognition or accreditation of prior learning. The assurance of quality and equity rests with the RPL Panel.

The RPL Panel comprises a Convener, a School Manager (Secretary) and at least one representative from each division from the university.

The RPL Panel meets up to five times a year and has overarching responsibility for the recognition and accreditation of prior learning.

Much of the initial work regarding RPL (e.g. matching academic credit) is devolved to Module Co-ordinators and Programme Leaders as the experts in their programme. With an increasing number of collaborative programmes, the Collaborative Academic Lead is required to liaise with both their collaborative colleagues and their Divisional representative to ensure the relevant processes are followed, and that the Divisional representative can adequately present the case to the RPL Panel.

5.1    RPL Panel Function

The Panel will:

  • NOTE standard applications for Advanced Standing (AS) and APPROVE non-standard applications for Advanced Standing.
  • APPROVE applications for the Recognition of Prior Certificated Learning (RPCL). Standard applications should be presented with a recommendation from the Programme Leader, and it would be unusual for the Panel to overturn the recommendation. Non-standard cases will be discussed and approved, or not, by the Panel.
  • APPROVE or REFER Stage 1 applications for the Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL).
  • NOTE the outcomes of Stage 2 applications for the Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning.
  • ADD academic credit to the student record
  • NOTIFY the student on the outcome of individual AS, RPCL and RPEL applications

5.2   RPL Panel assessment criteria overview

When assessing any claim for RPL credit the following criteria apply:

Criteria Definition Evidence
Authenticity That the applicant actually completed what is claimed

should be shown to the Programme Leader who can copy them for submission to the Panel if necessary or can confirm that they have seen them on the appropriate RPL form.

For experiential learning, in addition to documentary evidence it may be appropriate to provide verification from a line manager to confirm that the skills and experience claimed are authentic.
Acceptability There is an appropriate match between the learning outcomes being demonstrated, the level of study and the amount of credit being claimed

This may include a transcript showing the SCQF level or a module descriptor or programme specification.

In some instances there may be a mismatch between previous credit gained (e.g. 15 credits) and the module size where RPL is being applied for (e.g. 20 credits) In this case advice may be given about mechanisms whereby additional small amounts of credit may be gained.
Currency Is the learning sufficiently recent to demonstrate up-to-date knowledge and skills? Alternatively, has the student applied/extended/enhanced their relevant knowledge and skills over the intervening time?

If the qualification was gained within the last five years it can be considered to be current, although for some disciplines it may need to be shorter. Equally, if a student gained skills or knowledge over five years ago, but uses them consistently as part of their work or CPD in the intervening years it could be considered current.

A supporting statement from a relevant source (i.e. line manager) may be required to ensure evidence of currency.

5.3   RPL Panel membership

Convener                       Lizanne Steenkamp        

Secretary                       Jenny Ansett      School Manager (Health Sciences)

Minute Secretary           Stacey Barnes    Divisional Project Manager

Members                        Representatives from each Division

Programme Leaders/Collaborative Academic Leads should:

  1. ensure applications are forwarded to the RPL Secretary within the meeting deadlines and;
  2. brief their representative on the RPL Panel ahead of the meeting to allow full discussion of applications and to ensure no delays which may disadvantage the student.


6 What happens if an RPL claim is unsuccessful?

For Advanced Standing and RPCL, if an application is submitted on time, the student/Programme Leader/Collaborative Academic Lead etc., has taken appropriate advice and the application follows due process, QMU RPL guidance and has the relevant form(s) completed along with acceptable, authentic and current evidence attached, it would be expected that the claim would be successful.

If a claim is unsuccessful, an explanation will be provided as to where the application does not meet criteria, and advice provided as to the next steps to be taken.

If a Stage 1 RPEL claim is unsuccessful, an explanation will be provided and advice will be given on how to move forward, and opportunity will be given to resubmit the Stage 1 claim. If a Stage 2 RPEL is unsuccessful, feedback will be provided on the submitted work and the student will be given a second opportunity to submit the work.

Useful references

Quality Assurance Agency UK Quality Code

Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework

Scottish Qualifications Agency - comparing RQF/CQFW/SCQF qualification levels