Explanations of many of the key terms below can be found in our glossary. This quick guide is based on our detailed guidance, and should be interpreted in relation to it.
TEIs set their own APL policies, within the limits and guidelines set by Durham. TEIs determine how much APL they will accept, on which programmes, and at which levels. Durham approves TEI APL policies.
Durham allows up to one-third of the credit for most Common Awards programmes (Certificate, Diploma, BA, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, and MA – but not the Foundation Award) to be granted as APL, at any of the levels covered by the programme, with up to 60 of those credits being covered by APEL, but with no more than 40 credits of APL at Level 5, and no more than 40 at Level 6. TEIs may, however, if they have good reason, be more restrictive.
TEIs should provide clear information to applicants, advise them as they apply, keep them informed of progress, assess their applications, and notify them of the outcome, giving clear feedback if an application was unsuccessful.
If applicants are granted an exemption from any modules, they will be given an equivalent number of credits, at the relevant levels, to count towards their Common Awards programme. Those credits won’t have any mark associated with them.
TEIs should ensure that students who are granted APL are left with a coherent programme of study, and one that makes sense for them at a level appropriate to them in the subject areas they will be studying (within any constraints imposed by the need to cover certain subject areas to meet professional requirements). APL is a way of recognising existing work that a student has done, so that they can then build on it and progress from it. The modules that a student takes under Common Awards should therefore allow them to progress through their programme toward the highest level covered by it, both overall and within each major subject area. APL should not be used as a means to allow a student who has already reached a higher level to gain an award by means of an arbitrary collection of modules at lower levels.
It is possible for applicants to ‘re-use’ credits that have already been used towards another award, providing that they demonstrate they have already covered most or all of the relevant Learning Outcomes.
Students can’t claim APL to exempt them from a Common Awards dissertation or major project (i.e., one worth 40 credits or more), or from a 20-credit Independent Learning Project if they would be taking that rather than a dissertation or extended project as their main independent project at Level 6 of the BA.
If the student’s prior learning was part of a course of study that was formally assessed and certificated by a higher education provider, we treat it as ‘Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning’ (APCL); otherwise it is ‘Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning’ (APEL).
The prior learning should normally have been demonstrated within the past five years. For APCL, that means the point at which the student was awarded the credits, or received the related academic award or transcript; for APEL, it means the point at which either the original learning happened, or the events or practices in which the applicant demonstrated that he or she had kept that learning alive.
If certificated learning is older than five years, the applicant may be able to use APEL to bridge the gap.
The heart of an APL application is a ‘mapping exercise’ which lists the Learning Outcomes that would normally be met by a student who took the modules from which the applicant wishes to be exempted.
Those can be the relevant Programme Learning Outcomes or the relevant Module Learning Outcomes, whichever is most convenient, and (in the academic judgment of the TEI) best captures the role of the module in the applicant’s pathway.
Applicants must state how they have demonstrated that each of these Learning Outcomes has been met, and provide appropriate evidence.
For APCL, applicants might list modules from their prior learning, and/or learning outcomes from those modules, and/or assignments passed as part of those modules. They will provide transcripts or other paperwork to show they have passed the relevant modules or assignments.
For APEL, applicants might provide examples of work that they have already produced, and/or might be asked to provide a new piece of work specifically for the application, and/or might be interviewed by a tutor, and/or might provide some other kind of evidence.
The evidence supplied needs to be sufficient to allow an assessor to make an academic judgment as to whether the applicant’s learning is in the right area, at the right level, and broadly equivalent in scope and depth to the learning of a student who had passed the relevant Common Awards modules. The assessor will also judge whether any problem will be created for the applicant’s progression to later stages of the programme, or with the coherence of his or her studies. This academic judgment is the key element in the whole APL process.
TEIs should ensure that judgments about APL are made by competent people. This will normally mean that applications will be scrutinized by someone in the TEI who assesses work in the relevant area and at the relevant levels within Common Awards, and that this person’s recommendation will be confirmed by a sub-committee of the TEI’s Board of Examiners, and reported to the Board of Examiners.
If applicants have met most but not all of the Learning Outcomes by means of prior learning, they will need to show that any gaps will be plugged by the learning they go on to do under Common Awards.
TEIs should refer APL applications to Durham if the relevant Learning Outcomes have not all been met and won’t obviously be met by the Common Awards modules the student goes on to take, if the quantities of APCL and/or APEL fall outside the limits set in the policy, or if the applicant’s prior learning is not ‘current’. The TEI should, wherever possible, make a provisional judgment; Durham’s role will normally be to confirm whether the TEI’s judgment was appropriate.
TEIs should keep clear records of applications and outcomes, and a copy of all evidence submitted. TEIs should report approved APL to Durham.