Accredited Prior Learning, APEL and APCL

Accredited Prior Learning (APL) is learning, appropriately evidenced, that has normally been achieved outside the formal education system offered by the University of Hertfordshire.  APL is known by some education providers and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) as RPL: Recognition of Prior Learning.

APL can consist of either Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or Accredited Prior Experiential (or informal) Learning (APEL).

The following definitions for these have been approved by the Academic Board:

(a) Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) is

‘learning which has been recognised previously by an education provider, evidenced by formal certification, and assessed and recognised for the award of credit by the University.’

No fee is charged for APCL.

(b) Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) is

‘learning which has been achieved through experiences outside the formal education and training systems normally associated with a working environment, which has been assessed and recognised for the award of credit by the University.’

A fee is charged for APEL, which will vary depending on context and must be outlined to students during the initial discussion.


The University of Hertfordshire uses APL in two ways:

  • to provide advanced standing / credits towards a named award, i.e. specific credit; or
  • to provide general credit that may be used towards an award with either a generic or a semi-generic title available through the CATS Programme, i.e. generic credit.

Accredited Prior Learning: UH General Principles

  1. Learning is a life-long process and general credit awarded in recognition of experiential learning is not time-limited.  However, specific credit for a named award may need to be time-limited in subject areas where the knowledge base and practices are rapidly developing.
  2. APEL is always directly linked to a target award and may be awarded in multiples of 15 credits.
  3. There is a limit to the amount of credit from APEL that can contribute to an award. This will vary from one award to another according to programme structure and requirements, but the maximum is 75% of the credit requirement for the award.
  4. APEL does not involve a pass/fail assessment. The process determines, on the basis of experiential learning, whether the candidate qualifies for the award of a specified amount of credit at a stated level.
  5. Credit from APEL and externally gained APCL is not graded. Judgements will be made recognising that a candidate will need to demonstrate that he/she has met the learning outcomes at the pass standard at the relevant level of study.
  6. APCL derived from a completed University of Hertfordshire award is not graded.
  7. Each School should have a member of academic staff who will work with students on individual APEL claims for specific credit and/or general credit. They will have either undertaken CAQA training on the APEL process, or will work with the guidance of CAQA staff.
  8. It is expected that the APEL process will normally be completed within one year of starting the process. However, the opportunity exists to extend the final submission date beyond one year although an additional fee may become payable. APEL submissions should be completed as the student seeks registration on the target programme.
  9. Where the outcome of the assessment process is that it is not possible to approve the award of APEL in whole or in part, the candidate will have one resubmission opportunity.
  10. All appeals relating to APCL/APEL are subject to the regulations set out in Appendix 1, UPR AS12. Appeals from CATS Examination Boards will be considered by the Dean of the Hertfordshire Business School.

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)

APCL claims may be made for one of five reasons:

  1. where a student is progressing from one UH programme to another (e.g. a PGCert onto a Master’s degree); or
  2. where a student is progressing from a UH collaborative partner (for instance, with a Foundation Degree from a Herts HE Consortium College onto the final year of a UH Honours degree); or
  3. where an individual student has completed a recognized award elsewhere, for advanced standing onto a University award (for instance, with a Foundation Degree from a different College onto the final year of a UH Honours degree); or
  4. where an individual student transfers to UH for a specific award, having commenced their programme of study at another University; or
  5. as part of an APEL/APCL claim which may also involve enrolling on some taught modules at UH for a generic or semi-generic award.

APCL may be general or specific;

The maximum permitted APCL credit available towards a final award from the University of Hertfordshire is set out in UPR AS11 and is 75% of the total credit requirement for the award. This may vary, however, according to the programme concerned but may not exceed the above maximum.

Procedures for the award of APCL

The following procedure need not be followed where the APCL is part of an advanced standing agreement (i.e. an articulation; recognition or progression agreement) or a joint or dual award (where APCL is awarded for prior study at a partner institution).

  1. Where a candidate seeks an award based partly on both APEL and APCL, the process set out in paragraph 3.4 below will normally be followed.
  2. All requests for individual APCL will normally be made in writing, typically at the point of application to enter the programme. It is the responsibility of the student applying for APCL to make the claim and to provide necessary documentary evidence. Admissions Tutors and Programme Tutors are however encouraged to be pro-active in identifying APCL opportunities and advising students accordingly.
  3. A student/candidate seeking APCL credit will normally be required to apply for such credit on receipt of an offer of a place on a programme. The information should include confirmation from the awarding institution of the level of the award, module(s) or short course in accordance with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (2014) together with the date of completion of the award, module(s) or short courses.
  4. The value and level of specific credit to be awarded to a student is normally determined by the Admissions Tutor (in consultation with the Programme Tutor and Module Leader(s) of modules for which specific credit may be awarded) and is ratified by the relevant Programme Board.
  5. In judging specific APCL credit to be awarded, the staff concerned will wish to consider whether:
  6. - the prior study is sufficiently recent to meet the current learning outcomes of the programme;

    - the combination of APCL and modules to be studied at the University will together constitute a coherent programme of study which will meet the programme learning outcomes, as specified in the programme specification;

    - the APCL is sufficiently equivalent to the learning outcomes of module(s) for which the student/candidate may consequently be awarded specific credit;

    - sufficient information is available on the academic value and level of previous study.

  7. In judging general credit to be awarded, it will not be possible to map the credit to any programme, or module learning outcomes. Instead, the process should focus on evidencing the academic volume and level of the previous study, using the FHEQ and relevant subject benchmark statements wherever possible.
  8. All APCL decisions must be recorded and clearly identified in all papers considered by Programme Boards and in the student/candidate transcript.

APCL Forms

These are available on the CAQA HertsHub site  (under the heading 'Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)'.

  • APCL Recording Form A for student
  • APCL Recording Form B for Tutor and Board

Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

APEL is a process linked to an award. It involves identifying, assessing and accrediting relevant learning that has been gained through experience (such as employment, work experience, volunteering, or experience as a service user) that can be shown to be equivalent to learning within a formal qualification, module or other unit. Accrediting learning from experience enables the learning to be used as part of a qualification and so save learners having to repeat learning that they have already acquired and demonstrated. APEL recognises that learning gained experientially and skills, knowledge, and understanding gained outside of formal education, are valued as having parity with formal learning processes.

Through an APEL process, credit is awarded for the demonstration of learning against required learning outcomes, for example, as described in a programme specification or definitive module document, or against nationally recognized level descriptors. This ensures that credit from APEL is consistent with the National Qualifications Framework. Credit awarded through APEL and credit awarded through formal study has equal weight. The only difference is in the route taken to achieve the learning, skills or competences.

The APEL Process

The APEL process is outline in the flowchart below. Further details on each step are given below the flowchart. Note, however, that there is room for creativity in the APEL process when the context requires it. Given the variety of academic programmes in which the APEL claim might be undertaken, there must be an opportunity for the student to demonstrate their learning in a form which is fit for context. An APEL assessment in a creative arts context, for example, might be largely oral or through an artefact, as opposed to a discipline where the normal form of assessment is through written work.

APEL Forms

These are available on the CAQA HertsHub site  (under the heading 'Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)'.

The process set out below will not apply to APEL where students satisfying the same widely recognised (and previously assessed) work experience/training are admitted to a programme.

Flowchart explaining APEL process

Initial Meeting or discussion

The Initial meeting or discussion with an APEL Tutor/Adviser is organised by the School concerned. It is informal and may often take the form of a telephone conversation.

The purpose of the meeting or discussion is to decide whether an APEL claim should be progressed.

The process and costs of APEL are explained, including candidate commitments and relevant time limits and the fact that success is not guaranteed; the candidate will be advised that a viva may be required to conclude the assessment.

Where relevant, an APEL Tutor and candidate will consider the appropriate title from approved CATS generic and semi-generic programme titles (see section 5 of the Flexible Credit Framework) for proposal to the CATS Approval Board.

An APEL Tutor gives advice as to the appropriate evidence of prior learning to be brought to Interview 1. A record of any APCL is made and a summary of the discussion between the candidate and the APEL Tutor is recorded on APEL Form 1

The School may offer individual or cohort support to the student to facilitate reflection on their learning and the development of the APEL claim.

Interview 1

A structured interview, guided by APEL Form 1, takes place with the APEL Tutor and Subject Specialist, where appropriate. The candidate will bring original certificates (with copies) for APCL (where relevant) and relevant evidence of prior learning. The interview focuses on identifying the candidate’s areas of learning and appropriate evidence for accreditation and the individual process for the candidate. An initial indication is given to the candidate of the potential amount and level of credit that is likely to be appropriate although the credit finally awarded may be at any quantity and level.

Alternatively, if the candidate is claiming APEL against specific programme modules, the learning outcomes for the modules will be discussed so that the candidate understands how their learning relates to those outcomes.

  • A summary of the discussion between the candidate and the APEL Tutor is recorded on APEL Form 1
  • A date is agreed for Interview 2

Between interview 1 and Interview 2

  1. Candidate accesses APEL guidance and appropriate forms to support submission of exploration of learning;
  2. APCL certificates/transcripts are verified as required;
  3. The formative APEL submission is submitted by an agreed date to the APEL Tutor in preparation for Interview 2;
  4. The APEL Tutor reviews the formative submission with any relevant Subject Specialist and provides formative feedback to the candidate at Interview 2.

Interview 2

  1. A second structured interview is conducted by the APEL Tutor when the candidate has assembled and submitted the formative submission;
  2. An appropriate Subject Specialist may be asked to advise the candidate on the claim, and Subject Specialists will always be involved when specific credit is being sought, as well as credit towards a semi-generic award;
  3. Feedback is given, together with advice about final submission.  The date of final submission is agreed;
  4. A summary of the discussion between the candidate and the APEL Tutor is recorded on APEL Form 1.

Final Submission

  1. The candidate makes a final submission which will comprise an exploration of prior experiential learning organised into areas of learning, supported by appropriate evidence. This involves using Form 2 or 2a for the appropriate academic level to map the level descriptors or learning outcomes against each area of learning. Form 2 will be most appropriate to general credit claims and Form 2a most appropriate form claims against specific module or programme learning outcomes.
  2. Each separate ‘area’ of learning submitted must be accompanied by:
    - Mapping of level descriptors/learning outcomes (APEL Form 2/2a for Levels 4/5/6/7
    - Items of evidence cross referenced to the claim
  3. A Final Submission may be made at any point in the year, but normally 3 months before the CATS APL/WBL Board (or named award Board of Examiners) at which it is to be considered. The date of the CATS APL/WBL Board (or named award Board of Examiners) at which the APEL will be considered is documented on the candidate’s submission form.
  4. Application for any APCL should be made to the CATS APL/WBL Board at the same time as the presentation of the APEL claim.
  5. Submissions will be presented at a CATS APL/WBL Board or named award Board of Examiners where applicable.

Registration onto the programme concerned

Candidates are registered onto the target programme by completing the appropriate application form. Registration may be completed once the APEL final submission is assessed. Students should be made aware that the award of APL credit needs to be ratified by the relevant Examination Board which may be after registration has taken place.

Panel Review

A Panel Review is needed for all APEL claims and is conducted by the APEL Tutor(s) and Subject Specialist/Admissions tutor. A Panel review may take place as a face to face or virtual meeting.

In preparation for the Panel Review, the APEL Tutor makes an initial assessment of the APEL claim specifying the recommended amount and level of credit, recording it on APEL Form 2/2a . A summary of the outcomes achieved at each level is then identified in APEL Form 3 (one form per academic level). The subject specialist/ moderator will then assess the APEL claim. At this point the Panel will determine if there is a need for a Viva and /or External review as part of the process. At the conclusion of the Panel Review process, the Chair of the Panel will complete APEL form 3, with a summary of conclusions. Where the claim is not considered to qualify for the anticipated number of credits, the Panel may provide guidance for resubmission and/or recommend an interim award.


A viva is needed for:
- all claims of 60 credits or more at level 7
- all claims of 120 credits or more at levels 5 or 6

The viva with the candidate is conducted by the APEL Tutor(s) and any Subject Specialist/Admissions Tutor and recorded on APEL Form 4. The purpose of the viva is:

  • to enable the Panel to be sure that the submission is the candidate’s own work
  • To give the Panel the opportunity to ask for clarification on the content of the submission or on the volume or level of credit

There is also a developmental aspect to the viva, offering an opportunity to consider the APEL claim from a wider perspective, exploring aspects of reflective practice and lifelong learning and helping the participant to appreciate the role of experiential learning in their continuing development.

Additionally a Panel has authority and discretion to ask a candidate to take part in a viva in the case of a claim for less than 60 or 120 credits at any level for either of the purposes stated above.

The viva will normally be conducted at the University although it may be necessary, under certain circumstances, for vivas to take place through video conferencing, e.g. where a candidate is based outside the UK. In these circumstances, any additional expense incurred by the arrangements for the viva is borne by the candidate.

External Review

  1. Submissions for all level 5, 6, and 7 candidates are sent to an External Reviewer;
  2. External Reviewers should be sent full documentation of the UH APEL process;
  3. Where the volume of APEL activity justifies it, the School will have in place an External Reviewer(s) (paid for by the School) who is able to examine generic/semi-generic APEL claim submissions and who is paid a fee (fee structures are available on HertsHub).The normal External Examiner pre-requisites and approval process apply, as this person is in practice an external examiner for APEL claims. APEL claims for named awards will go to the External Reviewer for the named award;
  4. The APEL Tutor will identify which External Reviewer will receive the submission and will arrange for the reviewer to examine the claim;
  5. Each separate area of learning will be considered by an External Reviewer on a qualify/fail to qualify basis. Where a candidate submits an exploration of learning in more than one area of subject specialism it may be necessary for more than one External Reviewer to be used;
  6. The External Reviewer completes a specific External Reviewer APEL consideration feedback form (APEL Form 5), addressing relevant criteria and the credits/level of each submission;
  7. Where an External Reviewer considers that the candidate does not qualify for the recommended APEL award in whole or in part, the claim is referred back to the Panel Review stage. The Panel will re-consider the claim in the light of the External Reviewer’s comments and will make a further and possibly revised recommendation. Please note that the External Reviewer does not have a right of veto.

Examination Boards

In the first instance, (i) a submission for a generic or semi generic award is presented to a CATS APL/WBL Board, whilst (ii) a submission for a specific award is made to the relevant Programme Board. In each case the submission is accompanied by:

  • APEL Tutor’s Summary of Achievement (APEL Form 3)
  • External Reviewer’s Report (APEL) ( APEL Form 5)

The Board considers the quantity and level of credit to be awarded;

In the case of (i) a generic or semi generic award, the APEL claim progresses to the CATS Approval Board whilst (ii) for a specific award, the claim progresses to the relevant Programme Board. In either case, the title of the final award (if appropriate) is considered by the Board;

The CATS Programme Board (generic or semi generic awards) or the relevant Programme Board (specific awards) recommends the award title.

Audit and Evaluation of APEL processes

The timeframe of the APEL process of each candidate is documented for audit purposes. Each candidate will be asked to complete an evaluation form.

APEL Forms

These are available on the CAQA HertsHub site  (under the heading 'Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)'.

  • APEL Form 1 – Notes of Initial meeting / Interview 1 / Interview 2
  • APEL Form 2– Mapping Descriptors/Learning Outcomes – Level 4/5/6/7 General credit
  • APEL Form 2a – Mapping Descriptors/Learning Outcomes – Level 4/5/6/7 Specific credit
  • APEL Form 3 APEL Tutor’s report – Summary of Achievement
  • APEL Form 4 – External Reviewer Form
  • APEL Form 5 – APEL VIVA report
  • APEL Feedback Form for Students
  • APEL Evaluation Form for Students