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Durham University

Welcome to Durham University's Common Awards website

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Introductory note

1. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Common Awards APL guidance that is published in the TEI Handbook, and which supplements the University’s Principles for the Award of APL at Durham.

Definitions

2. Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) can take either of two forms: Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL); Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). In this guidance, references to APL relate to both APCL and APEL.

3. APEL is a way of granting credit to an individual student who can demonstrate that the learning they have acquired through life experiences (such as uncertificated training or workplace learning) is equivalent to the achievement of the learning outcomes for a specific module or Level of study. As such, APEL focuses on the learning gained through experience, rather than the experience per se.

4. For example, an individual might claim APEL towards an exemption from a Preaching module if they feel that they have achieved the learning outcomes for that module through recent preaching experience. In order for the APEL claim to be approved, the individual would need to present a case and provide supporting evidence to demonstrate how their experience has enabled them to achieve the relevant learning outcomes for the module.

5. In line with the University’s approach to APL, and as reinforced by the Common Awards supplementary guidance on APL, all APEL claims and decisions must be based on the demonstrable prior achievement of the relevant module or Level learning outcomes.

6. More definitions relating to APL are provided in the Common Awards list of APL definitions.

Approach

7. Each TEI should specify whether it will consider APEL claims for a given programme (bearing in mind any restrictions on APL within the relevant programme specification). This should be stated clearly within the TEI’s APL Policy and/or its Admissions Policy, and in other relevant communications (such as student handbooks and advice for applicants).

8. Each TEI is responsible for developing a fair and transparent application process for the receipt and consideration of APEL claims (see further para. 15-16, below). TEI processes must be in line with the University’s Principles for the Award of APL at Durham and the supplementary Common Awards guidance on APL.

Credit limits

9. An applicant cannot normally be granted more than one-third of the programme credits in APL (APEL and APCL combined); i.e. a student must normally complete at least two-thirds of the overall credits for a Common Awards programme in order to receive a Durham award for that programme (see further the Common Awards guidance on APL).

10. Additionally, students cannot normally be granted more than a maximum of 60 credits of APEL, regardless of the total credits required for a qualification (see the table below).

Programme
Programme credits
Maximum APL claim
Certificate (HE)
120
Normally ⅓ (i.e. 40 credits) of APL (APEL and APCL combined), including no more than 40 credits of APEL
Diploma (HE)
240
Normally ⅓ (i.e. 80 credits) of APL (APEL and APCL combined), including no more than 60 credits of APEL
BA
360
Normally ⅓ (i.e. 120 credits) of APL (APEL and APCL combined), including no more than 60 credits of APEL
Masters
180
Normally ⅓ (i.e. 60 credits) of APL (APEL and APCL combined), including up to 60 credits of APEL

11. Claims that relate to APEL of greater than 60 credits but less than one-third should be referred to Durham University.

12. The smallest unit for which APEL can be claimed is one module.

Criteria for assessing APEL claims

13. The decision of whether to approve an APEL claim should be based on whether the applicant has demonstrated that the learning they have acquired from prior experiences is adequately current, relevant, and sufficient to demonstrate that the relevant learning outcomes for a given module (or modules) or Level of study have been met.

14. All APEL claims should be assessed in line with the University’s Principles for the Award of APL at Durham and the supplementary Common Awards guidance on APL. Additionally, TEIs are advised to note the importance of the following when assessing APEL claims:

Currency
Information on the currency of prior learning and experience in the context of APL claim is set out in the Common Awards guidance on APL.
Currency should be calculated from the date when the experience took place. However, in some circumstances, while the original experience may have taken place more than five years previously, the individual may have more recent relevant ongoing experience, or evidence of ongoing practice and application of the learning gained through the original experience.
For example, if an individual wishes to submit an APEL claim to request an exemption to a preaching module, even if their original training in preaching took place more than five years previously, their sustained practice of preaching may be deemed as evidence of the currency of their learning.
Authenticity
The TEI will need to assure itself that:
(i) all the claims made in the application are substantiated by evidence;
(ii) all the evidence provided by the applicant is authentic;
(iii) the evidence relates to and demonstrates the applicant’s personal efforts and attainments.
This might be achieved in a number of ways, such as requiring the applicant to sign a declaration regarding the authenticity of evidence provided; requiring the applicant to submit a detailed reflective account and supporting evidence to provide assurance; corroborating or authenticating the claims and evidence by obtaining reports or references from objective sources such as employers.
Relevance
The experiential learning should be relevant to the learning outcomes. Each claim should be assessed on the basis of how the learning derived from experience has enabled the individual to achieve the learning outcomes for the given module or Level of study.
In some cases, APEL may be granted when the evidence demonstrates that a learning outcome has been achieved in part. In such cases, the approval of APEL must be conditional on the successful completion of a specific module (or modules) that would enable the student to achieve the relevant learning outcome in full. For example, in the case of the Level 5 SSK1 learning outcome (‘engage in detail with selected texts of the Old and New Testaments in their cultural and religious Contexts […]’), a student might have evidence to demonstrate their learning equivalent to Level 5 in the area of the New Testament, but not the equivalent for the Old Testament. In this case, APEL might be granted on the condition that the student undertakes a specific module (or modules) that include learning outcomes relating to Old Testament study, and so will enable the student to achieve the Level 5 SSK1 learning outcome in full.
Volume
TEIs should assess the volume of the learning, rather than the volume of the experiences per se. The depth and volume of the learning should be equivalent to the requested credit value and the relevant Level of study.

Application and assessment process

15. Each TEI should develop a fair and transparent process for receiving APEL claims and assessing those claims in order to determine whether the applicant has achieved the relevant module or Level learning outcomes through recent prior experience.

16. In line with the Common Awards guidance on APL, the precise details for the application and assessment process (e.g. timescales, key contacts) should be determined by the TEI and publicised in the relevant documents. It is likely that the process will include the following stages:

1
The student contacts the TEI as early as possible to inform them of their intention to submit an APEL claim
2
The TEI provides advice, guidance and support to:
(i) help the student determine whether to submit an APEL claim;
(ii) assist the student with the compilation of the claim.
3
The student submits the APEL claim to the TEI.
4
The TEI uses the APEL Checklist and Mapping Document to assess the claim in light of:
It is likely that TEIs will want to appoint a group of individuals (including academic staff) to assess all APEL applications (e.g. a sub-committee of the TEI’s Board of Examiners, a sub-committee of the TEI’s Management Committee, or the TEI’s Admissions Committee or equivalent).
5
If the APEL checklist indicates that the TEI can approve the claim:
The TEI decides upon the outcome, makes a record of the decision and the rationale for the decision on the APEL Checklist and Mapping Document, and reports the outcome (with feedback) to the student.
If the APEL checklist indicates that the University needs to approve the claim:
  • The TEI forwards all the relevant documentation to the University
  • The University considers the claim and provides an outcome to the TEI
    • The TEI reports the outcome (with feedback) to the student and retains a record of the outcome.

Format of APEL claims

17. Each TEI should determine the format that it considers to be most suitable for the submission of APEL claims.

18. When prescribing the format of APEL claims, TEIs should remember that APEL claims must be assessed on the basis of the applicant’s demonstrable achievement of the learning outcomes; consequently, any template documents or guidance notes produced by the TEI should encourage applicants to relate their experiential learning to the relevant learning outcomes.

19. While the precise requirements for the format of APEL claims is likely to vary, it is anticipated that most – if not all – TEIs will require:

  • An application form (or similar) to provide basic information about the applicant and the APEL claim (e.g. a statement of the nature and volume of credit claimed, a list of the learning outcomes on which the claim is based, and a brief outline of the relevant experiential learning on which the claim is based);
  • The applicant’s curriculum vitae to outline the context for the experiential learning (including the date and duration of relevant activities and experiences);
  • A reflective account of the learning acquired through experience (this is most likely to be structured in line with the learning outcomes for the relevant module[s] or Level of study, and is likely to include reflections on how the learning is current, relevant, and sufficient in volume);
  • Detailed supporting evidence to substantiate the claims within the reflective account (this is likely to include evidence from external sources to corroborate claims within the reflective account).

20. It is likely that TEIs will require students to submit a portfolio to incorporate the above information and evidence.

21. The TEI should provide guidance to students on the required format, an indication of the maximum word length or number of pages (if applicable), and any other presentational or formatting requirements.

Supporting evidence

22. The individual applicant is responsible for providing the evidence to support their APEL claim.

23. TEIs should:

  • specify the type of evidence they require to assess APEL claims (this should be published clearly within the TEI’s Admissions Policy and/or APL Policy and/or other relevant documents and sources of information);
  • publish key deadlines and dates for the submission of APEL claims and supporting evidence;
  • provide advice and guidance to help the applicant compile the relevant evidence in order to demonstrate their prior achievement of the learning outcomes.

24. Each TEI should specify which types of evidence or methods of assessment it deems appropriate to support – and permit the assessment of – APEL claims. Types of evidence and methods of assessment may include some or all of the following:

  • Academic essay(s) or other written assignments
  • Oral examinations (including audio/video recordings or feedback sheets)
  • Written examinations
  • Video/audio recordings of practice
  • Analysis and/or evaluation of practical training
  • Analytical evaluation of practice
  • Written observation reports (e.g. from an employer or assessor)
  • Supporting statements or references from relevant employers or supervisors

Guidance and advice for students

25. Each TEI is responsible for all communications with students regarding APEL claims, including the formal confirmation of the outcome, and the provision of feedback on claims.

26. TEIs are also responsible for providing advice, guidance and support to individual students throughout the application and assessment process.

27. TEIs will need to ensure that students have access to sufficient information and advice on all aspects of the APEL process. Information should be provided in appropriate formats, including published information, policy documents, and face-to-face or electronic communications.

Examples of good practice

28. The University considers the following existing practices in TEIs to be examples of good practice, and encourages all TEIs to consider providing a similar or equivalent model of support for students who are preparing APEL claims:

  • The designation of a member of academic staff as the ‘APL Officer’ or ‘APL Mentor’. This member of staff is a first point of contact for students who are considering making a case for APEL. The designated member of staff provides detailed advice, guidance, and feedback to students throughout the application and assessment process.
  • The development and provision of example portfolios to help students understand how to compile and structure their APEL claim.

Fees

29. While the University does not charge a fee for the consideration of APEL applications, we are aware that some higher education institutions do charge a fee to cover the cost of the application and assessment process.

30. If a TEI chooses to charge a fee for APEL claims, they must ensure that:

  • fees are kept to a minimum
  • the practice of charging individuals for submitting APEL claims is reviewed routinely to ensure that the fees do not disadvantage students
  • the details of fees are publicised in the TEI’s relevant policies and documents
  • all applicants (and potential applicants) should be informed of the fees at the earliest opportunity.

Further information

31. If you have any questions that are not answered by this guidance and the related guidance, please contact us.

Submitting your APL claim

32. All APL claims should be submitted electronically to common.awards@durham.ac.uk. See further para. 26(g) in the APL guidance.


Version control

Page updated Nature of amendment Amended by:
04.08.14 Publication of information EM
22.10.14 Inclusion of para. 32 to make more explicit the expectation re electronic submission (as specified in the template documents) EM
24.11.14 Deletion of sentences in para. 1 (references to draft guidance), to reflect the fact that QSSC and Education Committee have approved this guidance, subject to review at the end of 2014/15 EM