Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

Accreditation of Prior Learning

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is a tool we use to recognise learning already achieved and to make gaining academic credit easier.

We value your existing experience, knowledge and learning, and don’t expect you to repeat learning you have already achieved.

There are many different ways that you can achieve credit and we consider every claim on an individual basis, so please contact us for further help or information.

You will need to access our Moodle site to complete your Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) mapping. Please refer to our mapping instructions for help.

What are AP(C)L and AP(E)L?

AP(C)L and AP(E)L are the processes by which previous formal certificated learning and informal non-certificated learning can be awarded academic credit. These credits can be used towards Plymouth University modules.

Whatever type of prior learning and experience you have, it is the skills and knowledge gained from that learning, and the extent to which the knowledge and skills can be applied that is important, not the learning experience itself. The process of giving recognition is based on a comparison of these existing skills and knowledge against the requirements of the learning course for which you are claiming credit.


AP(C)L: Accreditation of Prior (Certificated) Learning

AP(E)L: Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning

Accreditation of Prior (Certificated) Learning

AP(C)L gives recognition to learning which has been formally assessed and for which a certificate has been awarded.

If you have achieved certificated learning with another higher education institution, you may be able to accredit this into one of our degree courses or masters programmes. You’ll need to provide a copy of your relevant certificate and/or transcript, and any information on the learning outcomes and/or assessment criteria.

We’ll compare what has already been learned with what would be studied on the course or programme for which you are claiming credit. This will show whether the learning on each course or programme is identical or sufficiently similar to enable you to claim that you have already achieved the learning outcomes. If it is, we’ll award you the relevant modules and credits. If it is not identical or sufficiently similar, we’ll award you general credits.

Accreditation of Prior and (Experiential) Learning

AP(E)L gives recognition for knowledge and skills that have been gained from experience – rather than from a certificated programme of study or training – and refers to prior learning which has not been assessed. Such learning may have been gained in a number of different ways:

  • experiential learning acquired in paid work
  • experiential learning acquired in unpaid or voluntary work
  • experiential learning acquired from leisure activities
  • un-certificated learning from self-directed study

AP(E)L is more difficult to assess, and requires consideration of what has been learned and comparing this with what would be studied on the course for which you are claiming credit. Without certificates, a portfolio of evidence is usually required to look at and assess both the content of the learning and the level.

The APL process

The process of making an APL claim is formal. Your APL claim will be scrutinised by the appropriate academic and external examiner and submitted to a Subject Assessment Panel and Award Board. This will result in your receipt of a transcript of learning, which clearly identifies the modules and credits awarded.

Making an APL claim may take time and be as demanding as completing the module of study for which credit is being claimed.

The evidence that you submit with your APL claim should be:

  • relevant
  • authentic
  • valid
  • current – within five years
  • at the right level
  • referenced
  • sufficient
  • verified by one referee

APL evidence can include:

  • any certificated learning achieved with another higher education institution
  • comprehensive CV encompassing personal life experiences relevant to learning outcomes
  • courses/modules completed including open learning. Curriculum details, outcome and assessments are required
  • conferences attended or papers given
  • study days attended
  • journal articles/case studies published
  • projects completed or work group records
  • participation in journal clubs, quality circles, induction programmes
  • practice experience innovations, research activity
  • reflective writing, critical incidents
  • teaching, health promotion materials developed
  • testimonial from clinical supervisors or any other relevant professionals
  • audio visual presentations

Case study – Accreditation of Prior (Certificated) Learning

A student had already commenced a degree with another university and wanted to transfer her existing credits into Plymouth University’s BSc (Hons) Professional Development in Health and Social Care.

She provided a copy of the transcript, and information on the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of the modules she had completed. The modules equated to one core module, one optional module, plus general credits, so she was awarded 60 degree-level credits. She enrolled on the BSc and completed the remaining required modules to achieve her degree.

Case study – Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning

A Level 2 Registered Nurse wanted to upgrade her Nursing and Midwifery Council registration to Level 1 so she had enrolled onto our BSc (Hons) Professional Development in Nursing. She had been working in primary care and as part of her role, supported patients with diabetes. She wanted to gain credit towards her degree for her experience of working with this client group.

She developed a portfolio of evidence that focused on her experience supporting the person with diabetes or related syndromes, which included:

  • a clinical log documenting her experiences and learning in practice
  • a case study of a specific diabetes related consultation, demonstrating her understanding of the different types of diabetes, screening and diagnosis practices, and treatment options and lifestyle changes for patients
  • observations of her practice by a registered practitioner
  • a critical review and analysis of the quality of service provide for people with diabetes within her workplace
  • a reflective summary of how developing her portfolio had enabled her to consolidate her knowledge on diabetes.

Her portfolio was marked and she was awarded 20 general credits towards her degree.

Voucher scheme

Plymouth University issues vouchers for attendance at short courses and conferences offered by the Faculty of Health, an NHS trust or another professional/academic organisation (subject to prior agreement with Plymouth University).

You can be issued one voucher per half-day session attended and two vouchers for a full day. When you have accrued ten vouchers you can request a claim for APL to be considered. Following successful completion of an assessed piece of coursework which will have been negotiated with the named academic you would be awarded 20 academic credits at degree or masters level.

The assessment may be used to demonstrate how you have applied the knowledge or skills gained within your role, or within a certain project or in other forms of professional and personal development.

As the module won't involve teaching there is a reduced fee payable compared to a standard taught module; the cost includes administration, tutorial support and marking of the work.

Case study – Voucher scheme

An occupational therapist assistant working in community rehabilitation had attended a number of study events. Together we decided which events to consider towards vouchers. These were Parkinson’s awareness course, e-learning on safeguarding vulnerable adults, Mental Capacity Act Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, and the College of Occupational Therapists annual conference. This was a total of five days equalling ten vouchers.

For his APL claim assignment, he identified his personal development as a result of the learning from the events, and used case studies to demonstrate how his new knowledge had improved his practice for the benefit of patients and his workplace. He was awarded 20 general credits at degree level, which he used towards his BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy.

Voucher Scheme Frequently Asked Questions

How much are 10 vouchers worth in academic credits?

Vouchers themselves are worth nothing. It is the assessed academic work that gives you 20 degree-level credits. The vouchers allow you to apply via APL to be considered for this scheme.

Where in the degree pathway is the best place to do the voucher scheme?

The preference is for your last 20 credits or close to the end of your degree. By then hopefully you are comfortable with academic assignments and are also able to be a more autonomous learner. We do NOT recommend this scheme as the first 20 credits of a degree or masters.

Is there a time limit on the learning events used?

We prefer these events to be no older than 2 to 3 years. We'll however consider any event within any timeframe, if you can evidence that it is making a difference still to your practice or your practice continues to develop and to be enhanced.

Do I need to include my certificates/evidence of attending the study days?

Not really as these have already been sent and processed as a part of your claim to the APL administration and academic teams. They are why you are here now. However if you wish to include them in your portfolio for ‘other’ reasons (for example, external examiners or second markers to see) you may do so. Please include copies only, as originals won't be returned. They can be placed in the appendices as an extra as they won't form part of the appendices allowed.

Do we have to use a framework?

Not absolutely, however using a framework gives structure to the assignment. It also links to your specific professional practice. You will notice a number of students use the Knowledge and Skills Framework.

The core dimensions of the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework are:

  • communication
  • health and safety
  • quality
  • service improvement
  • equality and diversity (includes disability)
  • personal and professional development

These while used to consolidate roles and banding could be used in any setting other than health. There are many ‘tools’ available and some organisations have their own frameworks.

Is it possible to get 40 APL credits through this route?

Yes, there are guidelines to assist you with this process.

Degree and masters claims

APL is possible against Faculty of Health degrees and masters as follows:

Level Maximum number of credits that can be APL Total number of credits required for the award
Level 6 BSc 40 80
Level 6 BSc (Hons) 60 120
Level 7 Postgraduate Certificate 30 60
Level 7 Postgraduate Diploma 80 (60) 120
Level 7 MSc 120 (90) 180

If you are successfully APL out of a module, you'll not need to attend the module or submit any assignments.

Student enquiries

Professional Development Unit, 

Level 4 Rolle Building, 

University of Plymouth, 

Drake Circus, Plymouth, 

PL4 8AA, United Kingdom.

8.30–17.00 (Friday 16.30)

You can contact the Professional Development Unit with any queries

Prospective student enquiries

+44 1752 586951

Current student enquiries

Professional Development Unit, Level 4 Rolle Building, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom.

8.30–17.00 (Friday 16.30)