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Accrediting prior learning


The issue of how to take into account the learning which people have previously completed and count this towards their current course of study is one which has taxed many people over the years.

To use the jargon, Accreditation of Prior Learning (or even, Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning) - APEL - has been tackled in various ways and the Learning from Experience Trust has been working with academic and other organisations to test out some structures for recognising prior learning.

A recent report of work in this field conducted on behalf of the Department for Education and Employement is now available. It focuses on accrediting prior learning relevant to English Higher Education but the underlying principles are of wider application.

The reports recommendations include:

For higher education institutions and their representative bodies:
1. Review each element of their own APEL practices against a variety of good practices that have been developed in different contexts.

2. Develop APEL procedures to enable experienced academic and learning support staff to seek membership of the Institute for Learning and Teaching.

3. Provide staff development in all aspects of the APEL process across the institution, not just with specialist APEL staff but with all staff involved.

4. Establish methods for tracking and monitoring APEL students.

5. Review institutional costs for APEL and how fees for students are established.

For DfEE:
6. Support financially the dissemination of good practice between higher education staff involved in APEL (through face-to-face and web-based methods).

7. Provide funding support for staff development in high quality methods to assess learning wherever it happens.

8. Initiate and support the provision of public information about APEL and other flexible learning approaches, targeted particularly to employers and potential students.

9. Encourage the incorporation of flexible learning in special projects for particular groups of students (including widening participation).

10. Encourage the potential for APEL within Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs).

11. Clarify the ways in which funding streams can be channelled to support flexible learning. This may include mechanisms such as linking funding with credit, or funding to follow all categories of students.

12. Consider how far it might be appropriate or desirable to require HEIs to report on the numbers of students receiving APEL credit.

For employers and professional bodies:
13. Consider and encourage the development of appropriate APEL procedures as a tool for workforce and professional development, recognition and validation.


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