University of Bristol
Guidelines on the Accreditation of Prior (Certified/Experiential) Learning
for all taught programmes
1.1 Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the process whereby students can be exempt from
some parts of their chosen programme of academic study by recognition of their learning
from previous experiences and achievements.
1.2 Some programmes have approved units/periods of study undertaken at another institution or
in the workplace. Where this is a recognised part of an approved programme these
guidelines do not apply.
1.3 Accredited Prior 'Certified' Learning (AP(C)L) is the achievement of learning that has been
formally assessed and certificated from previous study with a higher education organisation.
1.4 Accredited Prior 'Experiential' Learning (AP(E)L) is the non-certified acquisition of relevant
skills and knowledge, gained through relevant experience, which is capable of being
1.5 For the purposes of these guidelines, ‘organisation’ refers to a higher education institution
which can provide evidence of learning and outcomes.
1.6 The term ‘prior learning’ does not include the learning implicit in formal teaching, a work
placement, group work or independent study designed as part of a programme of study
alone. Recognition of such parallel learning would be expected to occur in the formal
assessment practice of the programme.
2.1 It is the achievement of learning, or outcomes of the learning, and not just the experience of
the activities that is being accredited. In all cases evidence must be presented to the
University that such learning has taken place.
2.2 Evidence for acceptance of APL should demonstrate that the learner has a reasonable
expectation of satisfactorily completing the programme for which they are applying.
2.3 A department/school might deem it necessary to require the learning derived from previous
experience and/or prior certified study to be equivalent to the standard of learning that might
otherwise have been achieved from study in the relevant programme at the University of
Bristol. This may be more relevant to professional programmes where fitness to practice is
2.4 As regards applications for AP(C)L, departments/schools should consider the learning which
has been accredited at the other institution and decide, in the best interests of the student,
how this can be taken into account. It is at the discretion of the department/school to decide
if: (a) the subject content, and therefore knowledge gained, is sufficiently similar for a student
to be exempt from unit(s), and (b) if marks can be transferred.
2.5 Departments should ensure that the criteria by which they judge applications for APL are
transparent and accessible.
2.6 Acceptance of prior learning for credit purposes is at the discretion of the department/school
in consultation with the Dean of Graduate or Undergraduate Studies.
2.7 Prior learning should not normally be accepted if five or more years have elapsed since it
occurred unless the applicant can provide evidence that his/her learning has continued in a
professional or similar context. In such cases the department/school may choose to set an
assessment to test an applicant's current knowledge.
2.8 To complement the University’s credit framework (Annex B) the following table shows
maximum amounts of credit for each type of programme that can be counted as accredited
prior learning. The amount of AP(E)L allowed is at the discretion of the Department / School,
though a recommended level is suggested.
Number of Total Recommended
credit amount of amount of
points for AP(C)L AP(E)L
award allowed allowed
Postgraduate Level Award
Credit-bearing Doctoral awards (DDS, EdD,
540 180 120
EngD, DEdPsy, DSocSci)
Masters degree 180 60 60
Postgraduate Diploma 120 40 40
Postgraduate Certificate 60 20 20
Undergraduate Level Award
Graduate Diploma 120 40 40
Graduate Certificate 60 20 20
MSci, MEng 480 240 240
Honours Degree 360 240 120
Ordinary Degree 300 180 120
Foundation Degree 240 120 60
Undergraduate Diploma 240 120 60
Undergraduate Certificate, Preliminary certificate,
120 0 0
2.9 The conferring of one of the awards listed in the table and the accreditation of a volume of
prior learning within this is complemented by the following:
i. Sufficient credit at the highest level of the award must be taken at the University of Bristol
in order for the award to be conferred.
ii. The Undergraduate regulations for modular degree programmes state that the final 120
credit points of the programme must be taken as University of Bristol units, therefore it
follows that the University will not accredit prior learning within the final year of its
undergraduate bachelors and integrated master’s programmes.
iii. The Postgraduate regulations for taught postgraduate programmes state that two thirds
of students' credit points must be taken as University of Bristol units.
3. Considering Applications
Accredited Prior Certified Learning (AP(C)L)
3.1 Prior credit obtained from another institution can be recognised in one of two ways:
(a) Exemption from units, the marks of which do not contribute to the final award and need
not be transferred (University of Bristol accepts the credit awarded by another
(b) Exemption from units, the marks of which do contribute to the final award and are
transferred (University of Bristol accepts the credit and marks awarded by another
institution towards this award).
The requirement to transfer marks may be waived for students transferring into an
undergraduate professional programme if there is still a significant proportion (e.g. 360
or more, out of 600 credit points) of the programme to complete.
Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (AP(E)L)
3.2 Departments/schools should consider each case and decide from which units the student
can be exempt. The department should satisfy itself that the applicant has sufficient
knowledge and ability to have a reasonable expectation of completing the programme
3.3 A department should have a mechanism for assessing and determining the prior experiential
learning of each application, potentially by setting an appropriate method of assessment. If
the assessment method from an existing unit is not appropriate, then a different method will
be necessary and should include one or more of: the submission of a portfolio; essays; a
3.4 If a department is satisfied that the experiential learning is equivalent to the standard of
unit(s) that the student is exempt from, then assessment may not be required.
3.5 For each unit assessed by means of AP(E)L: either (a) a percentage mark should be
assigned where the unit is used for classification or progression purposes or (b) a pass/fail
decision should be recorded where a percentage mark is not needed or appropriate.
4.1 A form which could be used for applications for AP(C)L is attached as Annex A. It is at the
discretion of departments/schools as to whether they use this form.
4.2 All applications for APL should normally be made prior to the student's date of registration.
4.3 Applications for exemption from units must be initially submitted to the department/school
who will consider them for approval in consultation with the Dean of Graduate or
4.4 All applications must include evidence of the prior learning, provided by the applicant.
4.5 The department/school must inform the Dean of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies, as the
representative of Faculty Board in such matters, and the Faculty Office, of any instances of
APL that have been approved.
4.6 Appropriate reference to applications for APL will be included in departmental admissions
4.7 Applications may be rejected at any stage. Appeals against judgements on applications for
APL will be treated in the same way as appeals on admissions applications. See the
University’s Admissions Principles and Processes for details:
4.9 APL should be recorded on the student record system and clearly identified on a student's
transcript, including the amount and level of credit from which exemption has been granted.
4.10 Where a student is exempt from part of their programme of study at the University of Bristol
the programme fee for the relevant year may be reduced pro-rata to the amount of credit
4.11 Where a department/school is accrediting prior learning as part of a student's programme of
study then a fee may be charged to cover administration costs, particularly if the department
is assessing the prior learning.
Approved 28.07.08 by Education Committee (under vacation powers)
University of Bristol
Recommendation for Approval of an Individual Application for Exemption from units -
Accreditation of Prior (Certified) Learning (AP(C)L)
A. To be completed by applicant:
Programme applied for:
1. I request exemption in respect of relevant units in the above programme.
2. I enclose original or authenticated copies of transcripts or other evidence of units/modules
taken at another institution and, where available, of the marks obtained in these modules.
B. To be completed by Admissions Tutor or Programme Director as appropriate
I recommend that the applicant named above be granted exemption from the year of study or units,
as indicated below, within the programme applied for on the grounds of the attached evidence of
(a) Exemption with no transfer of marks from:
Year of Study1 or specific units
(provide year) (please list below)
UoB Unit Code Unit Title Credit Points
As stated in the Modularisation Guidelines for Undergraduate Programmes, as a minimum requirement, the final year of
study for a University of Bristol undergraduate degree must be undertaken in Bristol unless there is a specific agreement
to the contrary
(b) Exemption with transfer of marks from the following units:
Unit Code Unit Title Credit Points Mark to be
Signed: Name: Date:
C. For completion by the Dean of Graduate or Undergraduate Studies
Either * I support the above recommendation and forward it to the Faculty Office for report to
or * I do not support the above recommendation on the grounds below (and am returning it to
the admissions tutor/programme director to notify the applicant):
Signed: Name: Date:
(Please return to the admissions tutor/programme director)
Date of notification to applicant, Director of Teaching and Learning*/Admissions Tutor*/
Programme Director*/Faculty Office*
*Delete as appropriate
The University of Bristol Credit Framework
Qualification Level Total Minimum Additional credit requirements
credits number of
required at the
Postgraduate level awards
EdD, DDS, DSocSci,
D at least 540 360 Remaining credits to be at level M
Remaining credits to be at level C or
Master’s degree M at least 180 130
Remaining credits to be at level C or
Postgraduate Diploma M at least 120 90
M at least 60 60 n/a
Undergraduate level awards
Graduate Diploma H at least 120 80 n/a
Graduate Certificate H at least 60 60 n/a
MSci, MEng Remaining credits to include at least
(Integrated (4-year) M at least 480 80 240 at levels H and I (no less than
Master’s degree) 120 at level H)
Remaining credits to include at least
Honours degree H at least 360 100
100 at level I or above
Remaining credits may include some
Ordinary degree I at least 300 120
at level H
I at least 240 80 Remaining credits at level C or above
Students who registered directly onto
a Certificate before August 2001 may
C at least 120 120 supplement a minimum of 90 credits
at level C with a maximum of 30
credits at QCA level 3.
Pathway Certificate QCA
at least 120 120
(single subject) level 3
Preliminary Certificate QCA Normally 80 credit points to be gained
at least 120 120
(Combined studies) level 3 in awarding faculty.
1) This table should be read in conjunction with the QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications
2) The MB,ChB (Medicine), BDS (Dentistry) and BVSc (Veterinary Science) undergraduate programmes
are not included in the University's modular structure and therefore do not have credit points attached to
3) At the discretion of the Faculty joint honours degrees may vary from the minimum of 100 credits at level
H because of the need for more flexible structures in joint programmes.
4) In the MSci and MEng, the University minimum of 80 credits at level M does not prevent departments
and faculties from fulfilling requirements of professional bodies for a higher proportion of M level credits.
5) Individual students can choose to take units at a higher level than normally specified during their
programme, e.g. a level M unit might be substituted for a level H unit, or a level H unit might replace one
at level I.