3.3 Recognition of Prior Learning (currently under review)
The University of Stirling has a commitment to flexible entry and widening access to higher education. The University demonstrates this commitment through its widening participation schemes, its arrangements for credit accumulation and transfer, and it’s Recognition of Prior Learning. These guidelines are based upon the SCQF guidelines.
3.3.1 Credit and Qualification Frameworks
188.8.131.52 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
The University of Stirling is part of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The SCQF brings together all Scottish qualifications into one framework, whereby qualifications are described in terms of levels and credits. Further details can by found here: www.scqf.org.uk . Degrees at Stirling have SCQF levels from Level 7 in year 1 of some Undergraduate programmes to level 12 for Doctorate programmes. Undergraduate Honours level programmes are at Level 10. Master’s level programmes are at Level 11.
184.108.40.206 European Credit and Transfer System
The European Credit and Transfer System (ECTS) is the European framework designed to facilitate the transfer of credit between courses for students who choose to study at more than one European University, including exchange students. The ECTS defines credit slightly differently to the SCQF system as one year of study equates to 60 ECTS credit points. University of Stirling credit values are translated into ECTS credits by dividing the Stirling Credit by two, for example: Undergraduate Programme Module 20 Stirling Credits = 10 ECTS credits. More information can be found at:
3.3.2 Guidelines and Procedures for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)- under review
220.127.116.11 The University will be adopting the National Framework for Recognition of Prior Learning for Scottish Higher Education  and therefore, it should be noted that the guidelines and procedures for RPL will be reviewed during 2014/15. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) refers to the process whereby prior learning taken elsewhere, may:
- Facilitate admission to a degree programme
- Provide advanced entry to a programme
- Provide exemption from parts of a programme’s requirements
- Lead to the award of credit to count towards a programme’s requirements
18.104.22.168 Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) encompasses both the recognition of previous formal, non-formal and informal learning. The definitions of these terms are defined in the QAA publication as:
Formal learning takes place within the context of programmes delivered by learning and training providers. It is assessed and credit-rated and leads to recognised qualifications.
Non-formal learning takes place alongside the mainstream systems of education and training. It may be assessed but does not typically lead to formal certification, for example, learning and training activities or programmes undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector or trade union and through community-based learning.
Informal learning can be defined as experiential learning and takes place through life and work experiences. It is often unintentional learning. The learner may not recognise at the time of the experience that it contributed to the development of their skills and knowledge. This recognition may only happen retrospectively through the RPL process, unless the experiences take place as part of a planned experiential or work-based learning program (SCQF).
22.214.171.124 All applications for RPL will be assessed by the University in terms of:
- Reliability: Do we have adequate formal certified evidence of the applicant’s achievements. Do we have adequate supporting evidence of experience gained.
- Relevance – has the relevance of the credit request to the intended programme of study (in terms of learning outcomes) been clearly demonstrated.
- Sufficiency – Does the evidence support the volume and level of credit claimed and is there sufficient evidence to demonstrate the learning outcomes claimed. Reference to the SCQF guidelines on outcomes at each level should be referred to provide advanced entry to a programme
- Currency – is there evidence that the learning is up to date according to standards within the relevant discipline of study.
In terms of reliability, the applicants must demonstrate evidence of prior learning, formal certification/transcripts or learning associated with professional practice.
In determining relevance, of prior learning for particular programmes of study, reference is made to formal certification/transcripts, and where appropriate; module documentation, professional requirements and other relevant documents.
With regard to sufficiency, the amount of credit claimed must be comparable to the level of credit being sought and will be considered within the SCQF Framework (see 1 above).
With regard to currency, certificated learning should normally fall within 5 years of the proposed start date of new learning, thereby ensuring the prior learning has a continued academic currency/validity. Experiential learning may be drawn from a more protracted time span, but the application for RPL must demonstrate that learning has kept up to date with current developments within the intended field of study. Exceptions may be made when learning took place outwith a 5 year period but there is evidence of continuous professional development and the qualification is still recognised for professional registration purposes.
3.3.3 Recognition of Prior Certificated Learning:
126.96.36.199 In developing credit transfer arrangements, whether as an articulation agreement or on an individual basis, the expectation is that the volume and level indicators of the SCQF will be respected.
- An HND in an appropriate subject and with an appropriate curriculum will be recognised as a level 8 and level 9 qualifications of up to 240 University of Stirling credits and equivalent to a combination of 11 University of Stirling 20-credit levels 7, 8 and 9 modules.
- A BA in an appropriate subject could be recognised as a level 8, 9 and 10 qualification and equivalent to a combination of up to 320 University of Stirling credits and equivalent to a combination of 18 University of Stirling 20-credit levels 8, 9 and 10 modules. This could be used to gain direct entry to an Honours year on an exceptional basis but ordinarily would be of up to 360 University of Stirling credits.
- Postgraduate level credit transfer would normally be at level 11; however a maximum of 30 credits at level 10 may be considered for specific postgraduate level articulation agreements.
- It should also be noted that credit transfer for a complete certificate would normally only allow a student to move to a higher certificate/stage of a programme. It could not be incorporated within a programme of the same level.
3.3.4 Specific Articulation on Agreements
(FE Colleges, /International Colleges/Institutions/Access courses).
188.8.131.52 Articulation agreements with Further Education Colleges/International Colleges for entry (and advanced entry) into University Undergraduate or Postgraduate programmes of study are approved by the University’s ‘Procedures for the approval of academic associations and collaborative partnerships’.
184.108.40.206 Proposals for such agreements are approved only when the coherence of the programme of study across the two institutions is clearly demonstrated and the support needs of individual learners can be clearly met.
220.127.116.11 Such agreements must clearly specify:
- The entry and subject (if applicable) requirements (e.g. the HNQ or equivalent achievement required by the college student),
- Credit transfer arrangements if applicable, (e.g. the SCQF level and credit points which will be credited to the college student upon entry to the University);
- Progression routes (e.g. the particular programme(s) of study at the University to which entry is assured).
3.3.5 Recognition of Prior Learning: Individual Cases – Undergraduate Study
In cases of individuals with formal qualifications whose proposed programme of study is not the subject of an articulation agreement,
- A degree-level qualification where the degree title does not match the subject for which they wish to study at the University of Stirling is recognised by the award of up to 120 credits (general and specific credit will be considered depending upon the date of the award and the relevance of the degree to the proposed programme of study).
- An HND or partial degree study, if awarded within the previous five years and where the curriculum and learning outcomes provides Stirling-equivalent preparation for advanced study on the proposed programme, is recognised by the award of up to 240 credits (general and /or specific). The student would gain direct entry into the relevant programme.
- An HND or partial degree study, if awarded within the previous five years but where the curriculum or learning outcomes do not provide Stirling-equivalent preparation can be recognised by the award of up to 100, or exceptionally 120 credits (general and specific will be considered depending upon the relevance of the qualification and learning outcomes to the proposed programme of study). Entry point into the proposed programme of study would depend on the type of credit awarded (general or specific).
- An HND or partial degree study, if awarded over five years ago, is recognised by the award of up to 40 general credits.
18.104.22.168 Cases Outwith the Above:
- Although not normal practice on occasion where the curriculum provides Stirling equivalent preparation for Honours programmes, the award of a degree is recognised by the award of up to 360 credits. On these occasions, Honours classification is calculated only on study taken at the University of Stirling
- Although not normal practice, prior ‘certified’ learning can be supplemented by prior ‘experiential’ learning (e.g. work experience) which can count towards the overall credit awarded on entry. The credit should be specific to the degree subject outcome.
- Credit requests for other qualifications or outwith the dates above will be decided on a case by case basis by Academic Selectors within the relevant division and including the subject, qualification level and other factors within the application (e.g. employment since qualification).
- Qualifications (HND or partial degree) if previously used for credit transfer elsewhere will not be considered for any further RPL credit award at University of Stirling.
3.3.6 Recognition of Prior Learning: Individual Cases – Taught Postgraduate Study
In cases of individuals with taught postgraduate level qualifications, whose proposed programme of study is not the subject of an articulation agreement:
- A postgraduate qualification, at level 11 (Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or partial study), will be considered if awarded within the last five years and if the learning outcomes matches those within the proposed higher award of MSc, Mlitt, MRes, LLM or Med. The credit transfer may be considered for an award of up to a maximum of 90 credits at SCQF level 11, (general and specific credit will be considered depending upon the date of the award and the relevance of the previous study to the proposed programme). This would allow advanced entry into the proposed programme; the point of entry determined by the amount and type of credit awarded.
- In line with SCQF guidelines, a postgraduate qualification at level 10, (Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or partial study) will be considered if awarded within the last five years and if the learning outcome matches those within the proposed higher award as above for a maximum of 30 credits at level 10 (general) towards the intended programme of study.
- A postgraduate TQFE qualification (with evidence to indicate that it was awarded at the equivalent of Level 11) will be considered both within and outwith the five year period, if the applicant has continued his/her GTC registration and professional practice. The credit transfer may be considered for an award of up to maximum of 90 credits at level 11.
- A postgraduate qualification at level 11 (Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma, or partial study) if considered in relation to meeting minimum entry qualifications* for the intended programme of study will not normally be considered for any additional RPL credit award. (*For example: minimum stated entry level: Honours Degree or equivalent, where applicant has ordinary degree plus postgraduate qualifications to meet stated minimum entry requirement)
- If a postgraduate qualification (Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or partial study) has been previously used for credit transfer elsewhere this will not be considered for any further RPL credit award at University of Stirling.
22.214.171.124 Cases Outwith the Above
- Credit requests for other qualifications or outwith the dates above may be considered on a case by case basis by the relevant Programme Director. All such cases will then be referred to APAC (Admissions, Progress and Awards Committee) for full consideration and including the subject, qualification level and other factors within the application (e.g. employment since qualification).
- ‘Credited’ learning can be supplemented by ‘experiential’ learning (e.g. work experience) which can count towards the overall credit awarded on entry. The credit should be specific to the learning outcomes of the proposed programme.
3.3.7 Recognition of Prior Learning: Individual Cases: Research Postgraduate Study
Applications for candidates wishing to transfer to this University having been registered at another education institution for a higher degree by research may apply for a reduction in the maximum period of study under the following guidelines:
- Applicants should provide evidence of current registration and also provide full details of relevant research undertaken to date, supported by academic references.
- The minimum period of study at University of Stirling may not be reduced to less than one year (full-time) or two years (part-time).
3.3.8 Submission of evidence of RPL – All applicants
126.96.36.199 In all cases, applications for RPL should normally be considered at point of entry. It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide the necessary documentation and evidence required in any credit transfer claim.
188.8.131.52 All applications must be must be supported by:
- A written statement justifying the claim
- The original of any relevant certificate or award
- A transcript of the results achieved, clearly showing the relevant SCQF levels and rating (if appropriate)
and in addition for specific credit:
- A Programme specification or equivalent description of the programme, its SCQF level and rating, its forms of assessment and its learning outcomes, may also be requested if appropriate. This is to facilitate adequate matching between the credit claimed and the proposed programme.
3.3.9 Decisions on RPL applications
- If the credit has been previously agreed by the division and is within the subject’s UG Admissions Template agreed on a yearly basis, the UG Admissions staff has delegated authority to make and transmit a decision.
- For any qualification or level which has not been previously agreed, the Head of UG Admissions, or UG Admissions Manager will discuss fully with relevant Academic Selector as to the appropriate amount of credit to be awarded. The Selector should consult with Head of Division and other academic members as appropriate.
- Applications for entry to Year 4 of the programme will be referred to the Academic Panel with recommendation from UG Admissions Office and Division.
184.108.40.206 Taught Postgraduate
- If the credit has been previously agreed by the division, the PG Admissions staff will liaise with the relevant Programme Director to confirm award and transmit a decision.
- For any qualification or level which has not been previously agreed, the Head of Admissions, or the PG Admissions Manager will discuss fully with the relevant Programme Director as to the appropriate credit to be awarded. The Programme Director should consult with his/her Head of Division and other academic staff as appropriate. The Head of Division can delegate to Directors of Learning and Teaching at their discretion.
220.127.116.11 Research Postgraduate
- If a division approves a reduction in the minimum period of study, (see 6.above) this will be confirmed in writing at point of admissions, with the expected end date of study amended accordingly by Student Administration.
18.104.22.168 All decisions made by divisions regarding RPL should be recorded (with justification and documentation) and the record kept in the applicant’s file. The student’s academic history on the Portal will be amended by Student Administration on confirmation of RPL award approval.
3.3.10 Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning
22.214.171.124 Applicants for prior ‘experiential’ learning are required to provide substantial evidence of their understanding and ability to engage in professional and academic activities that equate with the SCQF level of the proposed programme of study. For specific credit evidence of subject knowledge and understanding must also be displayed.
126.96.36.199 Applications for prior ‘experiential’ learning may be assessed in a number of ways;
- submission of a portfolio of evidence
- a presentation
- one or more interviews
- submission of references, testimonial and reports
- submission of a reflective account or diary describing the learning achieved
- completion of a designated project or written assignment
- an examination (oral or written) to demonstrate achievement in the subject or module for which equivalence is being claimed or admission sought
188.8.131.52 In assessing this evidence, Divisions/Programme Directors will be required to consider:
- sufficiency to demonstrate the learning outcomes claimed
- relevance to the intended programme of study
- reliability as evidence of the applicant’s own achievements
184.108.40.206 The minimum level of module credit considered will be as follows:
For undergraduate programmes: 20 credits at Level 7.
For postgraduate programmes: 15 credits at Level 11.
220.127.116.11 The University will set an appropriate fee for the evaluation of prior experiential learning. This should be notified to the applicant in advance of the evaluation and his/her agreement to proceed will be required. The sum applied should be commensurate with the credit sought.
3.3.11 Recognition of Prior Learning - University Transcripts
18.104.22.168 All prior learning from other institutions recognised for credit by the University at the point of admissions, should be shown clearly on University transcripts.
22.214.171.124 University of Stirling students who return to complete a higher award on the basis of RPL, will be required to surrender any formal certification previously issued, (e.g. Cert HE, DipHE, PGCert, PGDip).
3.3.12 Policy Review Schedule
RPL Policy will be reviewed on a biennial basis to ensure it meets operational requirements and the current SCQF guidelines.
Appendix: Abbreviations and Glossary of Terms:
RPL - Recognition of Prior Learning. This is the term preferred by the SCQF Guidelines. It is the term used throughout this paper, as it is broader in scope than APL – since it covers both APCL *and APEL* and encompasses both formative and summative approaches.
APCL* Accreditation of prior certificated learning, (that is, the award of credit for learning recognised by a certificated from an educational institution or academic qualifications authority.
APEL* Accreditation of prior experiential l learning (that is, the award of credit for learning that has not led to an academic award)
ECTS European Credit and Transfer System
HNQ Higher National Qualification (that is, either a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a Higher National Diploma (HND) or both).
SCQF Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
SCQF Level 12 Doctorate
SCQF Level 11 Masters
SCQF Level 10 Honours Degree
SCQF Level 9 Ordinary Degree
SCQF Level 8 Higher National Diploma
SCQF Level 7 Higher National Certificate
Approved by QEC
6 May 2009