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Converting prior knowledge into credits

Start your course at the appropriate level

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) allows you to convert relevant university-level knowledge, skills and experience into credits you can put towards a qualification.

Credits are a standard way of measuring learning. RPL means you can start your course at the appropriate level and reduce the amount of credits you need to study to gain a qualification.

For example, you could use RPL to start in the second year of a Bachelor's degree or put it towards the total credits you need to complete a course.

Whether you can use RPL depends on how well your previous knowledge, skills or experience matches the modules on your course.

Sources of RPL

RPL can come from previous study, employment, voluntary work and training courses, including courses and qualifications you didn't complete.

RPL is also known as prior learning assessment (PLA) and prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR).

Types of RPL

There are 3 types of RPL you can put towards a qualification:

  1. Credit transfer
  2. Prior certificated learning
  3. Prior experiential learning

You can put more than one of these types of RPL towards a qualification.

1. Credit transfer

Credit transfer is when you put credits from a previous UK higher education (university-level) qualification towards a new qualification. We can accept credits from qualifications you've completed in the last 5 years.

Higher education qualifications include Foundation and Bachelor's degrees, HNC and HNDs, postgraduate certificates and diplomas, and Master's degrees.

Most standard qualifications are equal to a certain number of credits. For instance, at undergraduate level, an HNC is worth 120 credits and an HND is worth 240 credits.

If you started but didn't complete a UK higher education course or you have a higher education qualification or credits from a non-UK institution, you may be able to use prior certified learning (see below) instead of credit transfer.

2. Prior certificated learning

Prior certificated learning is university-level learning that didn't result in a UK higher education qualification or credits.

This can include professional development and employment-based awards, qualifications awarded by a non-UK higher education institution, and university courses you didn't complete.

3. Prior experiential learning

Prior experiential learning relates to knowledge and skills you've gained through experience.

For example, through employment or voluntary work.

Applying for RPL

The way you apply for RPL depends on the type of RPL you want to put towards your qualification.

Before you apply for RPL, you need to have applied for your course or be registered on it. Details of how to apply are on each course page.

Applying for credit transfer RPL

To transfer credits from a previous UK university-level qualification towards a new qualification, complete this form (.docx) and attach it to your application.

Applying for prior certificated learning and prior experiential learning RPL

To convert prior certificated learning and prior experiential learning into credits you can put towards a qualification, you'll need to put together a portfolio of evidence with your application. When you submit your application, the University Admissions Centre will contact you with further information about applying for recognition of prior learning, which will include a copy of the form you need to complete.

You can complete the form and submit this alongside your application. To do this, please complete this form (.docx) and attach it to your application with your portfolio of evidence. 

Defence forces training and experience

Some defence forces training and experience have standard RPL credit ratings and won't need a portfolio of evidence.

For example, a NATO Rank Code OR-7 equivalent with 2 years in rank would be eligible for 240 undergraduate credits.

When to apply for RPL

The deadline for applying for RPL depends what you're using it for.

Remember to give yourself enough time to work on your portfolio of evidence, if this applies.

Using RPL to start on a higher level of a course

If you want to use RPL to start on a higher level of a course (for example, to start on the 2nd or 3rd year of a 3-year Bachelor's degree), you must apply before the first day of teaching in the academic year you want to start.

Using RPL to claim some credits on a level of a course

If you want to use RPL to claim some but not all credits on a level of the course (for example, to avoid completing a module that covers knowledge you already have), you must apply within 20 working days of the first day of teaching in the academic year.

Using RPL on a work-based degree

If you're doing a work-based degree, you need to submit your portfolio of evidence at least 8 weeks before the start of your course.

Getting a decision

You'll get a decision on your application for RPL within 20 working days of submitting your form.

RPL limitations

The maximum amount of RPL you can put towards a qualification is two-thirds of the total credit value of the course.

For example, you could put up to:

  • 240 RPL credits towards a 360-credit Bachelor's degree
  • 80 RPL credits towards a 120-credit postgraduate diploma

You can't use marks from modules you completed on another course in calculating the final classification of an award when you use RPL. However, if a board of examiners feels that you've been at a disadvantage because you've used RPL, they may make a higher classification of award.

Also, you can't use RPL for a course you've already completed. For example, if you want to repeat a module or year to get a higher final classification.

How much does RPL cost?

Applying for RPL is free for most of our courses.

There's a fee for assessing your portfolio of evidence for work-based degrees.