Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

APEL is the process where credit is sought for learning which has not previously been assessed and awarded credit by an academic institution or professional organisation.

It is learning which has taken place from a range of experiences and is often unstructured, personal and unconsciously gained. Skills, knowledge and abilities that come with this type of learning however can be equal to those gained by students following traditional courses through formal educational institutions.

If you feel you have covered the content of a module/ modules via your work/ life experience, APEL is a way to provide the evidence to show this and to gain credit for it. You will need to establish the learning experience (i.e. what was the experience?) and then identify the learning which has taken place (i.e. what did you learn from your experience?)

Examples of experiential learning include:

NB. In order to make an APEL claim the experience you have must be relevant to your intended programme of study. For example, it would not be appropriate for someone to claim APEL based on their experience of working as a conservation volunteer, when they are undertaking a degree in History.

When the relevant areas of learning have been identified you should reflect on what you have learnt from those experiences.

You will need to understand and identify:

It is important to identify the level of your learning. This can be done using appropriate terminology and by giving specific examples of what you can do/have done. Advice on academic writing can be obtained from the Library and Student Services.

How to apply

Making an application for APEL

All enquiries should be directed in the first instance to the APL team who will arrange for a tutorial/workshop to take place between the enquirer and the relevant course tutor.

At this tutorial you will discuss the claim further and look together at the experience you have and the evidence you can gather. You will either be matching a taught module’s Learning Outcomes or writing your own. The evidence should therefore be equivalent to a certain academic level and amount of credit.

If it is decided that you have insufficient experience/ evidence, your APEL claim can be abandoned at this point, without charge.

If your claim is viable you will complete an APEL proposal form. Once you have both signed this document you have committed yourself to this process and cannot choose subsequently to undertake module(s) in its place. You will be charged a fee for the support you gain and the assessment of your APEL claim, whether or not your claim is successful. The fee is a £70 administration charge and £340 per 30 credits – regardless of academic level. [2017/18 fee rates. Annual increments apply]

The following points will also be discussed, decided and noted on your APEL Proposal form:

  • Learning Outcomes
    If you are seeking to match a taught module(s) via your APEL claim, the Learning Outcomes for this module(s) should be attached to your Proposal form.

    Alternatively, you may wish to write your own learning outcomes because your experience is relevant to the course subject area and can therefore be claimed against an optional module on the course. Further guidance can be given on this at enquiry stage/ tutorial.

  • Method of presenting your evidence
    There are various ways of demonstrating and presenting your prior learning:

    • Portfolio - online or hard copy
    • Interview
    • Viva
    • Audition
    • Artefact
    • Diagnostic Assessment

    The subject area of your claim will probably dictate which is the most appropriate.

  • Supervisor/assessors
    You will be allocated a supervisor for support whilst you prepare your evidence for assessment. You will also be notified of the first and second assessors of your claim. 2 assessors are required to maintain parity with standard taught module assessment. Your work may also be subject to scrutiny by an external examiner.

  • Assessment date/Deadline for submission
    Your date of assessment or the deadline for submission of an APEL portfolio will be decided by negotiation. If you are matching a taught module on a course, this date should be consistent with the assessment deadline for that module if it is running at the same time.


The evidence you provide to support your claim will be evaluated in respect of its:

  • Authenticity – that you have actually completed what is claimed
  • Relevance – that the learning matches the agreed learning outcomes sufficiently
  • Sufficiency – that the learning is judged to be at the appropriate academic level and of sufficient quantity to reflect the amount of credit sought
  • Currency – that the learning is sufficiently recent for you to benefit from the proposed or current programme; that you have kept up-to-date with recent developments

APEL credit is ungraded. You will be given a provisional pass/fail outcome and this will be reported to the next appropriate Module Assessment Board. In the case of a fail outcome, feedback will be given. You will be given reassessment opportunities in line with the regulations for that academic level of study.

Your APEL portfolio

Your APEL portfolio should comprise both evidence to demonstrate your learning and achievement and your reflection on your experiences.

Portfolio evidence may be direct or indirect. Direct evidence is anything that you have produced personally or been responsible for or involved in. It might include:

  • Documents – reports/plans/handbooks/publicity/article.
  • Presentation materials.
  • Budgets/forecasts.
  • Emails/correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Minutes from meetings with actions assigned to you.

Indirect evidence is information gathered from others about you such as:

  • Statements/letters from employers/colleagues/clients.
  • Certificates of attendance from courses.
  • Letters of employment.
  • Newspaper reports.

For each piece of evidence, some degree of explanation and/or comment will be useful to explain why you are including it in your portfolio.

Your reflective piece should:

  • Demonstrate your ability to reflect on your own experience and extract from it appropriate learning
  • Be relevant to and refer where appropriate to your set of learning outcomes
  • Refer directly to your supporting evidence where possible
  • Above all, show clearly how you came to achieve your learning

Other methods

All other methods of assessing your APEL claim will be discussed with your supervisor.

Confidentiality or anonymity

You may wish to refer to your employment/ professional area within your evidence. It is essential in these circumstances that issues of confidentiality are considered and that true names of any clients/ co-workers etc are not mentioned.

If documentation to be submitted does include such names, then these should be blanked out and/ or replaced by aliases.

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