Guidance on the Application Process for the Recognition of Prior Learning in Taught Programmes

This guidance should be read in accordance with University policy on the recognition of prior learning at the University of Bristol, available at: Recognition of prior learning

What is RPL?

1. The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL - previously known as 'APL') is a process whereby a student is exempted from some parts of their chosen programme of academic study by recognition of their learning from previous experiences or achievements. Within this:

Process for Application

2. Applicants requesting direct entry and being exempted from a year(s) of study, and applying via UCAS, are not required to make a separate claim for RPL. The applicant must indicate their preferred year of entry in the 'point of entry' section of the UCAS application form. Before submitting the UCAS application, applicants are strongly advised to contact the relevant admissions team to discuss the feasibility of making a claim for direct entry for a specific programme.

3. Applicants seeking exemption from less than a whole stage of study, or not applying via UCAS, are required to make an RPL application directly to the School where their programme will be based.

4. Applicants interested in submitting a request for prior learning to be recognised by the University are advised to contact the relevant school (admissions tutor) that owns the programme to which the student is applying in the first instance for advice.

5. Information on the maximum amounts of credit for each type of programme that can be recognised and accredited as 'prior learning' is provided in University policy.

6. Applicants not applying via UCAS - in order for an application for RPL to be processed in time for the start of the teaching period, applications must be submitted at least FOUR WEEKS prior to the initial date of registration. Applications submitted after this period may be considered, at the discretion of the school.

Evidence of Prior Learning

7. Before devising an application, applicants should establish with the school the exact form and nature of the evidence that will need to be provided.

8. The prior learning must be relevant to the programme of study they are joining. Applicants need to need to find out what learning is expected for the programme. This information can be found by reviewing the intended learning outcomes in the programme specification and the units of study that make up the programme, as provided in the University's programme catalogue.

9. Evidence for the acceptance of RPL needs to demonstrate that applicants have a reasonable expectation of satisfactorily completing the programme to which they are applying. Therefore applications for prior learning will be judged on whether the evidence is:

10. Applicants should also refer to and evidence the fulfilment of any additional criteria, as determined by the school.


11. Applicants must apply for exemption from units because of prior learning by the completion and submission of the application form for the recognition of prior learning.

12. All applications must include evidence of the prior learning, as follows:

Judging an Applicant

13. Acceptance of prior learning for credit purposes is at the discretion of the school, normally the relevant programme director, in consultation with the relevant Faculty Education Director.

14. Schools will evaluate the information provided in the form and any submitted evidence, in relation to the criteria in (9) and any other established criteria specific to the programme.

15. Where schools are not able to make a decision on the basis of the evidence provided, applicants may be invited to undertake a formal interview or an assessment task to enable the school to gauge their knowledge of the subject. In such cases, the school will, in good time, inform the applicant about the purpose and nature of the task.

16. The School will formally write, following the submission of the application (bearing in mind any deadlines for starting the programme), informing applicants of the decision, the units from which they are being exempted, any implications for subsequent progression or completion/degree classification, the reasons for making the decision and provide any feedback on the result of any assessment, if undertaken. Wherever possible, this will be confirmed before applicants start programmes of study.


17. A complaint against a judgement on an application for RPL will be treated in the same way as a complaint with the admissions process. See the University's undergraduate Admissions Principles and Processes or Admissions principles and procedures for postgraduate taught programmes for details.

Recording APL

18. The learning that has been accredited and the amount and level of University of Bristol credit from which exemption has been granted will be recorded on the student record system prior to registration and clearly identified on the transcript.

Student Fees

19. Where a student is exempted from part of their programme of study at the University of Bristol the programme fee for the relevant year may be charged pro rata to the amount of credit being studied.