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Where does AP(E)L fit in Higher Education?

Author - Anne Murphy

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On an EU policy level the paper acknowledges the impact on thinking about AP(E)L as a result of the agreement of common European principles for validation of non-formal and in-formal learning in 2004 at the Dublin Conference during Ireland’s presidency of the EU (note 1).This conference also addressed the possible areas of agreement across vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) on contiguous issues such as a common European Qualification Framework, common arrangements for credit transfer and common arrangements for quality assurance. Additionally, the paper is written contemporaneously with the introduction of such mechanisms as the Europass, European CV, Mobilipass, European Language Portfolio, Diploma Supplement and Certificate Supplement, which are all underpinned by the broad principles of flexibility, mobility, transferability and mutual recognition of qualifications and learning (note 2).

At the philosophical level, the paper is written against current debates on the role of higher education in supporting a knowledge society in a differentiated, transitional, post-industrial phase of economic development, where the distinction between VET and HE is becoming increasingly blurred in the rhetoric of lifelong learning (note 3).

At the national policy level, the paper is written in the context of accelerated development of principles, operational guidelines and mechanisms for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) by all tertiary level awarding bodies (note 4) and across tertiary levels of the new national framework of qualifications in 2004 and 2005 (note 5).

The paper is however, more about AP(E)L research into practice than about policy development. The specific research reports selected for discussion here, therefore, are as follows:

(i) The Learning from Experience Trust (LET) Research Report (2002) Mapping AP(E)L in higher education in England, commissioned by the Department of Education and Enterprise (DfEE), and available from http://www.learningexperience.org.uk

(ii) The EU Joint Action Project (2003), TRANSFINE (TRANSfer between Formal, Informal and Non-formal Education) Project Final Report, written by Pat Davies on behalf of the project partners; EUCEN, EAEA, AEFP, FIEEA, and SEFI (note 6) and available at http://www.transfine.net

(iii) The Socrates-Grundtvig VaLEx Project (2004) VaLEx National Report for the UK, produced jointly by Glasgow-Caledonian University, the University of Stirling and the University of Warwick.

(iv) The VaLEx research project (2004) Report of Audit of AP(E)L in higher education in Ireland, produced by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) with the co-operation of the Irish AP(E)L Network (note 7) . VaLEx reports are available on http://www.valex-apel.com

(v) The University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) commissioned report, (2004) Bridging rhetoric and reality: accreditation of prior experiential learning (AP(E)L) in the UK, produced by Middlesex University with support from the Learning and Skills Council http://www.uvac.ac.uk

The paper is organised into three parts. In the first part, the reports named above are summarised in terms of purpose, scale, methodology and key findings.
In the second part the cross cutting themes among the reports are indicated.
In the final part the models of AP(E)L systems in higher education described in the reports are contrasted with the model now operating in France under the 2002 legislation.


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