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

Author - Anne Murphy


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Some comparisons and contrasts

The French Law of 2002 could be regarded as radical in a number of ways, compared to the models of AP(E)L presented in the earlier reports from the UK and Ireland. First, it places the rights on the side of the applicants and the obligations on the side of the providers. Second, it promotes the award of full qualifications through AP(E)L. Third, all learning is regarded as legitimate in a claim, rather than the narrow notions of learning generally at play in other models. Fourth, all key stakeholders are mobilised in the process: information providers, employers, training bodies, and higher education colleges. Fifth, advice is available to all citizens on a local and regional basis through points-relais-conseil. Sixth, higher education colleges are obliged to consider claims presented to them. Finally, colleges are financially supported in implementing AP(E)L equally with support for taught course through traditional entry routes.

Compared to UK and Irish models of AP(E)L, the French model has established the principles of equity at all stages, rather than marginality and differentiation. Additionally there is a huge emphasis on guidance through the accompagnier role, and this provision is key to the success of the scheme both for the applicant/candidate and for the colleges. The accompanier assists with the application, assists with the portfolio (dossier) preparation, assists with formation of the jury and tracks the candidate throughout the learning project identified by the jury with tutorial support and with advice on administrative and financial matters. This amounts to combining the principles of ‘access’ and ‘accessibility’ in ways that have not been achieved in the other models but which is an aspirational principle for all mature students support.

The models of AP(E)L-in-action, and indeed the models in development in the UK and Ireland fall quite short of the French provision. Enabling legislation and financial resources on the French scale are not yet in the discourse here in any case, though there is significant rhetoric, significant development work on principles and on operational guidelines, and many models already tested. What is perhaps noteworthy though, is that there is now a general willingness to think about experiential learning towards credits and awards in ways other than just in terms of the skills and competencies approach so entrenched in vocational training and FE. There is a greater willingness to consider the reservation about that approach expressed in the research by the higher-education sector where the range of knowledge and learning arising from experience are not necessarily encompassed in pre-defined national standards and benchmarks of competence levels.

In summary, the research findings dealt with in this paper do not indicate that providers/colleges themselves are willing to be pro-active with regard to AP(E)L without considerable enabling legislation, greater support from the exchequer and greater scaling-up to sustainable levels. It is likely that colleges will remain re-active until such time as the student profile and relationships with professional bodies, commerce and industry threaten the colleges’ traditional control on awards and qualifications.

 

 


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