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