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

Author - Anne Murphy

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VaLEx National Report for the UK

Detailed analytical reports on the status of AP(E)L in the UK (Scotland, England and Northern Ireland) were prepared in 2003 by the pre-VaLEx Socrates Project, AP(E)L from the Learners’ Perspective, by the Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning (CRLL), based at Glasgow-Caledonian and Sterling. The key issues from those reports were used to inform the VaLEx UK background report for the UK, the summary of which is as follows:

In Scotland and England AP(E)L was enabled through the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) in England and SCOTCATS in Scotland in the 1990s. Since then it has remained a marginal institutional activity both in FE and HE. There is no overall national framework for AP(E)L in either England or Scotland and it has developed mostly in the post-1992 universities, which generally place a higher emphasis on widening participation than the older universities. AP(E)L has developed too through EU funded projects such as Leonardo and Socrates, generally in vocationally oriented or adult learning areas with the emphasis on access/entry rather than on exemptions at advanced standing, or on whole-award processes.
From the reports, AP(E)L is generally regarded as time-consuming and overly-cumbersome relative to conventional approaches to course design and delivery.

AP(E)L has been connected to work-based learning (WBL) through the Scottish Vocational Qualifications system (SVQs) as a mechanism for fast-tracking of experienced workers towards qualifications. This is especially so at postgraduate-level entry for particular sectors. AP(E)L for professional accreditation at undergraduate level has been less successful, though. This may be because undergraduate courses have tighter curriculum design approaches where ‘college knowledge’ is central to modules and courses, making it difficult to translate experiential learning across the systems.

A compounding issue is the centralised approach to the award of credit in Scotland and England where only the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the English National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) and the universities can award credit. This may be resolved in Scotland through the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework currently in development.


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