Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy

MEaP Academy Community Training and Institute (MaCTRI) – Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy – Purpose

This policy document applies to all credit-based provisions accredited by MaCTRI.

MaCTRI seeks to enable learners to avoid the duplication of learning and assessment through equivalences or exemptions for the purposes of awarding credit. There are two ways in which this will be achieved:

  • The opportunity to transfer credits, i.e., to recognise previously accredited achievements from within or outside the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) to count towards other qualifications.
  • For individuals with learning or achievements that have not been certificated/accredited, it may be possible to assess and validate these through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process. These achievements may then count towards a qualification.

Who does this policy apply to?

  • Quality Assurance Managers
  • Internal Verifiers
  • Assessors
  • MaCTRI I staff

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy – When to use this policy

The policy and procedure will apply to:   RQF qualifications

 Approved units of assessment

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is the recognition of non-certificated learning towards a full (not partial) unit or qualification. The RPL process must be negotiated with the centre and must be claimed as part of a course. The centre is responsible for assessment and claiming credit. There is no difference between the achievement of the required standards by RPL and achievement through a formal programme of study, therefore RPL appears on certificates as credit-bearing.

To achieve the above, a learner must produce valid and reliable evidence of learning to support any claims based on experience. A learner may claim RPL against a whole unit or several units. It is not possible to award part units, but where the RPL evidence does not fully meet the needs of a complete unit, the missing information may be provided via the same assessment processes that are undertaken by a taught group of learners. To achieve recognition of achievement there are two options open to the learner:

  1. Undertake the same assessments as those following the formal course of learning and assessment that lead to the desired unit or qualification. These assessments may be undertaken without attending the teaching sessions.
  2. Submit a portfolio of evidence-based on previous learning, skills and/or competence crossreferenced to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of the unit or units for which RPL is being sought.

It should be noted that RPL is an alternative route to achievement and not an easy option or shortcut. Evidence must be produced for RPL which is subject to the same assessment and quality assurance requirements as applied to evidence produced as part of a course.

Under some circumstances, there may be a limit to the proportion of a qualification that can be achieved by either credit transfer or RPL. Full details of these requirements will be identified in the specification documents for qualifications offered by MaCTRI.

Learner’s wishing to avail themselves of this method of accreditation must negotiate the procedure with the organisation through which they wish to claim the award of credit. All centres recognised by MACTRI must have policies and procedures and trained staff which enable these processes to be invoked and implemented.

The learner must play an active role in the process as s/he must produce evidence and map it to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of all units they wish to claim. Appropriately trained staff from the learning provider organisation concerned should be available to give specialist advice on this process. The individual wishing to make the claim may also require the support of their employer or other organisation (e.g., if they have worked as an unpaid volunteer) in order to be able to confirm achievement of assessment criteria for which there is no tangible evidence, e.g., practical tasks.

Proposals to use the RPL process for an individual must be the responsibility of a Lifetime Awarding approved centre. Through the process the centre’s assessors and quality assurance staff must ensure that evidence is:

  1. Valid – Does the evidence genuinely demonstrate that the demands of the learning outcome have been met? For RPL, the currency of evidence is of particular concern. To ensure that the evidence meets up-to-date demands MaCTRI normally expects the evidence to be within the last three years.
  2. Authentic – Consideration needs to be given as to whether the evidence being examined is genuinely the work of the learner. If the learning outcome is related to team working, it would be acceptable to use evidence that may be the result of the work of a team, but not if it was being used as evidence of an activity that should have been carried out individually.
  3. Sufficient – There must be enough evidence to fully meet the requirements of the learning outcome, or learning outcomes being considered. If there is insufficient evidence to fully meet requirements, evidence obtained through RPL must be used alongside evidence gained through other suitable assessment methods (s).
  4. Reliable – All evidence obtained through RPL should be presented in a manner that allows another assessor to arrive at the same assessment decision, where the assessment is to be repeated.

To quantify the use of RPL processes, external quality assurers will be required to identify the provision where RPL has been applied. Collated information about the use of RPL and credit exemption will be made available as part of the annual quality process. Centres are required to keep records of valid claims through exemptions and equivalencies for three years.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy – Restrictions

For Exemption and Equivalency – a maximum of 70% of qualification can normally be achieved through exemption or equivalency. At least 30% should be gained through new learning.

For RPL – MaCTRI reserves the right to exclude the use of RPL in cases such as:

  • Licence to practise
  • Health and Safety requirements
  • Regulated professions
  • Work Placements

Additionally, RPL cannot be used where units are subject to external assessment.

Guidance for implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and achievement policy

Lifetime Awarding will expect the following elements to be present in any RPL policy operated by a provider.

Stage 1

General awareness-raising regarding claiming of credit – information, advice and guidance.  Once learners have decided to consider their learning for RPL purposes, they will need to know about:

  • How to claim credit via the RPL process
  • Sources of professional support and guidance available to individuals and employers
  • The administrative process for RPL applications
  • Timelines, appeals processes, and any fees or subsidies
  • The currency of existing evidence, qualification, experience, skills, or competence. (i.e., does the evidence relate to current learning? Where centres and/or professional, statutory, or regulatory bodies have specific requirements and/or time limits for the currency of evidence, certification, or demonstration of learning, these should be made clear and transparent)

Stage 2

Pre-assessment – gathering evidence and giving information

When an individual has decided to pursue an RPL route towards achievement it is vital that the candidate is fully informed of the RPL process and has sufficient support to make a viable claim and to make decisions about evidence collection and presentation for assessment. During this stage, the candidate will carry out the evidence collection and develop an assessment plan. The evidence required for the award of credit will depend on the purpose, learning outcomes and assessment criteria for the relevant unit within the RQF. It is the provider’s responsibility to inform Lifetime Awarding at registration about any learner who has previously achieved units that have been approved as Exemptions, Equivalents, and Credit Transfer or will be achieved through RPL. This information along with copies of certificates as applicable must be made available to the centre’s internal verifier and the EQA during quality assurance sampling as part of claiming the award of credit.

Stage 3

Assessment as part of RPL and within the RQF is a structured process for gathering and reviewing evidence and making judgements about a candidate’s prior learning and experience in relation to unit standards. Assessment must be valid and reliable to ensure the integrity of units and qualifications and the RPL system. The assessment process for RPL must be subject to the same Lifetime Awarding quality assurance processes as any other assessment process. Learners’ work that contributes towards their claim for credit via the RPL process must be internally and externally verified and all achievements documented as for conventional learner achievement, all RPL-related achievements must be marked as such in all documentation.

Stage 4 –

Awarding credit Awarding organisations are responsible for awarding credit. The procedure is the same as for other forms of assessment. The credit is recorded in the learner record and claims for credit are made through the usual Recommendation for the Award of the Credit process.

Stage 5 – Feedback

After the assessment the assessor will need to give feedback to the candidate, discuss the results and give support and guidance on the options available to the candidate, which may include, for example, further learning and development.

Stage 6 – Appeal

If claimants wish to appeal against a decision made about their claim for credit (via the RPL process) they would need to follow the standard appeals process that exists within the MaCTRI recognised centre.

Related terms

A range of terms and processes are frequently confused with RPL. Explanations of those that have been found to occur most frequently are shown below:

  • Credit transfer o Equivalent units
  • Exemptions

Credit transfer

The Regulatory Arrangements for the Qualifications and Credit Framework (RQF) describes Credit Transfer as:

“The process of using a credit or credits awarded in the context of one qualification towards the achievement requirements of another qualification.”

Credit transfer is the process whereby a learner’s RQF credits are counted towards a RQF qualification that includes one or more of the units the learner has already achieved. Learners’ credits can transfer directly across without having to repeat any learning or assessment.

Credit transfer relates to the rules of the combination of qualification. No credits are awarded to learners claiming credit transfer or exemption within a qualification, as the previous achievements on which these processes are based, have, by definition, already been formally recognised and certificated. Credit transfer can apply to shared units and equivalent units.

Equivalent Units

Equivalent units are different RQF units that, when compared, are judged to be equal to or greater than the content of another. An equivalent unit needs to be of the same credit value or higher and the same level or higher. Equivalent units will look different, but the comparative content will be deemed to be identical or beyond and above the content required. Equivalent units are normally included in the rules of combination for a q qualification and centres must register learners against the appropriate equivalent unit.


The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) describes an exemption as:

“The facility for a learner to claim exemption from some of the achievement requirements of a RQF qualification using evidence of certificated, non-RQF achievement deemed to be of equivalent value.”

If a previous achievement is certificated outside the RQF, then the exemption mechanism can be applied to the same end. An exemption might be granted based on a qualification gained in the old NQF, in other UK frameworks, or through an overseas qualification.

The assessor must make sure that the components of the certificated qualification are sufficient to cover the requirements of all the learning outcomes, units, or units that it is being examined against.  The exemption relates to the rules of the combination of qualifications. No credits are awarded to learners claiming exemption within a qualification, as the previous achievements on which these processes are based have, by definition, already been formally recognised and certificated.

Exemptions are normally included in the rules of combination for qualification and centres must register learners against the appropriate exemption.



The effectiveness of this policy and associated arrangements will be reviewed annually under the direct supervision of the MaCTRI Head of Institute.
Date: April 2022
Review Date: April 2023