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Recognising prior learning

The University of Bradford recognises that applicants/students may have gained knowledge and skills from prior learning or experience that is relevant to their intended programme of study. The Recognition of Prior Learning (known as RPL) process enables the University to recognise prior achievement for a number of different purposes:

  • For admission to a programme where an applicant does not have the standard/common entry qualifications
  • For admission to a programme at an intermediate level (e.g. into year 2 of an undergraduate degree). This is called entry ‘with advanced standing’
  • For awarding credit within a programme, allowing a student to gain exemption from individual modules. This is called ‘credit importation’
  • Or a combination of the above.

Facts and questions about RPL

Almost all programmes support entry with non-standard qualifications, and many offer entry with advanced standing and/or credit importation, particularly where previous University of Bradford programmes have been studied.

Some programmes do not allow students/applicants to enter at an intermediate level or import credit towards their University of Bradford award. This is usually due to requirements of accreditation by professional, statutory and regulatory bodies.

To see whether your current or intended programme of study accepts applications for RPL, please refer to the published programme specification or see the ‘Further advice and support’ section below.

Prior learning is either certificated (RPCL) or experiential (RPEL). The same application process applies to both types of RPL.

Certificated Learning (RPCL)

Prior certificated learning is learning that has previously been formally assessed. In this scenario, the applicant usually has a certificate and/or transcript to evidence that their learning has been assessed. Applicants requesting recognition of prior certificated learning may be asked for further details about their learning – for example from module descriptors, samples of work etc. The University will then determine the status of this learning as it relates to the intended programme of study and the applicant’s RPL request.

Examples of evidence an applicant might use for RPCL include:

  • Certificates of modules/programmes previously studied
  • Transcripts to accompany certificates
  • Specifications or descriptions of previous modules/programmes studied
  • Examples of completed tasks or assignments

Experiential (RPEL)

Prior experiential learning is learning that has been gained through experience and has not been evidenced by formal assessment or certification. In applications for the recognition of prior experiential learning, applicants will be asked to demonstrate their learning against certain criteria (e.g. learning outcomes or entry requirements). The University will then assess this learning to determine how it relates to the intended programme of study and the application for RPL.

Examples of evidence an applicant might use for RPEL include:

  • Job description(s) of previous employment
  • Reports from work experience
  • References (e.g. from employers, tutors)
  • Examples of completed tasks or assignments

Any evidence provided should be legible and in English.

In cases where the evidence is in a language other than English, official/certified translations should be provided alongside the original documents.

When reviewing any submitted evidence, the University will be checking that it is:

  • Authentic – Is the learning being demonstrated in the evidence genuinely the work of the applicant? Are any certificates/transcripts/references from genuine institutions/people?
  • Relevant and Current – Does the evidence clearly demonstrate achievement of the entry requirements and/or learning outcomes stated? Is this learning still relevant for the entry requirements and/or learning outcomes today?
  • Sufficient – Has enough evidence been provided to allow the University to confidently approve the application for RPL?


If more evidence is required…

If the member of staff reviewing an RPL application thinks that the evidence provided is insufficient to make a judgement about the achievement of the relevant entry requirements and/or learning outcomes, they may reach out to the applicant to discuss any additional evidence that it might be possible to provide.

In certain circumstances (particularly for experiential RPL applications), the applicant may also be asked to complete an assignment, produce a portfolio of work and/or take part in an interview as additional evidence to support their application.

The formal rules regarding the importation of credit at the University of Bradford are covered in Regulation 2 - Governing Undergraduate Programmes and Regulation 9 -Governing Postgraduate Programmes. Below is a summary of the key rules and regulations:

Importing credit - minimum amount

The minimum amount of credit that can be imported into a programme via the RPL process is the equivalent of a single module. This minimum credit value of ‘one module’ will depend on the programme. Most modules at Bradford are 20 credits. Applicants/students can find out about the credit value of their programme and modules via the published programme specification.

Importing credit – maximum amount

The maximum amount of credit that can be imported into a programme via the RPL process is 50% of the remaining balance of credit following entry onto the programme, whether this is at the standard entry point or with advanced standing.

For example:

  • A student enters an undergraduate programme with advanced standing at level 6 (the final stage of an undergraduate degree) so their ‘remaining balance’ of credit is 120 credits. In this scenario, the student would be able to apply for an additional 60 credits of RPL.
  • A student applies to a postgraduate Masters programme which has a credit value of 180 credits. In this scenario, the student would be able to apply for up to 90 credits of RPL.

Prior learning which is gained outside the University of Bradford will be recognised via the importation of credit only. No marks/grades will be imported for this prior learning. Instead, credit importation will be recorded at the pass rate for the programme (usually 40%) and will be excluded from the final degree award classification calcuations.

This means that any programme average and/or classification will be based upon a student’s performance at the University of Bradford only.

Where an application for recognition of prior learning relates to credit achieved at the University of Bradford (e.g. from a module/programme studied previously), marks may be imported alongside the credit and will contribute to any programme average and/or classification.

Recognising prior learning, whether for standard entry or for importing credit, can offer many benefits for applicants and students.

Depending on the type and amount of RPL, some of these benefits include:

  • Giving students with non-traditional qualifications the opportunity to access and benefit from Higher Education.
  • Allowing students to avoid duplication of study where achievement of learning outcomes has already been evidenced.
  • Allowing students to gain an award more quickly than if they had to start from the beginning of a programme of study.

While RPL can be very beneficial for applicants and students, some points to consider before you submit an RPL application include:

  • Some RPL scenarios can affect a student’s ability to apply for financial support. See the ‘How much does RPL cost and how does it affect fees?’ section above for more information.
  • Even if you have prior experience/qualifications in certain areas, sometimes it can be beneficial to study topics again but in new ways, in a new environment and with new people.
  • People are on hand to support you throughout your programme, but sometimes joining a programme later (e.g. in Year 2 rather than Year 1) can be a little daunting and some people feel more comfortable joining at the beginning when their classmates are also ‘new’.

Normally, claims for RPL would be submitted during the application process for a chosen programme of study.

However, there may be instances where a student wishes to receive recognition for learning gained during (but outside) their formal programme of study - e.g. on a year abroad or placement. In this scenario, a student can submit an application for RPL upon completion of their learning and/or receipt of any certification/transcript.

Further advice and support with RPL

We have tried to make the application process and form as simple as possible, but it is important to consider that completing the RPL application form can take a little bit of time and there is no guarantee of the application being successful. With that said, we're on hand to help with any queries you might have about a potential or current RPL application.

Choose the statement that applies to you:

Email the Admissions team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you are not a current student at the University of Bradford.

Email our Faculty of Engineering and Digital Technologies Programme Administration team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you currently study:

  • Architectural, Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence
  • Engineering Foundation
  • Film and Media
  • Games, Animation and Visual Effects
  • Mechanical and Automotive Engineering
  • Space Centre programmes

Email our Faculty of Health Studies Programme Administration team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you are currently studying:

  • Midwifery
  • Radiography
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Paramedic Science
  • Public Health
  • Advanced/Clinical/Professional Practice
  • Dementia Studies
  • Inclusion and Diversity; or
  • Nursing/MNurse/Nurse Associate Studies.

Email the Faculty of Life Sciences Programme Administration team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you are currently studying:

  • Archaeology or Forensic Sciences
  • Chemistry or Biosciences
  • Healthcare and Social Sciences Research
  • Medicine and Medicine Foundation
  • MRes Research
  • Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Technology or Clinical Sciences
  • Optometry or Vision Sciences.

There are 3 teams for this Faculty.

Email the MBA Operations Team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you are currently studying towards an MBA.

Email the FML Programme Administration team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you are currently studying any other programme within the School of Law or the School of Management (such as accounting, business, applied Artificial Intelligence and data analytics for business, finance, logistics, or marketing).

Email the FSS Programme Administration team about Recognition of Prior Learning if you currently study within the School of Social Sciences: UK Foundation; Pre-sessional English Language; International Development; Mental Health Practice; Peace Studies; Psychology; Criminology; Sociology; or Social Work and Social Care.



Guide to the Recognition of Prior Learning

PDF document (Updated 2020)

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