Accrediting Prior Learning: Tensions Between Its Social Inclusion and Widening Participation Intentions and Current Practice

  • Sean McCreadyEmail author
Living reference work entry


There is an extensive range of positive rhetoric concerning the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and its many benefits for awarding credit in recognition of one’s experience. However, it still remains very much a marginal activity within many institutions. This study investigates the nature of existing barriers to the greater take-up of APEL and explores whether technology could play some part in overcoming them.

The existence and nature of barriers to wider APEL take-up is under-represented in the literature. This action research study uses qualitative methods to develop a case study within a single UK college of further and higher education. The research design included a focus group for student feedback, semistructured interviews for staff feedback, and the development and testing of a technology solution comprising a website and software application.

The study found clear evidence of the existence of a range of barriers affecting the wider uptake of APEL and established several ways in which the technology used did help or could help overcome these barriers. The role of the tutor within the APEL process is of great importance, whether the system used is paper based or technology based, and further training and support were found to be necessary to ensure that all staff were consistent in the application of the APEL process.

Although this is a small-scale study in a single institution, it is typical of other institutions. Further research into the wider range of barriers identified and further development of appropriate technology solutions could help a larger proportion of people in employment to gain credit for the skills and knowledge they have developed through their work, as they seek to complement their practical experience with formal education and gain recognition for this experience though an institution’s APEL process.


APEL RPL Experiential learning Recognition of prior learning Barriers to APEL Widening participation Social inclusion 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ICS LearnGlasgowUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • David John Matheson
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Health, Education and Well-beingUniversity of WolverhamptonWalsallUK

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