Institute of Criminal Justice Studies

Recognition of Prior Learning

Many degree students, especially mature students, already know and understand some of the things that are going to be taught on their degree.

The knowledge, skills and experience you have gained through training courses, employment, professional development courses, voluntary work, private study and previous attendance at college and university could be counted toward your degree. This learning is often unrecognised because it has never been formally assessed or because the course was not completed. This learning can be recognised and given credits that count to your degree. This process is called the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and it gives you the chance to incorporate what you already know into your degree programme. This means that you can then build on this knowledge, and start the degree at an appropriate level. It is a matter of choice as to whether students make a claim. Sometimes it is better to join in with the rest of the degree students on the course but sometimes this can be repeating learning that you already know. The best thing to do is discuss the implications of claiming RPL with your Course Leaders.

This online guide:

  • provides a step-by-step guide to making a claim for prior learning credit
  • provides examples to help you write your claim
  • explains the principles behind RPL
  • answers your frequently asked questions

As long as the learning you claim is up-to-date, relevant to the degree for which you are studying and you can provide convincing evidence for it, the University of Portsmouth will allow you to count it towards your degree.

Download RPL policy (PDF)

Step 1 - Types of RPL

Making an RPL claim takes time but can be worthwhile because you avoid having to repeat learning that you already know.

Making a claim involves producing evidence of the learning you have achieved so you can start your new learning from where you are now. This evidence must demonstrate that your learning is equivalent to the learning of the individual units that make up the degree for which you have been registered. The sort of evidence depends on the type of prior learning for which credit is being claimed. There are two sorts:

  • Certificated learning where you have been assessed and have certificates or other documents that prove your learning. If this learning is relevant to your proposed degree you just have to present your certificates and other documents as evidence (with any transcript that gives details of the qualification or credit). You will also have to explain this relevance on your claim form.

  • Learning that is partially or wholly gained through working or through courses where there were no formal assessments. You have to show what the outcomes were from your prior learning (for example by providing evidence of how you have used this learning at work) and then demonstrate how your prior learning matches the learning outcomes of the units required for your degree.

Many claims will involve prior learning of both sorts.

Step 2 - What Prior Learning Counts?

You can only claim for prior learning that is relevant to your proposed award. You therefore need to find out what learning is expected for your degree. You can find this information by carefully looking at the units of study included in your degree. To do this you need to look at the unit descriptors. These are available by searching for the appropriate course using the codes below. Please make sure you have ticked the 'Courses' box under 'Search Type'.

  • C2113P - BSc (Hons) Crime and Criminology
  • C0586S - BSc (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • C2039S - BSc (Hons) Criminology and Forensic Studies
  • C2181S - BSc (Hons) Criminology with Psychology
  • C2459P - BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation
  • C1565P - BSc (Hons) Risk and Security Management
  • C2682P - MSc Criminal Justice (Flexible Framework)
  • C2222P - Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice
  • C2491P - Professional Doctorate in Security Risk Management

Please note that your prior learning must be within 5 years unless you can prove that it is active through your professional role. See FAQs for further information.

Work-based project units

Students who have previously completed a project at work may claim credit for this learning if it is equivalent to the learning outcomes of other units. Alternatively they could choose to submit this project within the regulations for the work-based project unit on their degree.

Step 3 - Review What You Already Know

At step 2 you looked at the unit descriptors. You now need to review the unit aims, unit syllabus and unit learning outcomes of each of the units that make up your degree. If you have already done the things listed under aims, have learned how to do the things listed under learning outcomes and know and understand the items mentioned in the syllabus, you should be able to claim credit for this prior learning. To review what you know go through each of the units one at a time and where you think you might claim use the claim form to note down what you know and where you learned it.

Step 4 - Evidence

When you have completed your review you have to turn your notes into a formal claim.

Your claim for prior learning will develop into a collection of materials that you put together that describe and prove the learning that you have achieved. Claims for prior learning can involve evidence of different types as follows:

Evidence of certificated and assessed learning

There are various sorts of evidence that may count including awards from: NVQ level 4; City and Guilds; NEBS management courses; ECDL computer courses; professional assessed training such as job specific training; Higher Education (including Open University) certificates, diplomas and partially-completed degrees.

For claims to be proven, certificates (or, where no certificate exists, letters from the awarding institution) should be presented. If your assessed and certificated learning is not previously known by the University you may be required to provide further course details including syllabi or course contents, details of the awarding organisation and place at which the learning was achieved so that the University can verify the relevance, validity and level of the course. Claims for learning that have been assessed and certificated is relatively straightforward.

Evidence of learning gained from work including training that has not been assessed and non-certificated

Again there are various sorts of evidence that might count including:

  • Direct evidence - project reports, databases, case study notes, correspondence, conference papers, work plans and so on.
  • Indirect evidence - statements or testimonials from employers, mentors, customers or clients; documentation on courses undertaken; appraisals and references; letters of validation (from personnel who are in a position to judge the value and quality of the learning); and so on.

AND YOU MUST explain how the evidence that you are putting forward is relevant. You can do this by:

  • describing the prior learning
  • explaining how you have used the new knowledge in your work

For example, for non-assessed professional development courses that you have attended you might submit evidence such as:

  • your notes from the course
  • attendance certificates
  • examples of how you have used the knowledge
  • testimonials from senior managers or professionals about your new competences

Then you write about and describe how you used the knowledge.

Step 5 - Submitting a Claim

Your finalised application form should contain the following:

Applicants should select samples of their materials which best demonstrate the specific knowledge and skills for which they are making a claim, rather than every relevant document.

RPL assessors will want to know what you have learned and how it matches the learning outcomes of the units against which you are claiming.

Once you have completed your RPL application please e-mail or post all the documents to:

Undergraduate courses



DLUG Admin Team
University of Portsmouth 
St George's Building 
141 High Street 
PO1 2HY 

Postgraduate courses



PGDL Admin Team
University of Portsmouth 
St George's Building 
141 High Street 
PO1 2HY 

Make sure that all documents are clearly marked with your name and the course that you are applying for. All RPL applications will be processed within 4 weeks of submitting the application.