Recognition of Prior Learning

Approval Date
10 March 2022
Approved By
Chief Executive
Deputy Chief Executive: Academic Delivery
Baldrige Criteria
Customer focus

This policy describes the nature of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and the relevant policies for its application and administration, including issues of enrolment, fees, appeal.


Target Course: The course for which credit is sought. 

Source Course: The course for which the applicant/learner (learner) already holds credit. This may be another Otago Polytechnic Limited course or one from any other provider. 

Credit Transfer (CT): Credit for the same course is applicable in situations where the Target and Source course/s are exactly the same entity. The course may be a local course or a unit standard.  Formal evidence must be provided by the learner to indicate that they hold the relevant result. In the case of Credit Transfer (CT) for a unit standard, no result is sent as the learner has already had this awarded. The Student Management System (SMS) automatically ensures this, provided the CT option is entered. 

Cross Credit (CC): Cross Crediting is applicable in situations where the Target and Source course/s are not the same entity. However, the material covered is equivalent. For CC to be awarded, the learning outcomes in the Target course/s must all have been adequately covered in the Source course/s. For example, a pass in a university paper may gain CC for a similar degree course at Otago Polytechnic Limited. 

Sometimes it may require more than one Source course to cover a single Target course, e.g., a learner may need both Psychology 101 and Anthropology 201 to cover the learning outcomes for a single Target course in an Otago Polytechnic Limited programme of study.

 In the case of CC for a Target course consisting of a New Zealand Qualification Framework (NZQF) unit standard, a result must be sent to New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). SMS automatically ensures this, provided the CC option is entered. This may in some cases require a small piece of further assessment to be undertaken. In such cases, once the assessment is complete, a CC would be entered. 

Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL): The learner must provide evidence that the learning outcomes in the Target course/s or Graduate Profile Outcomes in a qualification have been acquired from relevant experience in the workplace, community, or other settings and/or courses that have been completed elsewhere. An APEL assessment would consider the whole of a person’s learning from experience. This may result in a mix of outcomes including CC, CT, Advanced Standing (ADV), or a complete qualification assessment and credit where appropriate. 

Advanced Standing (ADV): This is used when, following an APEL or qualifications equivalence, it is evident that a learner can enter a programme of study at an advanced level.

ADV applies where RPL application has been assessed for course/s, qualifications, and/or an APEL process in which the outcomes equate to at least sixty (60) credits towards an Otago Polytechnic Limited qualification.

ADV may include CC and CT, however, these will be indicated separately on transcripts. Programme of study regulations will clearly identify how ADV is determined and what assessment and evaluation processes are to be used. 

ADV will be annotated on transcript documents as indicated in Section 7 below.

Advisor/Facilitator: The Advisor/Facilitator is the person who gives advice to the learner on the operation of the APEL process and negotiates with the learner the particular form of assessment that will be required.

Assessor: The Assessor is the person who makes the assessment judgement on the basis of the evidence provided by the learner in accordance with the assessments agreed between learner and Advisor/Facilitator. In APEL, the Advisor/Facilitator and the Assessor are not to be the same person. 

Student Management System: The SMS is the electronic system in which all learner enrolments and academic records are recorded. It is often referred to by the system name currently EBS or EBS4. 

External Codes: The External Codes to be entered in the case of CC is to be the other provider’s course code/s for the Source course/s. This will appear on the other provider’s transcript. CC applications will not be approved unless the other provider’s transcript or results notice is provided. 

The name of the Source course/s is also to be as per the other provider’s transcript or results notice. This will enable Otago Polytechnic Limited to use SMS data as the basis of information to the proposed national CC database. External stakeholders must be able to identify the Source course/s on this database, so Otago Polytechnic Limited must use the actual External Codes. The SMS is able to provide reports detailing CC, RPL, and ADV. 

Verified Documentation: Any record of student achievement presented for use in the RPL process must be the original produced by the accredited provider of the result/qualification e.g., Record of Learning, University Transcript. Any copies of such original documents must be verified by the accredited provider or a verified copy signed by a Justice of the Peace.

  1. Implementation and use of RPL

1.1   RPL is to be enabling for potential learners, rather than a barrier.

1.2   Applications for RPL from learners who are intending to enrol in programmes of study are to be made on the generic application form (Appendix A). 

  1. Information to Learners

2.1           Information to learners must include information on the nature of RPL and the course/s within the programme of study for which RPL applications may be made. 

  1. Scope

3.1   Credit may be granted under RPL for whole courses only. Credit will not be granted for parts of a course. (NB prior completions of unit standards which form part of a course will be recorded for academic purposes, but this will not result in credit for the course itself until the other unit standards in the course are completed according to the completion requirements for that course. In such cases, the learner will still enrol in the full course and pay full fees.

3.2   Unit standards-based programmes of study must be structured to allow a fair application of the RPL policy. If the majority of learners are likely to have already completed a particular unit standard/s, this unit standard/s should be left as a course/s in its own right in the programme schedule of the programme of study. Failure to structure the programme of study in this way would mean learners are required to enrol in the full course (and pay the full fee) even if they hold credits for all but one of the unit standards in that course. However, it is recognised that unit standards are assessment tools and should not be the sole driver of the structure of the teaching programme.

3.3   RPL including ADV applications may be received from learners enrolling in Otago Polytechnic Limited programmes of study seeking assessment for whole or part qualifications. 

  1. Fees

4.1.  Assessment Fee: this fee is calculated for the time and resources required to assess the RPL application.

4.2   Any outstanding fees at year-end will result in the inability of a learner to graduate and continued non-payment may result in the debt being forwarded to a collection agency.

4.3    The total fee charged cannot be greater than the fee that would be payable if the learner enrolled in the Target course/s. As a guide, the total assessment fee should be no more than approximately one-third of the cost of the target course or programme of study.

4.4   The RPL assessment fee is not StudyLink loan/Fees Free/Trades Training Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) approvable.  However, student loans may be available for any course/s that the learner is required to complete as part of the APEL process subject to meeting StudyLink/Fees Free/TTAF eligibility criteria.

4.5     There is no application fee for RPL however an assessment fee may be charged if there is significant evidence to be reviewed such as a portfolio detailing experience.

Type of RPL

Assessment Fee

Credit Transfer


Cross Credit

Yes – as determined by Head of College

Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning

Yes – as determined by Head of College

Advanced Standing



  • If an application is received for more than one (1) course in a programme of study at the same time, it will be treated as a single application
  • Where the result of an RPL application requires withdrawal from a course/s the withdrawal will be enacted (with reference to policy Withdrawal, Transfer, Cancellation and Refund Policy for Year XXXX) at the same time as processing the RPL result. This may impact the learner’s Equivalent Full-time Student (EFTS) and financial assistance.
  • When discussing RPL with learners the school/college must clarify the consequence of the result of the RPL on the learners' EFTS as it may affect their entitlement to StudyLink loans and/or allowances. For international learners, granting RPL with the subsequent path of study change may require a variation to the learner’s visa.  

5. Refunds

5.1   The amount of any refund of tuition fees will depend on the amount of the assessment fee plus any NZQA fees and the resources consumed and will be determined on recommendation from the Head of College.  Separate invoices are to be created for any RPL assessment fee.

5.2   If RPL is awarded for an international learner they will receive a refund of the international fee for that course/s minus any assessment or equivalence fees that have been calculated in determining the RPL. 

6. Assessment

6.1. Assessments will be conducted by Assessors who are experienced in the subject/content areas and are also experienced Assessors. All Assessors must be trained in RPL assessment methods and processes. All assessments must follow the guidelines indicated in the Assessment and Moderation policy. It is the responsibility of the Head of College to ensure that fair, valid and reliable decisions are made regarding determining equivalence of a course/s supported by evidence from subject matter/subject experts.

7. Results

7.1   All RPL assessment results shown on result notices and academic transcripts will be those taken from the grade table in the approved programme of study documentation. These may include ADV, CCs, CTs, or any other grade table result approved by Otago Polytechnic Limited Academic Committee.

7.2   For CTs, the result code will be shown on result notices and academic transcripts as CT.

7.3   For CCs, the result code will be shown on result notices and academic transcripts as CC.

7.4   For APEL, the result code will be shown on result notices and academic transcripts as either Pass or APEL, except in cases where the Target course comprises NZQF unit standards or multiple NZQF unit standards, in which case the code is passed (as for any NZQF unit standard).

7.5   For ADV, where the learner has been assessed for APEL for at least 60 credits the result code shown on result notices and academic transcripts is ADV and will include the amount of credit gained for ADV by semester or year, e.g., ADV Year 1, 60 or 120 credits.

 7.6.1 The evidence supporting the award of ADV must be entered into the SMS. Where CCs or CTs are used these will be indicated separately. 

  1. Appeals

8.1   Appeals against RPL decisions must be made in writing to the Head of College within seven (7) working days of receiving the decision.

8.2   The Head of College will review the decision and notify the learner of the outcome within seven (7) working days of receipt of the appeal. Should the learner still be dissatisfied with the decision they may enter the normal academic appeal process for learners, refer to the Academic Appeal Process for Learners Policy Clause 5, i.e. by writing to the Te Kaihāpai within seven (7) working days of receiving the decision, saying what the decision is, and explaining the grounds for appeal. 

  1. Responsibilities of Heads of College

9.1   Determining which course/s RPL will not apply to and ensuring this is included in the approved programme documents. The rationale for not allowing RPL in a programme of study must be clearly articulated in the programme document, for example where an external agency requirements place limits on RPL such as the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

9.2   Ensuring moderation processes are in place and are followed.

9.3   Ensuring that sufficient staff in the College/programme of study are familiar with RPL and can act as Assessors and Advisors/Facilitators for APEL.

9.4   Monitoring, reviewing, and revising College RPL processes as necessary and at least annually.

9.5   Ensuring College documents the process and outcomes for RPL decisions, inform the learner of RPL processes and the outcome of RPL application and maintains records pertinent to RPL.

9.6   Providing assessors for RPL assessments.       

  1. Training for Advisors/Facilitators and Assessors

10.1 RPL education is to be included in the ongoing Professional Development Programme of Otago Polytechnic Ltd. 

  1. Other Authorities

11.1 Where Otago Polytechnic Ltd carries out assessments and/or issues qualifications on behalf of an external authority RPL procedures will be carried out only with the approval of that authority. 

  1. General

12.1 RPL credit at Otago Polytechnic Ltd is available only for course/s in which Otago Polytechnic Ltd is accredited. 

  1. Timing of RPL Applications

13.1 All RPL applications such as CTs and CCs, APEL and ADV applications should be assessed and processed at the time of initial enrolment including the results entered in SMS. However, in exceptional circumstances, with Head of College approval applications can be made during the programme of study which are assessed and processed with results entered no later than six (6) weeks before the learner's graduation date.



megan gibbons signature

Approved by:
Dr. Megan Gibbons
Chief Executive


POLICY VERSION: V11: Previously Coded: AP0501