Accreditation of Prior Certified Learning (APCL)


The RPS is committed to avoiding burdensome duplication of assessment and has therefore developed a process of accreditation of prior certified learning (APCL). The APCL process allows prospective candidates to request exemptions from outcomes of the RPS curricula based on previously assessed certified learning.

This must always be balanced with the RPS’s duty to protect patients and the public by ensuring that those who have been credentialed by the RPS have demonstrated the professional capabilities and outcomes as defined in each of the RPS curricula. In order to balance this, the RPS applies the principles below to any APCL requests.


What is APCL?

APCL gives recognition to prior learning which has been formally assessed by an educational body and for which a certificate has been awarded; this process helps avoid duplication of assessment for individuals undertaking RPS credentialing.

The RPS will consider accreditation of prior certified learning applications by applying the following principles:

  • APCL will not be awarded for high-stakes outcomes for advanced or consultant level credentials1. All individuals undertaking the programme will have to demonstrate achievement of all high-stakes curriculum outcomes.
  • APCL learning may only be awarded to exempt individuals from assessment medium-stakes and low-stakes outcomes.
  • APCL requests must be relevant, authentic, and valid.
  • APCL requests must be at the equivalent level of performance as described by the curriculum outcomes in each curriculum’s programme of learning.
  • Patient safety must never be compromised.

What does the RPS accept as certified learning?        

  • Certified learning includes learning that is provided,assessed, and certified by an educational organisation or education provider. This includes, but is not limited to: universities & higher education institutions, statutory education providers (e.g. NES, HEIW, NHSE WTE, NICPLD) or any other non-credit awarding education provider (e.g. CPPE or similar).
  • Any certified learning presented for APCL must have included a robust, independent assessment and the candidate must be able to provide evidence of this (e.g. certificate, academic transcript). If the certified learning did not award academic credits, you may be asked for additional details or evidence of the assessment methodology.

Which outcomes are considered high stakes and why can’t these be exempted?

  • Within each of the RPS curricula, each curriculum outcome has an associated stakes rating (Low, medium or high). This is shown in the assessment blueprint of each curriculum document.
  • As part of the curriculum development process, the RPS asked independent experts to rate each outcome’s potential risk to patient safety. High stakes outcomes were those with the most potential tolead to significant harm for patients or the public and, therefore, needed a higher level of risk mitigation.
  • This higher level of risk means the RPS is unable to offer APCL for high stakes outcomes for core advanced and consultant credentials 2.
  • If you have previously gathered evidence and/or undertaken assessment closely aligned to RPS high stakes outcomes, this can be recycled and uploaded into your portfolio for re-assessment.

1 The only exception to this is exemption of high-stakes outcomes in the RPS post-registration foundation curriculum exempted through completion of a GPhC-accredited

2 APCL is only available for high-stakes outcomes in the post-registration foundation credentialing assessment because this currently aligns to the GPhC-regulated independent prescribing qualification.

APCL application process

There are three routes to APCL depending on the certified learning for which you are seeking exemptions. 

Route 1 

Is the APCL for RPS Faculty?

Automatic exemptions are available if you have previously undertaken an RPS assessment. Within the advanced and consultant curricula the automatic exemptions based on your level of achievement in faculty are provided in the APCL section.

To have the automatic exemptions applied, send an email attaching your RPS Faculty outcome report to [email protected]. Make sure you are clear about which credential for which you are applying.

Route 2

Is the APCL request already an approved course on the RPS APCL directory?

Check to see if the certified learning you have completed has already been approved for automatic APCL by reviewing the RPS APCL directory.

If the course of programme is on the directory, e-mail [email protected] with evidence you have completed the pre-approved programme.

Please note APCL exemptions on the directory are aligned to specific programmes. If you only completed part of theprogramme or a similar programme, or the same programme outside of the approved timescales,you will be required to undertake route 3.

Route 3

Is the APCL request for a new course of programme which is not listed on the RPS APCL directory?

If the certified learning for which you are seeking APCL is not on the RPS APCL directory, you will be required to submit a full APCL submission. The request will then be reviewed and validated by RPS APCL assessors. Please note, you should consider whether the exemptions you are likely to achieve is worth the time and effort required to complete an APCL submission; it may be easier to simply reupload your evidence for assessment to your e-portfolio.

The following steps outline what you need to do to prepare your request:

  1. Supply proof of certification. Provide a copy of the relevant certificate and/or academic transcript. Please note, certificates of attendance are not accepted as these are not linked to successful assessment.
  2. Provide the course/programme learning outcomes. Submit the course/programme learning outcomes in as much detail as you can. These are usually found in the programme/module handbook. You can include overall programme outcomes or module outcomes (as long as you have evidence of their successful completion).
  3. Critically map the course/programme learning outcomes against the RPS curriculum outcomes. Use the RPS APCL application form template to undertake the mapping exercise. You should consider carefully how well the learning outcomes from your previously learning align to the outcomes of the RPS curriculum for which you are seeking exemption. When undertaking your mapping, consider the following:
    • You must map against the specific wording of the full RPS curriculum outcomes (not individual descriptors or capabilities).           
    • The RPS curriculum outcomes are at ‘does’ level and require demonstration of the outcome in practice, usually with evidence of the positive impact of this on patients and the service. If your certified learning was based on acquiring, applying and/or critically appraising knowledge in a reflective process only, it is unlikely to be eligible for APCL.
    • Your certified learning must demonstrate all elements of the curriculum outcome (e.g. application across boundaries, with demonstrable impact at consultant level).
    • You are only expected to map the outcomes for which you feel exemptions should be granted.
    • Partial exemptions of curriculum outcomes are not available. Only full outcome exemptions can be made.
    • Examples of APCL mapping templates are available to support you in the mapping process. Within the examples, you will see exemptions that were granted and examples where the suggested exemptions were not granted and why.

You will need to email your completed application to [email protected]

When will I receive my APCL outcome?

You will receive your APCL outcome within 8 weeks of receiving your APCL request. 

How will I be informed of my APCL outcome?

You will be provided with a APCL confirmation letter that outlines the exemptions that have been awarded. 

How do I upload my APCL onto the e-portfolio?

Once you receive your APCL confirmation letter, upload this to your portfolio and map it to the outcomes for which you have been granted exemption. You do not need to map any other evidence to the outcome(s) for which you are exempt; assessors are advised not to review outcome.


When applying for APCL, should I include examples of the work that I submitted as part of the programme assessment?

No. The APCL reviewers will not review or consider the quality of level of the candidate’s original work. The APCL process only takes account of the certified learning outcomes against the RPS curricula i.e. the learning for which the education provider is providing assurance.

Individual evidence is reviewed as part of the credentialing process and the APCL process is not a substitute for this. Any APCL exemptions approved for a course or programme will apply to any learner who has completed the same course or programme and are therefore not specifically linked to the individual or their work.

What if I don’t have a copy of the learning outcomes?

The APCL process relies on the mapping of outcomes of one programme to the RPS curriculum outcomes. Without evidence of the original programme learning outcomes, it is not possible to complete the APCL process.

You may be able to contact the education provider to see if they can provide the learning outcomes for you. If your certified learning is historical, you will need to provide confirmation that the learning outcomes you are submitting to the RPS are the same (or very similar) to the outcomes against which you were assessed and certified.

What if my previous programme did not have learning outcomes?

If it is an academic programme (e.g. PhD), you may have individual module learning outcomes that you can use. If you do not have access to any learning outcomes for the certified learning, you will require confirmation from your supervisor or academic lead of the content of the qualification. You should consider whether the amount of time and effort this may take is worth the level of exemption you are likely to achieve.

If you are seeking APCL for a non-academic programme that does not have learning outcomes, this may not be an eligible programme for APCL.

Please contact [email protected] to discuss programmes or academic qualifications that do not have learning outcomes.

Can I seek APCL for programmes I have not yet completed.

If you are undertaking learning with multiple assessment points (e.g. PG Diploma or MSc), you can seek APCL for module(s) that you have completed and being assessed against. You will require evidence of the successful completion of the module assessment for APCL to be considered.

If you are part way through a programme/or module and have not yet been assessed,you cannot seek APCL.

I have previously completed a portfolio aligned to an RPS framework as part of a university course, am I eligible for APCL?

Previously portfolio assessments may be eligible for APCL depending on how they were applied and assessed.

If your programme had a learning outcome that stated that you had to achieve a specific level against an RPS framework, the portfolio underwent assessment, and you have evidence that your portfolio was assessed as meeting the standard, then it would be considered for APCL.

If, however, your portfolio didn’t undergo an assessment with a specific award against each outcome/cluster of the RPS framework then it is unlikely to be eligible for APCL.

Please contact [email protected] if you would like to discuss previous portfolio assessments.