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Recognition of Prior Learning

Approval Date
14 July 2021
Approved By
Chief Executive
Deputy Chief Executive: Learning and Teaching Services
Baldrige Criteria
Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management

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, appeals and academic results.


Target Course: The course for which credit is sought.


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


Credit Transfer: Credit for 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 to as they must already have it. Student Management System (SMS) automatically ensures this, provided the CT option is entered.


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

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 programme.

In the case of CC for a Target course consisting of an NZQF unit standard, a result must be sent to . 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 applicant/learner must provide evidence that the learning outcomes in the Target course 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 or a complete qualification assessment and credit where appropriate.


Advanced Standing: Advanced Standing is used when, following an assessment of prior learning or qualifications equivalence, it is evident that a learner can enter a programme at an advanced level. The rules for Advanced Standing must be detailed in the approved programme document.

Advanced Standing applies where an RPL applicant has been assessed for courses, qualifications and/or an APEL process in which the outcomes equate to at least 60 credits towards an Otago Polytechnic qualification.

Advanced Standing may include CC and CT, however these will be indicated separately on transcripts.

Programme regulations will clearly identify how Advanced Standing is determined and what assessment and evaluation processes are to be used.

Advanced Standing 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 applicant on the operation of the APEL process and negotiates with the applicant the form of assessment that will be required. Assessor: The assessor is the person who makes the assessment judgement based on the evidence provided by the applicant in accord with the assessments agreed between applicant 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 student management 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 Code to be entered in the case of CC is to be the other provider’s course code for the source course. This will appear on the other provider’s transcript. Cross Credit applications will not be approved unless the other provider’s transcript or results notice is provided.

The name of the source course is also to be as per the other provider’s transcript or results notice. This will enable us to use SMS data as the basis of information to the proposed national cross credit database. External stakeholders must be able to identify the source course on this database, so we must use actual external codes. The SMS can provide reports detailing cross credits, recognition of prior learning and advanced standing.


Verified Documentation: Any record of student achievement presented for use in the RPL process must be the original which was 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 and candidates, rather than a barrier.

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


2.     Information to learners

2.1   Information to learners must include information on the nature of RPL, the courses within the programme for which RPL applications may be made, and the application procedures, as detailed in approved programme documents.


3.     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 units in the course are completed according to the completion requirements for that course. In such cases, the student will still enrol in the full course and pay full fees.

3.2   Unit standards-based programmes must be structured to allow a fair application of RPL policy. If the majority of learners are likely to have already completed a particular unit, this unit should be left as a course in its own right in the programme schedule of the programme. Failure to structure the programme 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 units 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 advanced standing applications may be received from learners enrolling in Otago Polytechnic Ltd programmes and/or Capable NZ learners seeking assessment for whole or part qualifications.


4.     Fees

4.1   Application Fee – this fee is charged to cover costs of initial consideration, administration, and recording, and must accompany the RPL application form (Appendix A). The fee must be paid at the time of application regardless of whether the RPL application is granted or declined. For international learners, the fee is included in the fees that they have already paid.

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

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

4.4   The total fee charged cannot be greater than the fee that would be payable if the applicant enrolled in the target course.

4.5   The RPL assessment fee is not Loan approvable, however student loans may be available for any courses in which the candidate is required to complete as part of the APEL process subject to meeting student loans eligibility criteria.



Application Fee

Assessment Fee

Credit Transfer



Cross Credit

$80 (GST incl) per course/programme

Yes – as determined by Head of College


$80 (GST incl) per course/programme

Yes – as determined by Head of College

Advanced Standing





  • If an application is received for more than one course in a programme at the same time, it will be treated as a single application and will attract a single application fee. 
  • Where the result of an RPL application requires withdrawal from a course the withdrawal will be enacted (with reference to policy Withdrawal, and Refund Policy for Year XXXX) at the same time as processing the RPL result. This may impact the learners EFTS and financial assistance.
  • When discussing RPL with learners the school/college must clarify the result of the RPL on the learners' EFTS as it may affect their entitlement to Student Loans and Allowances. For international learners, granting RPL with the subsequent path of study change may contravene 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 School/College.

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


6.      Assessment

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. Training is available through Capable NZ. All assessments must follow the guidelines indicated in the assessment policies, Moderation and Assessment. It is the responsibility of the Head of College to ensure that fair, valid and reliable decisions are made regarding determining equivalence of courses 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. These may include advanced standing, cross credits, credit transfers, or any other grade table result approved by Academic Board.

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

7.3      For Cross Credits, 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 or multiple NZQF units, in which case the code is passed (as for any NZQF unit).

7.5      Where an RPL application is received for a target course, and the result achieved includes evidence of APEL, the final target course level result will be treated as for APEL, not CT or CC.

7.6      For Advanced Standing, where the candidate has been assessed for APEL for courses and/or the graduate profile within a qualification of at least 60 credits the result code shown on result notices and academic transcripts is Advanced Standing and will include the amount of credit gained for advanced standing by semester or year, e.g. Advanced standing year 1, 60 or 120 credits.1

7.6.1 The evidence supporting the award of advanced standing must be entered into the SMS. Where cross credits or credit transfers are used these will be indicated separately.


8.      Appeal process:  Academic Appeal Process for Learners requires this RPL policy to have its own appeals section.

8.1      Appeals against RPL decisions must be made in writing to the Head of School/College within seven working days of receiving the decision. Capable NZ candidates must write to the Head of Capable NZ.

8.2      The Head of College/Capable NZ will review the decision and notify the applicant of the outcome within seven (7) working days of receipt of appeal. Should the applicant be dissatisfied with the decision they may enter the normal academic appeal process for learners (policy Academic Appeal Process for Learners) at step 5, i.e., by writing to the Te Kahāipai within seven working days of receiving the decision, saying what the decision is, and explaining the grounds for appeal.


9.      Responsibilities of Heads of School/College

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

9.2      Ensuring moderation processes are in place and are followed, including Capable NZ assessments.

9.3      Ensuring that sufficient staff in the school/programmes are familiar with RPL and can act as assessors and advisors/facilitators for APEL.

* Some health programmes require external approval and may have limits on credits offered through RPL.

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

9.5      Ensuring schools document the process and outcomes for RPL decisions, inform learners of RPL processes and the outcome of RPL claims and maintain records about RPL.

9.6      Providing advice for assessments and moderation for Capable NZ processes.

9.7      Providing assessors for RPL assessments.


10.   Responsibilities of Capable NZ

10.1    Providing facilitation and assessment processes.

10.2    Ensuring moderation processes are in place and are followed, in line with school requirements.

10.3    Reporting results of assessments

10.4    Providing advice and liaising with Heads of School/College in respect of relevant Capable NZ assessments.


11.   Training for Advisors/Facilitators and Assessors

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


12.   Other Authorities

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


13.   General

13.1    RPL credit at Otago Polytechnic Ltd is available only for courses in which Otago Polytechnic Ltd is accredited.

13.2    Capable NZ candidates may be assessed for qualifications according to Capable NZ RPL processes.


14.   Review

The Otago Polytechnic Ltd Academic Committee is responsible for reviewing and revising Otago Polytechnic Ltd RPL policies.


15.   Timing of RPL Applications

15.1    Credit Transfers and Cross Credits. Applications for credit transfer of NZQA units or non NZQA courses should be handled at the time of initial enrolment. Results must be entered in SMS at that time. However, applications can be accepted at any time.

15.2    Advanced Standing applications should be processed at the time of initial enrolment.  Results must be entered in SMS at that time.

15.3    Programme reviews must take into consideration programme/ course flexibility to enable learners to enrol in a target programme at the earliest opportunity. Barriers to access programmes should be minimised as much as possible.

15.4    Any final or outstanding RPL applications must be loaded and paid for no later than six weeks before the student's graduation date.


16.   Learners who enrol at Otago Polytechnic Ltd in order to gain a qualification are to have an academic record on the SMS which is capable of showing whether or not the approved certification requirements have been met. Learners who gain credit through RPL in any of the courses of that qualification must have the credit entered to the SMS by the approved method, and have the result indicated as the academic result for that course.



  • Application, Entry and Enrolment
  • Academic Appeal Process for Learners
  • Learner Discipline
  • Academic Integrity
  • Assessment and Moderation
  • Grade Tables
  • Final Assessment Process in Postgraduate programmes
  • Presentation and Submission of Postgraduate Research Thesis or Dissertation
  • Grading Systems for postgraduate qualifications award
  • Impaired Performance/Aegrotat
  • Results process for Consultancy/Workplace Assessment
  • Learner Results
  • Records Retention
  • Withdrawal, transfer, Cancellation and Refund
  • Learner Fees
  • Intellectual Property