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How the USW armed forces benefit from a recognition of prior learning scheme.

First published:
12 February 2018
Last updated:

“The University of South Wales Armed Forces RPL Scheme can help former servicemen and women to develop their new career pathway”

Introduction / Background

The University of South Wales (USW) were the first higher education institution in the UK to appoint an Armed Services Champion and the first in Wales to sign the Armed Services Covenant. They have committed to support this initiative and make a difference to those who have served in the UK AF. USW received a silver award from the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme 2017. This award is given to both private and public sector organisations who pledge, demonstrate or advocate support to defence and the armed forces community. It is the second time that the University has received the award – initially being recognised in 2015.

This Armed Forces RPL scheme is a joint venture between the Cwm Tâf Community Covenant Panel (funded by the Community Covenant Grant Scheme - CCGS), USW and 160 Infantry Brigade and HQ.

What is RPL?

RPL is a process which enables recognition of formal (credited) and informal (experiential) learning and award or transfer of credit towards existing courses or units of learning. It is defined as a method of assessment that considers whether a learner can demonstrate that they can meet the assessment requirements for learning through knowledge, understanding or skills they possess and do not need to through a course of study. It is one method of enabling individuals to claim credit irrespective of where the relevant learning has taken place in the past.

Armed Forces RPL Scheme

The USW Armed Forces Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme was set up in 2014 with only a handful of participants. By now, more than 100 former Armed Forces servicemen and women have been participating in the scheme, pursuing various HNC/HND, undergraduate and post graduate degree programmes.

It aims to help ex-forces personnel academic (at levels 4, 5 and 7 depending on which course is chosen), by placing value on the knowledge, skills and experience they have gained whilst serving or since leaving. The credit gained can then be used to help develop a new career pathway.

The scheme assesses the skills, knowledge and experience of the ex-forces personnel, regardless of whether they have been formally achieved at an education institution. USW staff work with applicants to map their prior learning against courses that are of interest and identify evidence which demonstrates their learning. The evidence is assessed by relevant academic staff and the applicant is awarded credit at an appropriate level, which can then be used towards existing courses.

Under the scheme USW can accredit up to two-thirds of an undergraduate qualification or possibly up to two-thirds of a postgraduate qualification, if for example the applicant has held a senior post or relevant post military experience. To achieve this, an applicant’s experience, skills and knowledge would need to be mapped against relevant courses. Additional evidence is sometimes needed to substantiate the learning claimed, which can be in the form of meeting notes or an interview with a course leader, for example. Once the RPL process is complete the applicant is informed of the number of credits required to gain the qualification.


When service personnel leave the armed forces, it can be difficult for them to identify how the skills, knowledge and experience they have acquired during their career can be used elsewhere. This RPL scheme can help individuals to:

  • Check their skills are up to date
  • Identify new possibilities that exist in the civilian world
  • Gain access to an appropriate course when they do not have the formal entry requirements
  • Fast track a qualification; by gaining credits for parts of the course, thus reducing the time studying
  • Gain advanced entry to a course, e.g. start the course at Year 2

In certain circumstances (but there are a few restrictions) ex-AF personnel, who have served for more than four years, left service after July 2008, and have not studied academic qualifications whilst serving, could have the costs of their first degree covered by the UK Government.

Ross Hall, USW Armed Forces Champion said,

“Over the past few years we have assisted many former armed forces servicemen and women into HE to help them on their path towards finding new careers.

The armed forces recognition of prior learning scheme enables the valuable experience they will have gained during their time in the armed forces to be taken into consideration towards their university credits. We have already seen some of them graduate from the University and go on to find new careers in complementary and sometimes completely different sectors.”

Alex Fletcher who graduated from USW in July 2017, said

“My army service enabled me to start my degree programme in Year 2. This was possible through the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning Programme for armed forces personnel.”

For more information go to

Or contact Ross Hall, Armed Forces Champion, or Jason Brown, AF Liaison e-mail:

Contributor: Ross Hall, Armed Forces Champion, University of South Wales 2018