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Help / Frequently Asked Questions

If you're feeling lost in the mass of phrases and terminology you may well find it helpful to look through our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Naturally, if you still have unanswered questions please get in touch via our online contact system and we'll do our best to help point you in the right direction.

What are Records of Achievement

This is a general description of a range of ways in which learning and experience is recorded, evidenced and also often reviewed as a basis for future planning or action. Portfolios, Profiles, Career Learning Logs, Work Experience Journals, Personal and Academic Development materials are all examples of this process applied in different areas of education and at different levels for different purposes.

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So what exactly is a Progress File?

The 'National Record of Achievement' (NRA) which was introduced in 1991 is now known as 'The Progress File'. In its original form it came to be regarded as a summative document for many, if not all pupils, at the end of compulsory schooling.

Following the Review of 16-19 education chaired by Lord Dearing in 1996, which recommended a restructuring and re-launching of the NRA, this is being redeveloped through ten 'Progress File Demonstration Projects' in England.

These are focussed more upon planning, target setting and reviewing progress than upon the production of a summary document, though the 'presentational' aspect of the new Progress File is also seen as important.

In Higher Education (HE), major parallel developments are taking place in Recording Achievement:

Examples of practice and relevant practical views and experience;

A range of views on HE progress files and their implementation;

Relevant Policy documents and guidelines.

Within HE 'Progress File' refers to developments based on the recommendations of the National Review of Higher Education (the Dearing Report) 1997.

We recommend that institutions of HE, over the medium term develop a Progress File. This File should consist of two elements:

A transcript recording student achievement which should follow a common format devised by Institutions collectively through their representative bodies.

A means by which students can monitor, build and reflect upon their personal development"



Higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK are encouraged to introduce a Transcript of student attainment that includes a consistent data set, by 2001/2002, but the use of such a Transcript would not be expected until 2002/2003, and a structure to enable Personal Development Planning by 2005/2006.

The key to understanding what Progress Files will 'look like' is to realise the HEIs are free to develop their own structures, systems and materials within the Guidelines proposed by the Progress File Advisory Group, which went out to all HEIs for consultation.

This is seen to be of particular importance in relation to the Personal Development Planning (PDP) element to ensure academic and student ownership; Transcripts are now in the process of being reviewed and developed further in most HEIs, and the advantages of some degree of coherence and transferability are becoming apparent. Find out more about current work in this area through the Learner Information Profile SIG Project.

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What is PDP?


'PDP' - Personal Development Planning - is a term currently used in higher education, although its processes are also integral to the non HE Progress File.

HE staff have been using these processes for many years, especially in academic and personal tutoring, but the process was named and formalised in the National Review of Higher Education (The Dearing Review') in 1997.

"Personal Development Planning:

integrates personal development with academic activity

incorporates self assessment, reflection and action planning for lifelong learning

is voluntary

enables learners to take control of their own learning through the development of critical self awareness

helps learners to recognise and value core skills (these include communication, problem solving, and personal and interpersonal skills)

is process driven

is tailored by each institution to meet the needs of its learners

builds on the processes developed through the progress file

facilitates continuing personal and professional development."



Personal Development Planning in Higher Education (Scotland) Network, 1999.

The QAA and LTSN have led these developments over the past two years.


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What is PDR?


The Personal Development Record (PDR) component of a Progress File is:

" ..... a record of evidence and personal reflection about knowledge, attributes, skills and experience from which students can extract information to construct CVs/Personal Statements/letters of application for a wide variety of audiences".

Keith Cooper, Directorate of Academic Student Affairs, Oxford Brookes University, 2001

He adds that they are " .... intended for use in conjunction with a Transcript (official record of achievements) that can be used both formatively and summatively", and that they should " .... offer students the facility to create and subsequently modify Actions Plans based on self-assessment outcomes, future learning/development opportunities and identified goals".

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What is CPD?

CPD is generally acknowledged to be the acronym for Continuing Professional Development. These are the processes of planning, reflection and reviewing aimed at encouraging ongoing learning and a continuing level of professional competence used by professional bodies. They are essentially the same as the processes of Progress File and Personal Development Planning used within the education sector and there are some common operational problems.

Similar problems of language also exist. CPD is sometimes interpreted as Continuous (or continuing) Personal Development which moves the focus beyond the professional level but might also imply a less employment oriented emphasis. However, the major drive for CPD comes from the professional bodies and debate within them centres around issues of voluntarism or compulsion and the extent or nature of learning experiences needed to comply with their policies.

Some universities market their short course provision as CPD which can cause confusion by shifting the attention from an individualís learning processes to the supply of opportunities. The situation is further confused by the fact that although most employers would recognise the need for CPD they would tend to use other phrases such as management development or personal development to describe their activities in this area.

CRA is currently trying to extend its links with those engaged in CPD and workforce development.

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What is a Transcript?

The Transcript provides a comprehensive verifiable record of the learning and achievement of an individual learner;

Transcripts can also provide learners with a record of their learning while they are studying; a formative statement that should help students monitor and reflect on their progress, and plan their further academic development;

The formative statement can be incorporated into a student's personal progress and plan their further academic development.

The UK Transcript is intended to satisfy most of the information requirements of the ED/Council of Europe Diploma Supplement initiative aimed at providing consistent transcript information to facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications. When combined with information from the programme specification, UK higher education institutions will exceed the information requirements of the Diploma Supplement.

It is recommended that Transcripts should be provided for all HE provision for which credit is awarded and for all provision which leads to an HE award.


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How can I get more involved in HE Progress Files?

Find out what is happening within your institution if you are not already clear about this. There is a lot of information on this site which may help you and your HEI to build an effective and relevant structure for Transcripts and PDP (see site map).

You may also wish to become actively involved with the CRA. Click here to visit the section on membership or email us direct at enquiries@recordingachievment.org

If you have experience you would like to share, please contribute to our 'Case Studies' section

The LTSN are also collecting examples of PDP in higher education.

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How can I find out more about policy on Recording Achievement?

Busy practitioners sometimes find it hard to locate the relevant policy documents or legislation that affects their practice, and may need it at short notice. In this section, we will try to make available current and relevant policy documents and legislation about Recording Achievement in all sectors of education and employment.

Please help us to update and enhance this area of the site by letting us know if YOU have useful references we should disseminate!

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What do employers think?

While some employers and training providers have been involved in the Progress File Demonstration Projects, man - at all levels of recruitment - have not yet had the opportunity to experience either this or PDP materials from higher education at first hand. Rather more may have come across the National Record of Achievement. Work is currently being undertaken by the Centre for Recording Achievement and the Association of Graduate Recruiters to raise awareness in recruiters at this level about the nature of the additional information being generated about students and graduates to enable them to decide how far and in what ways to take account of it in their selection processes.

Within the world of work there has been increasing use of 'recording and reviewing learning and experience' over a number of years, in management development programmes, appraisal and performance review and professional accreditation.

"Personal development planning is a continuing process into and throughout employment - a process which builds confidence and gives mutual benefit to the employer and learner."
Keith Bell, Director of Recruitment, Price Waterhouse

"Guardian Royal Exchange uses personal development plans to fit people better for their current job because they need to improve, or the job itself is changing."
Chris Phasey, Management Development Unit, Guardian Royal Exchange


Personal Development Planning in Higher Education Scotland Network, 1999

When the similarities between developments in schools, colleges and universities and familiar in-house materials become apparent, employers are likely to welcome the process. Evidence indicates, however that they are not likely to want to be burdened with the 'products' of learning and reflection - profiles, learning logs and other paper or electronic materials. They prefer that applicants engage in their own application and interview processes, but are able to more effectively describe and evidence what they have to offer.

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