What is Recognition of Prior Learning?
Recognition of prior learning (RPL), prior learning assessment (PLA), or prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR), describes a process used by regulatory bodies…….., adult learning centres, career development practitioners, employers, training institutions, colleges and universities around the world to evaluate skills and knowledge acquired outside the classroom for the purpose of recognizing competence against a given set of standards, competencies, or learning outcomes.
Methods of assessing prior learning are varied and include evaluation of prior experience gained through volunteer work, previous paid or unpaid employment, or observation of actual workplace behaviour. The essential element of RPL is that it is an assessment of evidence provided by an individual to support their claim for competence against a given set of standards or learning outcomes.
RPL is sometimes confused with Credit Transfer, assessments conducted in order to recognize advanced standing or for assigning academic credit. The essential difference between the two is that RPL considers evidence of competence that may be drawn from any aspect of an applicant’s professional or personal life. Credit Transfer and advanced standing deal primarily with an evaluation of academic performance as it relates to a particular field of study and whether or not advanced standing may be granted towards the gaining of additional qualifications.
Recognition of prior learning: opportunities and challenges for higher education
Jonathan Garnett, Angele Cavaye, (2015) “Recognition of prior learning: opportunities and challenges for higher education”, Journal of Work-Applied Management, Vol. 7 Issue: 1, pp.28-37, https://doi.org/10.1108/JWAM-10-2015-001
“In England, the development of the recognition of learning from experience as part of RPL was stimulated by the pioneering work of the Learning from Experience Trust in the early 1980s (Garnett et al., 2004)”…… A milestone in the acceptance of accreditation of learning from experience was achieved in 1986 when the Council for National Academic Awards, the body which until 1992 awarded degree qualifications in the polytechnic sector, published regulations for the accreditation of learning from experience for use in relation to its awards. The 1990s saw a favourable policy context for RPL as there was a focus on increasing participation in higher education and widening access. RPL, especially in relation to learning from experience, was seen as a valuable tool to widen access by recognising the achievements of mature students and providing an alternative basis for entry to higher education. In 1996, the South East England Consortia of higher education institutions produced a code of practice for accreditation of prior experiential learning which was endorsed by 37 higher education institutions. In 2005, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) that oversees standards in higher education produced RPL guidelines.
In the wider UK, the recognition of learning from experience has been seen as an important way of recognising lifelong learning and enhancing social inclusion by providing access to academic and vocational qualifications for those who might otherwise be excluded by lack of formal qualifications or the demands of work (Mumford and Roodhouse, 2010). The importance of recognising the workplace as a site for learning grew in significance during the 1990s as the Government saw the economic imperative to upskill the UK workforce. In the context of current debates about the role of education, it is equally important that valuing the learning from experience of the individual learner is a sound starting point from an educational point of view (Osborne et al., 1998). This RPL fits well with aspirations of learner autonomy and the high-level cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation that are typically associated with high-level learning. The recognition of learning, wherever it has occurred and provided it can be demonstrated, fits well with the academic awarding function and expertise of higher education…..
The report of the UK Universities Vocational Awards Council on RPL (Garnett et al., 2004) highlighted that while RPL in the UK had more than a 20-year history and was espoused by over 90 higher education institutions, only an average of 100 students gained RPL in each higher education institution. Similarly, while RPL was embedded within the system of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) which allowed for full awards to be made on the basis of RPL, the take-up rate was modest. The report highlighted a number of limitations to the take up of RPL. Even institutions that reported that they offered RPL acknowledged that the opportunity to do so was not always highlighted to applicants…… Some institutions were concerned that RPL was very labour-intensive and so was not cost effective for the institution. A combination of these factors led to instances where both staff and students felt it was, in fact, easier to take the full course rather than seek to gain entry on the basis of RPL!
In summary, although RPL has been practised in higher and vocational education in the UK for 30 years, it may still be underused. The growing significance of workforce development and the development of work based and work-applied learning programmes has demonstrated how to extend the use of RPL.
Qualifi have a well developed RPL process that can help you obtain recognition for the skills and knowledge you already have; don’t delay, contact us today to see how we can enable your higher education journey to commence straight away.
The benefits of recognising prior learning
- Facilitates access for ‘non-traditional’ students – people who may not have had the opportunity to do further study.
- Acknowledges the value of learning outside a formal setting, e.g. values and recognises learning in the workplace.
- Validates the worth of learning students have achieved by themselves
- Enables students to progress to other education and training programmes
- Eliminates unnecessary repetition and duplication of material already familiar to the student.
- Shortens the time necessary to earn a qualification – this motivates students who might otherwise be discouraged by the length of time required to complete a college level course or a particular programme of study.
- Enhances students’ pride and self-esteem for what they have accomplished as learners.
- Enhances students’ perception and understanding of learning as a lifelong process.
If you have worked for a period of time and feel confident you can do a particular job, but don’t have a formal qualification, then Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) will benefit you by as a means of fast tracking into a higher education qualification or University Hons Degree or Masters. The Qualifi RPL system is designed to reducing unnecessary education, training and assessment activities for what you already know and do. In doing so, it can help to reduce the cost and time it takes to complete or achieve a qualification.