The recognition of prior learning (RPL) describes a process used to evaluate skills and knowledge gained through life outside of formal education and training, for the purpose of recognising life achievements against a given set of standards or learning outcomes.
Legal framework for RPL in Ireland
The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 sets
out the statutory basis for QQI’s engagement with RPL, mainly through our responsibility to establish policies and criteria for access, transfer and progression (ATP) for providers. On the basis of QQI policies, providers then establish ATP procedures that they will implement. These must include policies on credit accumulation, credit transfer and identification and formal assessment of the knowledge, skill and competence previously acquired by learners (Section 56 (1), (2), (3)).
The Act also states that learners may apply to QQI for awards where they meet standards that QQI has established, and that QQI may request providers’ assistance to assess the achievements of learners who apply in this way. (Section 50 (3)(7)). This part of the legislation is proposed for amendment over 2017, mainly for efficiency reasons.
Quality assurance policy framework of RPL
In 2015 QQI published an Access, Transfer and Progression Policy Restatement 2015. Following consultation on approaches to policy development, the Principles and Operational Guidelines for the Recognition of Prior Learning in Further and Higher Education and Training were also republished.
QQI's Core Statutory Quality Assurance Guidelines require that provider policies and procedures for learner admission, progression and recognition include ‘fair recognition of education and training qualifications, periods of study and prior learning, including the recognition of non-formal and informal learning’ and that the provider ethos enables flexible learning pathways.
In addition, Policies and Criteria for the Validation of Programmes of Education and Training includes explicit reference to RPL for the purposes of access, advanced entry and exemptions.
The Department of Education and Skills committed in the Action Plan for Education to publish a national policy on RPL in 2017 (Q4). QQI co-operates with the Department in support of this aim specifically.
RPL is also integrated into the Further Education Strategy 2014-2019, the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, and the National Skills Strategy.
The RPL Practitioner Network, Ireland
The RPL Practitioner Network is a community of practice for people working and interested in RPL, proposed in 2014 through the Irish Universities Association and THEA (formerly the IOTI) by representatives from the Cork Institute of Technology and Maynooth University. For more information click here.
VISKA, Making Skills Visible: an Erasmus+KA3 policy experimentation project, 2017-2020
VISKA was an international policy experimentation project, offering RPL to people with low levels of qualifications but with transversal skills, to see whether skills mismatch and distance to opportunities in employment, education or training could be reduced. QQI with partners from Norway, Iceland, Belgium and CIT as the research partner, participated. International and national project results are now published, including learning and recommendations to support progress. For more information, click here.
Report on RPL in FET published (2017) – A report entitled ‘Recognition of Prior Learning in Irish Further Education and Training (FET)’ prepared by CIT on behalf of QQI provides an overview of RPL in the Further Education and Training sector. To access the report, click here
Learners seeking RPL
If you have questions about having your own learning and achievements recognised through an RPL process, it may be useful to talk to your local adult education guidance service or education and training provider.