Recognition of Prior Learning for Providers

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process to evaluate the skills and knowledge a person has gained through life outside of formal education and training.

It is aimed at recognising the value of life achievements in relation to programme standards and outcomes.

Recognition of Prior Learning has been integrated into the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 and the National Skills Strategy, while the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future commits to ‘develop and implement a standardised system of accreditation of prior learning taking account of previous education, skills, work experience and engagement in society'.

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 include explicit reference to RPL for the purposes of access, advanced entry and exemptions.

QQI is responsible for establishing policies and criteria for access, transfer and progression (ATP) for providers. Our core statutory quality assurance guidelines require that provider policies and procedures for learner admission, progression and recognition enable:

  • the fair recognition of education and training qualifications and periods of study, and
  • the fair recognition of prior learning, including non-formal and informal learning. 

The learning environment offered by providers should respect and attend to the diversity of learners and their needs, and should enable flexible learning pathways.

Provider procedures must include policies on:

  • credit accumulation,
  • credit transfer and identification, and 
  • the formal assessment of the knowledge, skill and competence previously acquired by learners.

A university or institute of technology can, in line with their own ATP procedures, make awards based on the assessment of previously acquired learning.

Providers who are not designated awarding bodies are welcome to ask QQI for an award for a learner who has met the required standards of that award, based on the assessment of previously acquired learning.

The RPL Practitioner Network

The RPL Practitioner Network is a community of practice for people working and interested in RPL. The network is co-ordinated by a voluntary steering group comprising representatives of THEA, the Irish Universities Association, Education and Training Boards Ireland, The Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Aontas (the national adult learning organisation), and QQI, and is informed by guidance expertise. 

Following revised Terms of Reference early in 2023, the network are currently reconfiguring the composition of the Steering Group having invited nominations from members and in accordance with national policy and the 2012 Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning.

RPL in further education and training

Published in 2017, the report ‘Recognition of Prior Learning in Irish Further Education and Training (FET)’ was prepared by CIT on behalf of QQI and provides an overview of RPL in the Further Education and Training sector.

European Inventory, Country Update, Ireland 2018

Ireland participates in the European Inventory on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, published by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training. The inventory examines progress nationally and internationally in the implementation of the 2012 recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning.


Recognition of Prior Learning in Practice

This is an Erasmus+KA3 policy experimentation project in which QQI and the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) participate at the request of the Department of Education and Skills. The Irish Universities Association and Mary Immaculate College are also participating, along with the Swedish Council for Higher Education (project lead), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education and authorities and institutions from Austria, Croatia and Iceland.

The project addresses the finding of the Bologna Implementation Report (2018), which indicates that alternative routes to higher education are rarely used and that only five higher education systems have nationally established and regularly monitored procedures, guidelines or policy for the assessment and recognition of prior learning. The project focus is on practice, and the development of practical guidelines.

Learn more here


VISKA, Making Skills Visible

This Erasmus+KA3 policy experimentation project ran from 2017-2020 and offered 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 participated with partners from Norway, Iceland, Belgium and CIT as the research partner. International and national project results are now published, including learning and recommendations to support progress. For more information, click here.