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What is RPL?

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

The purpose of RPL is to enable prospective and current students to consider their prior learning as a valuable mechanism to facilitate access to further education opportunities and progression. RPL is based around the prior learning of a prospective or current student and this may be certified learning (formal/accredited) or experiential learning (non-certified/informal/experiential learning). Experiential learning is learning which has occurred through the workplace or through experience and outside of formal education systems.

The TUS RPL policy recognises both certified and experiential learning and applications can be made based on prior experiential learning, formal learning or a combination of both.

The philosophy underpinning the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is to enable and encourage people to enter or re-enter formal education, leading to qualifications, by awarding exemptions or recognising credit for what they already know from the programme curriculum.

A fundamental principle of RPL is that a learner should not be asked to relearn something they already know. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process by which prior learning is formally valued. It is a means by which prior learning is identified, assessed, and recognised by an educational institution as part of their programmes, courses, and/or modules on the National Framework of Qualifications and can count towards entry/admission, advanced entry, credit or exemptions from modules on a course. 

RPL makes it possible for an individual to build on learning achieved and to be rewarded for it.

Five phases of ‘validation’

Recognition is a process by which prior learning is given a value. The five phases of ‘validation’ illustrate the processes involved in RPL. These processes consist of:

  • Information: During this stage, you obtain information about what is possible (RPL for entry or exemption) and how the RPL process works.
  • Identification: through dialogue, of the learning of an individual; – this is usually carried out with the Course Leader for the course you want to apply for.
  • Documentation: to make visible the individual’s learning; – this is the gathering of the documentation as outlined by the Course Leader during the initial engagement.
  • Formal assessment: of these learning outcomes; – this is where the submitted documentation is assessed to establish whether the learning outcomes described in the curriculum are achieved and if the application is successful for admission, advanced entry or exemption.
  • Certification of the results of the assessment.

Types of learning may be defined as follows:

Prior formal learning is learning that has been acquired through a module or programme on a national framework of qualifications and has earned ECTS credits. Examples of this include modules and programmes via further education, higher education, micro-credentials, etc.

Non-formal learning is planned, structured learning that does not lead to credits on a framework. The purpose and intention of the learning may be known in advance. Examples of this include in-house company training, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), etc.

Informal learning is knowledge, skills, and competences acquired through day-to-day unplanned and unstructured activities. Examples include working, volunteering, day-to-day activities, etc.