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HIGHER EDUCATION INTHE ECONOMIC CRISIS: RPL AS A TOOL FOR THE RECOGNITION OF QUALIFICATIONS, STUDENT MOBILITY, UP-SKILLING AND RE-SKILLING

Author - Kate Collins

 

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5.2 Higher Education and Mobility


In Round One RPL for the purposes of ‘mobility’ was rated highest by the expert panel for the contexts of higher education (27.3%) and work-based learning/in-company training (22.7%). There were generally low levels of agreement overall with ‘mobility’ as a purpose of RPL, which raises questions about the differences between the aspirations of policy and the reality of practice. However, there were a number of questions asking about the return on investment (ROI) from RPL to the labour market, the individual, the employing organisation, and further and higher education, and here it was found that ‘RPL facilitates mobility’ was the highest ranked ROI to the labour market from RPL (100%) and ‘the main driver of RPL will be the need for worker mobility’ (63.1%) was amongst the highest ranked statements on the future of RPL in companies and organisations.

Therefore, it is clear that the mobility potential of RPL was a disputed concept throughout the three rounds of this Delphi research. In round one, as mentioned above, there were generally low levels of agreement overall with RPL for the purpose of ‘mobility’, despite there being full agreement that RPL as a means to facilitate mobility was considered a return on investment to the labour market. In round two there appeared to be a tension between the potential for professional mobility and questions of assuring quality in that process. In round three the question of mobility emerged through the various policy statements and featured within the comments pertaining to policy aspiration rather than lived practice. Mobility in these statements is tied into the social inclusion agenda especially when considering the recognition of qualifications of non-European migrants who often remain marginalised despite many provisions for recognition of both qualifications and skills for mobility purposes. Mobility is also tied into the concept of employability, though employability in the context of this study has referred to career development and employability within one’s own sector and country rather than an employable mobile workforce.

One might also consider the drive now to embed employability into higher education programmes such as using personal development planning and work placements to ensure that graduates are ‘work ready’. This also places further challenges and pressures on institutions to increase partnerships with industry and further places higher education at the threshold of market and the economy.

5.3 Higher Education and Up-Skilling and Re-Skilling
In Round One, RPL for ‘up-skilling’ was ranked highest for the context of higher education (40.9%). This may be a timing issue, considering the current global economic crisis. The further education and work-based learning/in-company training (36.4%) contexts were the next highest ranked. Additionally, for both the purposes of ‘re-skilling’ and ‘up-skilling’ the contexts of community based education, adult education, youth work, trade unions, work sectors, professional bodies, voluntary sector, and regulatory authority were chosen in very small proportions by the panel (<18%). This raises some questions around the priority given to the social inclusion agenda of RPL to provide for economic, social and cultural integration of individuals. However, as a return on investment to the labour market RPL ‘facilitates social inclusion’ was one of the highest ranked items at 95% as well as ‘RPL achieves up-skilling in the workplace’ (70%). 

The distinctions between RPL for up-skilling and RPL for re-skilling emerged from round one and continued into round three. It was not evident that RPL is viewed as a distinct policy in these processes as it is not fully integrated into re-skilling or up-skilling strategies. Furthermore, respondents found there to be a distinction between the potential of RPL, with more of a focus on up-skilling than re-skillng, where, to re-skill is to learn new skills and to up-skill is to enhance one’s existing skill set. Up-skilling was highly rated in the higher education context, probably a result of the current large proportion of unemployed people going back to education and increasing government policy looking to higher education as a tool for economic regeneration.

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