HIGHER EDUCATION INTHE ECONOMIC CRISIS: RPL AS A TOOL FOR THE RECOGNITION OF QUALIFICATIONS, STUDENT MOBILITY, UP-SKILLING AND RE-SKILLING
This paper has explored the perception of RPL from twenty-two national and international experts in the areas of work-based learning, continuing professional development, higher education, in-company training, professional bodies, and further education. The first round questionnaire was focused on the way RPL was used in higher education indicating RPL use for access, credit, mobility and up-skilling. Return on investment from RPL to higher education primarily concerned alternate pathways to qualification and access for non-traditional learners to higher education. The second round questionnaire found general agreement between respondents that RPL would increasingly be used for the mutual recognition of qualifications rather than the harmonisation of qualifications systems. The third and final questionnaire exposed some of the divergences between RPL policy and practice through ten policy statements from global, European and national organisations. The discussion found three main points of divergence and ambiguity that emerged from the data, namely: higher education and the recognition of qualifications; higher education and mobility; and higher education and up-skilling and re-skilling. Therefore, within the dialogue of lifelong learning and a reformed higher education area, higher education is expected to provide an alternate pathway into higher education. That alternate pathway can be through transfer from other educational sectors or making it possible to give exemptions from elements of a programme, or giving non-traditional learners the opportunity to enter into higher education by accrediting their prior experience and qualifications against programme learning outcomes. This has also meant incorporating new technologies such as modularisation, a credit transfer system and basing programmes on outcomes as opposed to inputs as well as framing qualifications and awards for qualifications frameworks.