Policy development and implementation procedures for recognition of prior learning: a case study of practice in higher education
National principles for RPL
Nationally agreed principles for RPL were produced by an RPL consultative group representing all education and training stakeholders convened by the NQAI in 2004. Following a series of intensive working sessions a consensus was reached on the text of the document: ‘Principles and operational guidelines for recognition of prior learning in further and higher education and training - June 2005’. In relation to the possible benefits of RPL, the final document contained the following text:
Benefits of developing principles for the recognition of prior learning
Recognition of prior learning should meet the needs of learners. Recognition of prior learning can support the socially inclusive purposes of further and higher education and training, in that it facilitates entry to programmes, gives credit to or exemptions from a programme of study or access to a full award. Recognition of prior learning can address the needs of disadvantaged groups, part-time students and mature students, and can have a positive impact on retention of students. In addition, recognition of prior learning gives opportunities to providers of education and awarding bodies to use their assessment capability to up-skill individuals and meet workforce needs at local and national levels. Recognition of prior learning can bring benefits to the workplace by enhancing worker’s employability and a better matching of skills demand and supply.
Recognition of prior learning can assist in supporting staff development within organisations by increasing staff motivation to undertake appropriate education or training. It can reduce the amount of time required to acquire a qualification.
Specific principles relate to quality assurance, communication/documentation, assessment, and process. These principles formed the basis of the 2007 DIT policy document for RPL. The implications of each principle are elaborated in Table 1 above as included in the NQAI document. The agreed principles aimed to combine the benefits above with specific details in relation to how providers of education and training should integrate RPL into academic activities as a normal practice.
Operational guidelines for RPL
The NQAI document of 2005 is specific in outlining the statutory responsibilities of all education and training providers in enabling the agreed RPL principles to be implemented at operational level under the Authority’s published procedures for access, transfer and progression of learners (2003). Five elements of RPL implementation were distinguished: review and updating; operational approaches; assessment; applicants; communications. These elements were further elaborated into a set of very specific operational guidelines as follows: (see Table 2)