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D. Goggin, S. Cassidy, I. Sheridan, P. O'Leary

Cork Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is a significant part of the higher education landscape in Ireland. Its importance is underlined by Government policies in relation to the up-skilling and reskilling of workers and the focus on access, transfer and progression. However the recognition and accreditation of prior learning, and, in particular, of prior non-formal and informal learning, presents challenges for higher education providers.

Some of the challenges relate to the diversity and complexity of the learner experiences, given the context specific nature of learning gained informally. Those presenting with prior learning tend to have considerable workplace experiences and varying levels of educational attainment. In addition to returning to higher education, this cohort commonly must balance career with family commitments.

Validating and authenticating evidence of learning gained prior to entry in the context of higher education quality assurance systems, can present difficulties for academics. The separation of the learning process itself from the evidence of the learning presented and the issues relating to relevance and currency of the learning, result in complications in the assessment process for many higher education institutions.

This paper explores the practice in Irish higher education institutions in relation to quality assurance considerations and assessment of evidence of non-formal or informal learning. It will summarise findings from a detailed review of policies and operational procedures within Irish HEIs and will include specifics in terms of the volume of applications for non-formal and informal learning as well as information on particular disciplines and any limiting mechanisms imposed.

Finally, the paper will propose to outline good practice guidelines and recommendations for the enhancement of RPL structures for quality assurance and assessment. By considering the needs of an increasingly diverse student cohort, these good practice guidelines will assist to enhance the development of teaching and learning nationally.