A CURRENT OVERVIEW OF RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING (RPL) IN IRISH HIGHER EDUCATION
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process whereby learning that has taken place prior to enrolment on a programme of study is explored, recognised and given value in the context of a destination award. In general terms this includes the recognition, evidencing and valuing of relevant and current formal, non-formal and informal learning. A broad aim of RPL is to encourage people to enter or re-enter formal education and to achieve qualifications through sensitive and accessible pathways. This is very much in keeping with the concept of lifelong learning as defined by Behringer and Coles (2003) as ‘learning activity that is undertaken throughout life and improves knowledge, skills and competences within personal, civic, social and /or employment related perspectives. Thus the whole spectrum of learning- formal, non formal and informal – is included as are active citizenship, personal fulfilment, social inclusions and professional, vocational and employment related aspects.’ (OECD 2003)
The aim of this research is to establish current policies, processes, practices and aspirations of Irish Higher Education Institutions with regard to lifelong learning but more specifically recognition of prior learning; to contextualise this practice with particular reference to European policy framework; and to make informed recommendations for policy development which will promote a more consistent and coherent approach to RPL across Irish HE practice. The research will incorporate, the policy frameworks, as well as views from practitioners including academic assessors, students, academic and career advisory services, employers, professional bodies and social partners.
This paper will present the early findings of research into Recognition of Prior Learning practice in higher education in Ireland. It will provide insight into the diversity of the extant policies and their application within higher education institutions. It will illustrate the range of practicalities of RPL within the broader context of lifelong learning.
In the broader context and beyond the scope of the paper it is anticipated that exploring practice and experiences, and analysis of the research findings in an internationally informed context, will yield implications for practice within the higher education system as well as at the interface with further education and the workplace. This in turn will assist in a more informed national higher education perspective of lifelong learning.