National RPL in Higher Education Project
For information on RPL and the project check out www.priorlearning.ie
Project Director – Grace Edge
Dr. Clare Walsh – Head of Staff Development
The full listing of project leads and steering group members is available here: https://priorlearning.ie/about
Pictured: Project Leads & National Project Management Team
Provide a short description of the project
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is about recognising learning, regardless of where or how it was acquired. In higher education contexts, RPL can be used for entry to programmes, advanced entry, credits/exemptions and in smaller number of institutions, full awards. It can be and is for everyone – those with varying levels of qualifications and those with none. With RPL, individuals can have their prior (past) learning, which may have been gained through work, life experiences, or non-formal education or training, assessed and recognised for the purpose of obtaining higher education qualifications. By recognising the skills, knowledge and expertise that people have acquired outside formal education settings, RPL can help to meet existing and emerging skills needs at a faster pace by avoiding duplication of learning. This saves time and money for everyone.
The objectives of the National RPL in Higher Education Project are (i) to embed and streamline RPL, (ii) to support higher education staff in delivering RPL, and (iii) to develop partnerships with employers to utilise RPL for upskilling and reskilling of employees (‘RPL for Enterprise’). The project is a collaborative initiative, co-sponsored by the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and operating across fourteen partner higher education institutions. The project is led by eighteen Project Leads based in each partner institution, who work closely with the national project management office based in THEA. The nationwide team is guided by the RPL Steering Group, which draws its membership from the partner higher education institutions, enterprise, learners and national and international RPL experts.
Highlight interesting collaborations / partnerships
120 leaders and policy-makers in higher education and enterprise came together on 2nd March 2023 for the first time to explore how we can use RPL to increase access to higher education programmes and progression opportunities to meet current and future skills needs. The RPL for Enterprise ‘Think In’ event was co-designed by the project team and a working group, lead by SETU President, Prof. Veronica Campbell with colleagues from Enterprise Ireland, Ibec, Skillnet, THEA, IUA and Optum Ireland. Peter Cosgrove, delivered the keynote address, foregrounding RPL in helping to meet the needs of the workplace of the future. You can check out his speech here:
Participants at the Think In were asked to identify the challenges and opportunities of doing more RPL, as well as the potential actions which higher education, enterprise and policymakers may consider to support continued mainstreaming. A short paper capturing these discussions will be available shortly at https://www.priorlearning.ie/resources-tools
Provide a brief summary of the project’s key enterprise engagements
As we look to the future, we know that many workers will need to frequently pivot and change roles and sectors, and do so quickly. For that, we need people from all walks of life to engage more frequently in the higher education system. RPL can help to make this transition smoother by providing a way to recognize and build on existing skills and knowledge, rather than starting from scratch.
There are currently ten RPL for Enterprise pilot projects in operation across nine institutional partners which aim to support the upskilling and reskilling of workers. Given the different starting points in the participating HEIs, the pilots reflect the diversity of institutional contexts, as well as existing enterprise relationships, engagement and lifelong learning strategies. For example, some HEIs are in the initial preparatory stages of RPL for Enterprise, exploring current enterprise links, gauging potential demand and institutional capacity, whilst others are building on track records of success, forging new collaborations with enterprise partners or deepening existing ones. The sectors directly engaging with, or identified as having the potential to benefit from the pilots include Health & Social Work, Manufacturing, Construction, Public & Civil-Service Administration & Defence, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Information, Communication & Telecommunications. There are a number of diverse models of RPL for Enterprise activity taking place in the pilots, including:
- The use of RPL as an element in the development of customised learning solutions, co-created by HEIs with employers for cohorts of employees. In this scenario, informal and nonformal workplace learning are integrated into the content and learning outcomes of new or adapted programmes.
- Where workers’ learning is mapped to an existing programme, supporting them to gain entry to and/or exemptions from modules in the programme itself. This can happen on a group or individual basis.
Check out this short video to hear from some of the enterprise partners, learners and institutional staff taking part in the pilots:
For information on RPL and the project check out www.priorlearning.ie. This is the go-to national resource for learners, employers, and higher education staff seeking more information on RPL and the opportunities that exist across the partner higher education institutions. The website also contains a Resources & Tools section which readers might find helpful. The one-page Pilot Framework for RPL in Higher Education is available to download there!
In the next few months we will be sharing new practical tools and materials to support higher education staff to practice RPL, so watch this space!
You can also follow the work of the project on social media:
Twitter – @RPL_Irl
LinkedIn – @Recognition of Prior Learning
Pictured: Roundtable discussion at the RPL for Enterprise Think In Event
Last updated: Monday 24 April 2023