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Recognition of Prior Learning

About RPL

Recognition of Prior Learning

What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process by which prior learning is formally valued. It is a means by which prior learning is identified, assessed, and recognised by an educational institution as part of their programmes and/or modules in the National Framework of Qualifications. RPL means that you can get recognition for learning you have done in a work-based environment and for learning that you have gained from life experiences to support your personal and career development.

Not all of our learning is through the formal education system, so DCU uses RPL to recognise and acknowledge what you already know. This includes learning experiences from a variety of formal or informal courses, workplace learning and relevant life experiences. 

Types of RPL: 

To help with the recognition process and to allow us to properly put a value on your learning inside and outside the classroom, RPL is classified into 'formal', 'non-formal' and 'informal'.

  • Formal learning takes place through programmes or courses of study that are delivered in an organised, formal way by education providers and that attract awards or credits. Formal learning is sometimes referred to as certified or accredited learning. Under the principle that credit should only be awarded once, such prior learning is given recognition rather than accreditation.


  • Non-formal learning takes place alongside or outside the mainstream systems of education and training. It may be assessed but does not normally lead to formal certification. Examples of non-formal learning are planned learning and training activities undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector, or in community-based settings.


  • Informal learning takes place through life and work (e.g. 'on-the-job') experience. It does not lead to certification. For example, if you have worked doing payroll or book-keeping you will have an important skill set with many transferable uses.

What can RPL be used for?

RPL is seen as an opportunity for you to build on your learning achievements to date and explore how it could benefit you now. This could be entry, entry to advanced years of a programme or module exemptions.  

  • Entry: gain admission to a programme without meeting the standard entry requirements. 


  • In some circumstances, RPL may also be used for entry into advanced years of a programme if you can demonstrate that you have previous learning equivalent to the overall learning outcomes of the previous stage(s). 


  • Exemptions/credits: receive exemptions or credits for a module or a number of modules so learning is not duplicated. Contact if you want more information regarding module exemption(s).

Please note that externally accredited professional programmes may not have an RPL route.

RPL could be for you if:

  • You want recognition for informal or non-formal learning
  • You need formal qualifications for the next stage of your career
  • You want formal qualifications to advance in your career
  • You are an adult who wants to return to higher education 
  • You are an existing student transferring from another course or from another institution

RPL can also benefit learners, higher education institutions and employers alike. 
Learn about the benefits of RPL.

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How do I know if I can use RPL to gain entry to a programme?

To find out if the programme you are interested in offers an RPL entry route, please consult the RPL postgraduate programme list. 

  • You can also visit the ‘entry requirements section’ on the online prospectus programme page. Here, you will find specific entry requirements related to the programme.


  • To find out if the programme you are interested in offers an advanced entry route, please consult the 'entry requirements' section on the online prospectus.


  • If you have any queries in relation to your eligibility for entry based on RPL, you can email the Programme Chair indicating that you wish to make an RPL application with your relevant qualifications and/or experience.


  • If deemed a suitable RPL applicant, you will be advised to proceed with a formal application.