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Recognition of Prior Learning

Staff Information

Recognition of Prior Learning

Resources for staff to guide learners through the application process

What is 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 education institution as part of their programmes, courses, and/or modules in the National Framework of Qualifications. This makes it possible for an individual to build on learning achieved and be rewarded for it. 

Types of RPL:

  • Formal learning takes place through programmes 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.
  • Non-formal learning takes place alongside or outside the mainstream systems of education and training. It may be assessed but it 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 experience. Typically, it does not lead to certification. 

Non-formal and informal learning are sometimes referred to as experiential learning. 

Stages of RPL:

Though these may vary from Higher Education Institution (HEI) to HEI, these are the expected stages for validation as per the Pilot Framework.

  1. Information
  2. Identification
  3. Documentation
  4. Assessment
  5. Certification/Validation 

What are the possible outcomes of an RPL application?

  1. To gain admission to an academic programme where formal admission requirements may not be met (RPL for entry).
  2. To give ECTs credit so that learning is not duplicated (RPL for Credit/Exemption/Advanced Entry). 


Guidance on the RPL Process

Application processes for RPL for entry and RPL for exemption/credit will differ and may generally be summarised as follows: 

RPL for admission to a programme where formal entry requirements may not be met:

  • Prospective learners should be advised to consult the published programme entry requirements for information on whether admission under RPL is permissible. 
  • The published entry requirements where possible should direct learners on how they can demonstrate learning/provide a contact to obtain more detailed information. 
  • Each programme should articulate how a learner can evidence their knowledge, skills and competencies to match the learning outcomes or prerequisites. 

Please see the below checklist of items for additional considerations. 

RPL for Credit/Exemption

  • The institution should provide guidance for RPL applicants requesting support.
  • Taking into consideration Universal Design for Learning (UDL), this guidance may be given in a variety of formats, including written, video or other forms.
  • This guidance will offer advice regarding how learners can demonstrate their competence and any documentary evidence they may wish to gather to support their application. 


Things to consider when advising the learner in both instances above: 

  • The scope and nature of the evidence that will be required to support the application, and any time limits applied to the currency of that evidence.
  • There may be no definitive answer to how recent the prior learning should be for RPL purposes in your institution. This may vary from discipline to discipline. 
  • What is authentic evidence within the discipline?*
  • What is required for sufficient evidence?* 
  • The limitations for the awarding of RPL, i.e Professional Programmes. 
  • The relevance of the RPL application process. 
  • Does the learning evidenced align with the learning outcomes for the programme or module?
  • An indication of the time required to complete the recognition documentation process. 

*To be determined by the Programme and/or the HEI's RPL Policy. 

Please consult the table below for an indicative list that may be considered for the portfolio of evidence. 

Please consult the draft checklist of items that may be considered. 

Portfolio of evidence (indicative list)

The table below is an example of the types of evidence that can be submitted by learners to support their application. 



Things you might consider including if relevant.

(This is an indicative list of items only) 

Ideas for Evidence
Portfolio of Evidence

Current CV that provides a full picture as possible of activities that are relevant* to your claim. 




Education - Accredited 











  • Official Transcripts-relating to officially accredited study. 


  • This will include the Level, Credit Value and Grade Awarded.   


  • Official Syllabus


NFQNARIC for further detail on accreditation levels.


Other (Non-Accredited) 

May be included where relevant to the subject where RPL is claimed

  • Curriculum
  • Certificates of Attendance
  • Certificates of Completion


These may be useful but cannot be used as evidence on its own.

Commentary is required to present an insight into your learning and to demonstrate how you are currently using/applying or have recently used or applied that learning.



Unpaid Work (Volunteering)
  • Roles & Responsibilities that are applicable to the RPL being sought

Employment history, including voluntary positions. 

List all relevant employment (Role, Responsibility & Achievements)


  • Statements from supervisors or managers in relation to aspects of practice
  • References from colleagues, employees, voluntary organisations, professional bodies

Reflection on Previous Employment 

• What did I do in that role?
• What were my main responsibilities and tasks?
• What were some of the challenges I faced in that role?
• What have I learned from that role and most importantly how does it relate to the learning outcomes of the programme that I’m seeking RPL for.



Published Articles and Manuscripts


  • Links/References where available
Other Supporting Documents 

Practice-based documents

  • Awards/Prizes
  • interview 
  • Practice-based documents
  • Video/audio recording, with commentary and analysis related to achievement of learning outcomes
  • samples, photographs 
  • Professional Development-Informal Learning
  • any other evidence that is valid, sufficient, authentic and current

Checklist of items to be provided to learners

Learners should be provided with clear information and guidance on the RPL process in advance of submitting an application, including: 

  • The level of support and guidance available to learners.
  • Clarification of RPL terminology and processes.
  • The roles and responsibilities of the learner and any staff involved in the application process.
  • The type and extent of evidence required to support prior learning, and any time limits applied to the currency of that evidence.
  • How evidence should be presented and submitted.
  • Any limitations of professional and regulatory bodies.
  • Any limitations for the awarding of credit — refer to institutional policy.
  • The effect of RPL on the availability of any subsequent awards.
  • An overview of the assessment, feedback and appeals procedures.
  • Any timelines or submission deadlines attached to RPL claims.
  • The likelihood of admission due to course under/over subscription.