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Recognition of Prior Learning

What is RPL?

One of the concerns people have when returning to any kind of education is about whether or not any previous skills, knowledge, experience or qualifications they already have will be appreciated and help with accessing and doing a new course, training or learning activity. This is the area of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

RPL is the term used to talk about your prior learning, whether that is ‘formal’ (where you would have studied or done a test to receive a qualification) or it is ‘non-formal’ (including "on the job" experience and knowledge gained through practical situations). When inquiring about or applying for a course, it is useful to find out if the course provider has a system for RPL in-place. How a course provider considers and your previous experience and learning may support your entry to that course and be important for completing your application forms.

RPL recognises that your knowledge and skills have been learned through a variety of previous life situations. There are different circumstances were a person may undertake an RPL process for their own personal development or for the progression of their studies or career. In relation to applying for a course, having a provider Recognise your Prior Learning may reduce the time and cost of study involved in completing a new course.

So, if you are thinking about returning to learning, RPL may be applicable in your situation. Please contact the course provider directly to discuss your particular circumstances.

Examples of RPL

Many education providers will provide you with more information about how to prove that you have undergone previous learning experiences. The following is a list of the types of evidence that you may be asked to discuss and submit as part of your application to do a course:

  • Letters of Certification
  • Testimonials
  • Transcripts of past Examination Results
  • Completed Project Work
  • Job Profiles
  • Published Material Records of On-the-job Training
  • Written Reports Photographs / Audio / Video Tapes
  • Teacher Training Reports
  • Reports on Unpaid Work
  • Critical Incidents References
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Samples of your work
  • Copies of Certificates
  • Logbooks

The Cork Institute of Technology provides the following the following example in their Information Guidelines for Students.

CIT RPL Guidelines for Students sw

The Limerick Institute of Technology provides the following example in their Information Guidelines for Students.


Am I entitled to RPL and how do I access RPL?

Although Ireland does not have a national policy on RPL, much of RPL happens at local level. Many educational organisations have developed their own way to assess your prior learning and how it may help your application process. It’s always worth asking your course provider if they have a RPL policy in place.

Everyone brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills which they have learned in the past to any new course. To find out more and get some support with identifying your strengths, contact your free and confidential local Adult Education Guidance Service and the course provider.

To find your local Adult Education Guidance Service

To contact course providers to find out if they have a RPL policy:

Resources that might be useful

What are the main terms used for RPL in Ireland

  • Prior learning - what you have learned to date through work, family or travel.
  • Formal learning - this refers to any courses you have taken and any certification you have got for them.
  • Informal learning - this on the job learning and the general learning from life. Sometimes referred to as learning form experience.
  • Non-formal learning - takes place alongside mainstream formal systems of education and training, it may be assessed but it does not lead to nationally recognised qualifications. Examples of non-formal learning are certain work-based education and training, learning for leisure and adult literacy programmes/courses.
  • Recognition - refers to the process by which prior learning is given a value, i.e. the identification, assessment and acknowledgement of learning achieved. That value relates to a qualification and can take the form of entry to a programme, credit, exemptions from programme requirements or access to a full award or qualification.
  • RPL - refers to the recognition of non-formal and informal learning as concerns awards or qualifications.
  • APL - Accreditation for Prior Learning
  • APEL - Accreditation to Prior Experiential Learning
  • PLC - Post Leaving Cert course

How is RPL assessed?

Prior learning can be assessed in a number of ways. These vary depending on each educational provider. One popular method used is assessment of a portfolio. Portfolios allow a learner to document and demonstrate their knowledge of a given subject area.

The portfolio will document what has been learned, where and how the student learned it, and how the student's experiences meet the requirements of the course provider. Most schools or colleges will give advice on how to put this together.

Advice on Qualifications from outside Ireland and the European Union


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