The process for recognising prior learning has been referred to under different names such as the validation of prior learning and the recognition of prior experience. These processes come under the umbrella term of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) provides essential underpinning for RPL. It allows learning, skills and understanding to be described and defined in a common format recognised by different organisations and institutions.
RPL is used in a range of settings:
- Credit transfer in higher education (HE) when learners carry credit earned in one qualification and use it as part of a new qualification or in a different institution. The rules and procedures for RPL are set out in QAA Guidance - Making Use of Credit: A Companion to the Higher Education Credit Framework for England
- A similar process can be used for any credit rated qualification. For recognised qualifications in Wales, Qualifications Wales has published Guidance for awarding bodies on Recognition of Prior Learning.
- Entry to HE for mature/returning learners who do not have formal qualifications. Learners without formal qualifications but with relevant experience may have this recognised when applying for employment or entry into formal education courses.
- Workers who are retraining may have relevant skills that can be recognised as valid for new qualifications.
- Many people attend courses or receive recognition where there is not a formal qualification. Validation of informal and non-formal learning can recognise skills and competencies already achieved to facilitate further training or entry to programmes of study for formal qualifications.
- Recognition of learning/qualifications achieved where documentation is missing such as for refugees and forced migrants.
There are many examples of good practice in the use of RPL in Wales. However, there is evidence that RPL is underused and undervalued, particularly in the validation of non-formal and informal learning outside of HE, in retraining the workforce and its use in supporting forced migrants to enter employment, education and training.
Phil Whitney and Adrian Sheehan are the primary ColegauCymru contacts for the Recognition of Prior Learning in Further Education colleges in Wales.