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The emerging agenda for higher education (HE) in Europe promotes lifelong learning, social inclusion, wider participation, employability and partnership working with community organisations. Consequently, higher education authorities are increasingly recognising the significant knowledge, skills and understanding which can be developed as a result of learning opportunities found at work through individual activities and personal interests. The accreditation of learning and prior achievement is now one of the central functions of the Higher Education Authority (HEA, 2007). In exercising this function, higher education providers are increasingly considering how learning that has taken place in a range of contexts, may be assessed and formally recognised through accreditation.
Boud and Solomon (2001:8) make reference to many initiatives which have been introduced into higher education over the past two decades in an attempt to make access to university more equitous. RPL is one such approach. Used as a form of access, it provides a bridging experience for students within third level education, by way of recognising achievements that were outside the standard entry qualification route. The National Qualification Authority of Ireland (NQAI) specifies that:
It is a statutory requirement that providers who have programmes validated by either of the two Councils or with authority delegated by either of the two Councils to make awards themselves, as well as the Dublin Institute of Technology, implement the Authority’s procedures on access, transfer and progression. In addition, the implementation of these arrangements by the universities is to be reviewed by the Authority. All providers are required to develop a statement of arrangements available in respect of each of their programmes for the recognition of prior learning, for entry, for credit towards an award and for access to a full award…. the statement of arrangements available should indicate to learners the competences needed to succeed on the programme.
Seberry, D. (2009) Recognition of Prior Learning in Irish Culinary Arts. Thesis presented to DIT 2009.