Recognition of previous learning

People are gaining knowledge every day, and this happens always and everywhere. Every experience gained leads to new skill, knowledge and / or competence. Although learning usually takes place through formal education, which is always organized, planned and with clearly defined goals, much of the knowledge is acquired through non-formal or informal education. Informal knowledge is often equated with the experience gained from everyday life.

For people, especially adults who are outside the formal education or non-formal education system, the knowledge and skills acquired at home, in the workplace or in everyday experience are more important, relevant and meaningful sometimes than even the knowledge acquired in formal education. In the European Union countries, the EU and globally, there is a growing awareness that informal knowledge is a rich source of human values, ie capital to be valued. Therefore, recognizing and validating the results of non-formal and informal learning makes human knowledge, skills and competences more visible and therefore more valuable.

Within the Knowledge and Skills Management Centre, a methodology for the process of recognition of prior knowledge and skills has been developed and implemented as a tool for evaluating informal and nonformally acquired knowledge in a wide multidisciplinary range of professions and occupations.

The specific goals of the process of recognition and validation of informal and nonformal learning are:

  • Evaluating non-formal learning acquired in the workplace or through appropriate training, programs and courses, by linking learning outcomes to the competences for a particular occupation defined in the National Qualifications Framework and Occupational Standard;
  • creating a link between the informal learning process in which individuals are already involved with formal education;
  • establishing a correlation between the student's personal and professional development and establishing a clear link between the knowledge already achieved and future learning opportunities;
  • identifying knowledge and skills that are common to different types and degrees of learning and different work environments and ensuring their transferability.

Benefits for individuals

RPL can be used by a wide range of people either to help them re-enter learning or to contribute towards a programme of learning. Through RPL it may be possible to make a claim for Credit Points in the formal E&T system which can reduce the amount of time needed to achieve the required learning programme or qualification. Those who might benefit include:

  • people who have been out of the education system for a long time and/or who may lack formal qualifications
  • adults returning to education
  • unemployed people looking for a way to demonstrate their learning to prospective employers
  • people wanting to improve upon existing qualifications
  • those wanting to re-train or change careers
  • students at colleges, higher education institutions (HEIs) and other learning and training providers
  • people who have taken non-formal learning or training in the workplace or through community-based learning
  • people who have gained a range of skills and knowledge through volunteering or through activities or projects
  • school students who have been involved in extra-curricular activities.


People wishing to claim RPL may not have a strong academic education - but they do need to be keen to learn from and about their own experiences and about themselves. It is important to stress that recognition is given for what has been learned from experience and not for the experience itself.

RPL can be used where learners can demonstrate that through their experience, they have already gained the relevant knowledge and skills required for particular units of a learning programme or qualification or for a particular job role.

RPL reinforces the concept of lifelong learning as it helps individuals to:

  • Think about the learning they have already achieved and plan how to build on this learning to meet their personal and career goals
  • Get a place on a programme at a college or university or learning and training provider, if they don’t have the normal entry qualifications but can show that they have the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Gain credit towards a qualification to shorten the normal period of learning by evidencing that they already have the knowledge, skills and understanding needed for particular parts of the programme or qualification (e.g. units or modules)
  • Increase their self esteem by recognising their achievements in learning
  • Plan their career development and educational path
  • Identify areas of competence and areas requiring further study.


RPL can help people to consider their options and make decisions about the direction they want to take. The experience of using RPL benefts learners in the following ways:

  • Learners will have the opportunity to refect on what they have achieved so far through their experiences in terms of their learning and skills
  • Learners will think about their goals and what they need to do in order to achieve them: e.g. do a training course, pursue a vocational award, join an educational programme at college or university or other learning and training provider, apply for, or change, jobs
  • It also helps to build confidence – it enables learners to identify the learning they have gained through experience, recognise their strengths and value their achievements. This can motivate a learner to continue learning.


Benefits for learning and training providers

RPL benefts learning and training providers in a range of ways as it can:

  • Enable greater retention of learners
  • Widen access to a range of learners
  • Increase participation of learners from non-traditional learning backgrounds.


Benefits for employers

RPL can support employers by:

  • Helping to identify employees’ skills effectively
  • Helping to identify skills gaps in organisations
  • Helping to identify appropriate training oportunities
  • Reducing the time required in employee training due to minimised duplication of learning
  • Increasing motivation and interest in workplace activities on the part of the employee/learner
  • Generating new ideas and developments for the organisation as a result of the employee/learner refecting on work activities.


As a result, employers may find that RPL can lead to increased employee retention and reduced recruitment and training costs.

Within the Knowledge and Skills Management Center, a Methodology for the process of recognition of prior knowledge and skills has been developed and implemented as a tool for evaluating informal and nonformally acquired knowledge in a wide multidisciplinary range of professions and occupations.

The methodology is a guide through the process of validating non-formal and informal learning and is intended for: assessors, candidates and potential candidates, employers and accredited training providers.

The methodology is an additional learning material in the training of certified assessors (evaluators), in order to familiarize them with key aspects of quality assessment practice, including the principles of assessment and the application of a wide range of assessment methods. It should help assessors to organize and implement an applicable process of validating knowledge and skills acquired in non-formal and informal education and provide support to employers and candidates by providing good information and familiarity with the entire validation procedure.

There is no active call for RPL.