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Recognition of prior learning: implications for quality assurance in higher education

Simon Stephens (Faculty of Business, Atlantic Technological University, Letterkenny, Ireland)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 20 June 2022

Issue publication date: 28 September 2022




A diverse range of initiatives in relation to the recognition of prior learning (RPL) have been introduced in higher education systems over the past 20 years. This paper aims to explore the implementation of RPL initiatives, in an Irish context, and the implications for quality assurance in higher education.


A qualitative approach is adopted, to provide an enhanced understanding of the impact of RPL initiatives. Data is presented from interviews with key stakeholders: six academics, six coordinators and six learners who availed of RPL.


The introduction of RPL requires higher education institutions to adopt new approaches to the design and delivery of their programmes and also to review and revise quality assurance frameworks. This paper presents key insights across five over-arching themes (ambitions and outcomes; caution and suspicion; in the classroom; assessment and examinations; and life after university).


The introduction of RPL evokes a mixed reaction from stakeholders, and there is a range of differing experiences, leading to differences in attitudes and unintended impacts. This study provides insights both at an individual and institutional levels using experiential learning theory.



The author would like thank the Editor and the anonymous reviewers for their support in developing this manuscript.


Stephens, S. (2022), "Recognition of prior learning: implications for quality assurance in higher education", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 495-506.



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