Recognition of Prior Learning paves the way in providing new education pathways for workforce development

Suzanne Golden, Recognition of Prior Learning Project Lead at the University of Galway and Nuala McGuinn, Director at University of Galway’s Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development . Photo – Aengus McMahon.
Mar 02 2023 Posted: 11:01 GMT

Business, higher education and policy-makers recently came together to explore the role of Recognition of Prior Learning in addressing skills needs and developing talent

Leaders and policy-makers in higher education and enterprise came together today, Thursday March 2, for the first time to explore the role of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in upskilling, reskilling, and retaining key members of the workforce.

University of Galway is one of 14 partner higher education institutions working towards embedding and expanding the RPL initiative to enable larger numbers of learners, particularly those in the workforce, to benefit from higher education.

With RPL, a learner can get recognition from a higher education institution for the prior learning they have done in work, life and the community which in turn can provide a pathway to and through higher education. Using RPL, a higher education institution gives recognition for what someone already knows, understands and can do prior to, for example, starting on a programme or module.

A dedicated online resource for learners, businesses, and higher education institutions was launched today at This website is a jumping-off point for anyone seeking to engage with RPL as a route in to higher education and will provide businesses and enterprise with an understanding of how RPL can benefit workers.

Suzanne Golden, RPL Project Lead at the University of Galway, said: “Recognition of Prior Learning is an essential component of the University’s approach to widening access to qualifications and supporting lifelong learning. Here in University of Galway we recognise that knowledge and skills can be acquired from a range of learning experiences. We aim to offer accessible and flexible progression routes for people who want to build on their prior learning.”

University of Galway’s participation in the national Recognition of Prior Learning in Higher Education project is indicative of its willingness to engage with enterprise partners to understand the higher education needs of their employees. RPL can offer significant benefits to both employers and employees. It is a tool which can help employers to nurture and retain employees by contributing to career progression opportunities, whilst also boosting employee motivation. By recognising the skills, knowledge and expertise that an employee has learned in the workplace, RPL can also help to meet existing and emerging skills needs at a faster pace by avoiding duplication of learning, meaning employees don’t have to relearn things they already know.

Ms Golden continued: “Working collaboratively with employers we can use RPL to identify opportunities that enable workers to ensure that their knowledge, skills and competences remain relevant and fit for purpose. RPL also creates agility in our system, helping us to value the learning achieved outside formal education and develop courses sensitive to employee’s existing skillsets. The national RPL in Higher Education project is raising awareness of how RPL may be harnessed in the future to deliver solutions for upskilling, reskilling, organisational development, talent retention and more in the enterprise sector. The launch of the new website is a welcome addition to those awareness raising initiatives.”

RPL enquiries for University of Galway can be emailed to


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