Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process by which prior learning is formally valued. It is a means by which prior learning is identified, assessed, and recognised by an educational institution as part of its programmes, courses, and/or modules on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). This makes it possible for an individual to build on learning achieved and to be rewarded for it.

RPL - A quick overview

For a quick overview of RPL click the play button.

What can RPL be used for?

The RPL process may be used to gain: 

  • Entry to a course where you do not meet the standard entry criteria
  • Advanced entry to a course (i.e. into year 2 or year 3)
  • Exemption from one or more modules on a course

Appeals: If your application is unsuccessful (e.g. if you are not granted an exemption or accepted onto a course of study through RPL), any available options or supports will be outlined to you. Learners may avail of the appeals procedure that is in place, which will be communicated to you.

Types of Prior Learning

Prior Learning is learning which has taken place prior to admission to a course, or to a stage of a course, but has not necessarily been assessed, measured or assigned credits. Prior Learning may have been acquired through formal, non-formal or informal routes. These learning routes are defined as follows:

Formal learning

is course-based learning which takes place in an organised formal way. It is specifically designated as learning, with specific course content, learning objectives, stated duration for the course and learning support. It typically leads to certification. Formal learning is sometimes referred to as certified or accredited learning.

Non-formal learning

is intentional from the learner’s point of view. It takes place through planned, organised learning activities alongside or outside the mainstream systems of education and training. It may be assessed but does not normally lead to formal certification. Examples of non-formal learning are planned learning and training activities undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector, or in community-based settings.

Informal learning

is not organised or structured (in terms of objectives, time or learning support). It takes place through life and work experience – and is sometimes referred to as experiential learning. It typically does not lead to certification.



Formal Learning is sometimes referred to as Certified learning while 

Non-formal and Informal learning are sometimes referred to as Experiential learning.