In Scotland, an overarching validation methodology known as ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) has been linked to the implementation of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). RPL is defined as:
“the process for recognising learning that has come from experience and/or previous formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts. This includes knowledge and skills gained within school, college and university and outside formal learning situations such as through life and work experiences.” (SCQF, 2010).
There is no single policy or strategy on RPL in Scotland, and there is no one governmental body with responsibility for it. However, there are guidelines, tools and resources available, mainly delivered through the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP).
The SCQF Handbook notes that RPL is a process for recognising all types of learning, regardless of the context in which it has been acquired. It therefore covers learning that has its roots in experience, is acquired through informal means, as well as prior formal education and training. It describes three types of RPL:
- RPL for personal/career development (formative recognition).
- RPL to gain entry to a learning programme (summative recognition).
- RPL for the award of SCQF Credit Points to gain entry with credit or advanced standing in a programme/qualification (summative recognition).
The four stages of validation – identification, documentation, assessment and certification – are likely to be used to varying extents, depending on the type of recognition which is taking place.
VPL in Higher Education
Guidance on RPL, most notably in the form of the SCQF Handbook (2015) and SCQF’s Guide and Toolkit, can be applied across all education and training sectors, including Higher Education (HE). Aside from the guidance however, there are no formal regulations or requirements for the provision of RPL and thus implementation varies across sectors and providers.
To address variation in practice and implementation, the Scottish HE RPL Network, commissioned by the QAA, developed the National RPL Framework for Higher Education (QAA Scotland, 2014). This was said to represent a step change in supporting the further growth of RPL across the Scottish higher education sector. The Framework attempts to locate RPL within broader developments linked to establishing more flexible and efficient learner journeys, a more flexible and accessible curriculum, and enabling greater participation in higher education by learners from a wide range of backgrounds.
Validation in the Labour Market
Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs), in the same way as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in England and Wales, are work-related, outcomes-based, competence-oriented qualifications which are based on national occupational standards (NOS). They are mainly targeted to people who are currently in work and provide evidence of professional competence; achievement of an SVQ shows that the individual can perform his or her job to national standards as agreed by the relevant industry or commercial sector.
SVQs are assessed through evidence of performance against certain work-related tasks, meaning that attendance at a learning provider may not be required – acquisition of skills and assessment of these can take place during day-to-day work. Assessments are based on evidence collected by the candidate (usually from their work) rather than formal exams.
Validation in the Third Sector
RPL is less used in the third sector, in comparison to the public sector. However, some organisations within this sector have RPL processes and procedures in place.
Many youth awards actively involve young people in the assessment of their own learning and in recognising their achievements through dialogue and record-keeping in portfolios and journals. Self-assessment, peer assessment, personal learning planning and portfolios are recognised reporting methods.
Funding of VPL
There is no national funding framework for RPL. Implementation is funded at the level of the sector, provider or by the individuals themselves. In Higher Education, there is generally no charge for RPL which takes place as part of the admissions process but RPL claims for credit tend to be subject to a fee, which varies across institutions (OECD, 2007). The SQA charges standard fees regardless of the assessment approach (RPL is seen as a method of assessing).
Organisations can charge costs for the provision of RPL. These are decided at the level of the organisation and there are no national-level rules or guidance on how much providers should charge. With regard to HE, the QAA Quality Code states only that there should be clear information on how much institutions charge for an RPL procedure.
References (All accessed on 19th of June 2017)
- SCQF (2010), Facilitating the Recognition of Prior Learning Toolkit. Internet: http://scqf.org.uk/content/files/RPL_Toolkit_FINAL_-_May_2010.pdf
- SCQF (2015), SCQF Handbook, 2015. Internet: http://scqf.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2014/05/SCQF_handbook_WEB_FINAL_2015.pdf