Recognition of Prior Learning in Higher Education in Ireland & Europe: a Burden or a Benefit?



  • Grace Edge, Technological Higher Education Association, Ireland
  • Nora Trench Bowles, Irish Universities Association, Ireland


The National RPL in Higher Education Project is a four-year initiative funded by Irish government through the National Training Fund. Our vision is to make the recognition of prior learning an integral and vibrant part of Irish higher education, which offers life-long learning opportunities of discernable value to learners and enterprise. The development and adoption of a new national policy framework for RPL to support coherency and consistency within and across higher education will help us realise our vision. The project is co-sponsored by the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and works on behalf of all 19 publicly-funded higher education institutions in Ireland. Managed centrally through a small team in THEA, the project is lead out on the ground by a network of 19 project leads based in each participating institution. A steering group, drawing its membership from the sponsoring bodies, senior institutional leaders and RPL experts provides strategic direction and advice. Using design-thinking techniques, we have run several ‘audit’ workshops with diverse audiences across Irish higher education, and with learners and enterprise, on the benefits and barriers to embedding RPL in our sector. These workshops aimed to deepen our understanding of stakeholders’perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of RPL, break down silos and develop a collective vision for moving RPL and the project, forward.  

The goal of this workshop is to explore these questions in an international context. Is RPL important in European higher education, and if so, why? What are the barriers to enhancing or improving current approaches to RPL? What factors are motivating you to want to 'do' RPL differently? What factors may prevent new approaches to RPL? We will compare and contrast the findings from the workshop with the Irish findings. What can we learn from our similarities and differences?

Grace Edge

National RPL in Higher Education Project Manager, Technological Higher Education Association, Ireland
Grace Edge is the Project Manager for the Irish 'National RPL in Higher Education' Project. Working with and on behalf of all 19 publicly-funded higher education institutions, Grace is passionate about the creation of meaningful lifelong-learning opportunities and developing collaborative, human-centred solutions to address higher education's challenges. She has worked in a variety of roles across Irish higher education, including leading a number of multi-institutional change initiatives.

Nora Trench Bowles

Head of Lifelong Learning, Skills and Quality, Irish Universities Association, Ireland
Nora Trench Bowles is Head of Lifelong Learning, Skills and Quality at the Irish Universities Association (IUA). The IUA represents, supports and advocates on matters of sectoral concern for our eight university members.
Nora supports the IUA Registrars/ Vice-Presidents Academic Group and manages the IUA Quality Directors Group. She sits on the National Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Project in Higher Education Steering Committee and the Irish RPL Practitioners Network Steering Group.

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