Julie Brown and Ruth Whittaker

Challenging Practices: Streamlining Recognition of Prior Informal Learning in Scottish Higher Education

Ruth Whittaker, Julie Brown


This paper highlights the search for more effective ways of recognizing and assessing prior informal learning within higher education (HE) in Scotland.  The need for this search stems from perennial barriers to recognition of prior informal learning (RPL) in terms of its resource-intensive nature, varying levels of understanding and awareness and the need for greater flexibility in terms of progression pathways through curriculum design and delivery. As part of the program of work identified by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Scotland/Universities Scotland HEI RPL Network, research was commissioned to move the RPL agenda in Scotland forward by seeking to address some of these barriers. The research focused on RPL practices within Scotland but extended to practice in other countries. While the focus of the work was to enhance RPL processes in the Scottish HE sector, the outcomes could have broader applications in other national contexts. The research reinforces the need to challenge current assessment practices as part of sector-wide developments in Scotland to develop more flexible, efficient learner journeys and informs broader developments in RPL in Scotland.

Keywords: RPL (recognizing prior informal learning) assessment practices, flexible learner pathways, national qualifications frameworks, CPD

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