Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

Another part of a competence-based curriculum is that the desired competence can be acquired in different ways, including other ways than completing the study units in the curriculum. This is called recognition of prior learning (RPL or AHOT in Finnish). It is possible for students to apply for their competence acquired previously or elsewhere to count towards their studies through credit transfer. The RPL procedure always starts with a student reading through the learning outcomes presented in the curriculum and recognising skills they already possess and then contacting the study unit’s responsible teacher. To enable this procedure is another reason for why clear learning outcomes must be determined for degree programmes, study modules and study units following competence-based description. Learning outcomes are the basis against which a student can assess their previously acquired competency, or competency that they might be able to acquire outside official education, and its possible credit transfer. If necessary, procedures for demonstrating and verifying competence will be utilised to recognise and acknowledge the student’s previously acquired competence. More detailed information can be found in Intra .

Recognition of prior learning: key concepts and varieties

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) refers to the various procedures through which a student’s competence can be assessed and accepted as part of his or her studies. In order for prior learning to be recognised, it must first be identified. The identification of prior learning refers to the assessment of competence in its various forms. Recognition refers to the procedures whereby a student’s identified and assessed prior learning or experience is validated and entered in the academic record.

In addition to formal learning in formal education, competence can be earned in non-formal learning (continuing education, non-formal adult education, etc) or informal learning (eg work experience, positions of trust, hobbies). The recognition of a student’s competence is based on the learning outcomes of the degree and its parts (study modules, study units).

Validation of prior learning means the approval, confirmation and accreditation of a student’s previously completed studies, practical training, internships, work experience or other competence as part of the degree, study module or study unit. A precondition for validation is that the studies or other competence to be accredited correspond to the learning outcomes that have been set for the degree or its parts. Accreditation can take the form of inclusion or substitution. When the accreditation is based on prior formal learning, it is completed through credit transfer.

Inclusion means the acceptance of a study unit or a module completed elsewhere as part of a student’s degree in free choice studies as such. Substitution means awarding a student a study unit or its part included in the curriculum based on the student’s previous studies or other competence.

Recognition of informal and non-formal learning during studies (in Finnish: opinnollistaminen) refers to identifying, recognising, assessing and accrediting competence gained during one’s studies. The process differs from the recognition of prior learning in that the agreements on accreditation are made before the student begins gaining the competence. Furthermore, the starting point is the achievement of the learning outcomes of a study unit in an alternative manner, e.g. through work experience or by engaging in academic research or teaching activities. In this case, accreditation does not involve credit transfer.

Additional materials (in Finnish)

Mikkola, P. & Haltia, P. (2019). Aiemmin hankitun osaamisen tunnustaminen korkeakouluissa. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja.

More information for staff

Credit transfer for studies completed elsewhere

Tampere University: decision of the consistory: Principles and good practices for curriculum development

Links checked 19.2.2021