A Current Overview of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in Irish Higher Education

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A Current Overview of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in Irish Higher Education

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This report details an exploration of the current practice relating to the recognition of prior learning in Irish higher education. The research includes a review of the published policies of higher education institutions, their public-facing information as well as an analysis of the details of the mission-based performance compacts outlining goals and objectives for higher education institutions from 2014 to 2016.

In-depth interviews with practitioners in higher education institutions were conducted to explore the implementation of RPL in practice. An exploration of processes relating to identification, evidencing, assessment, and recognition of experiential learning by selected employer professional bodies was undertaken.

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The learner population in tertiary education is becoming increasingly diverse, and students’ lives are also increasingly complex. The responsibility on educational institutions to provide equitable access for all is now strongly embedded in Irish legislation, and national tertiary education strategies contain more specific goals to implement a Universal Design approach, (SOLAS, 2020; Higher Education Authority, 2022).

The aim is to move towards a system where ‘Inclusion is Everyone’s Business’, where all staff play their part in delivering an inclusive educational experience.

Universal Design, or UD for short, offers us an evidence-based approach to engender this mindset, and is increasingly seen as a central tenet of our response to rising diversity, (Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, 2022). But how can we embed a UD approach in our institutions?

That’s where ALTITUDE – the National Charter for Universal Design in Tertiary Education – comes in to play.

Funded by the HEA under PATH 4, the ALTITUDE Project is an extensive cross sectoral collaboration involving six national agencies, fifteen higher education (HE) institutions and six Education and Training Board (ETB) representatives, nominated by Directors of FET to represent the Further Education and Training sector.

The vision of the project looks to a future in tertiary education where ‘all learners are transformatively included through universal design in education’, deriving the name ALTITUDE. It seeks to move us in that direction by supporting HEIs and ETBs to make sustainable progress towards systemically embedding a UD approach…. – one which places human diversity at the heart of tertiary education design, and fosters student success for all learners.

The ALTITUDE Charter, and the associated toolkit and technical report, build on significant existing work on UD in the Irish tertiary education landscape (Kelly & Padden, 2018), and through these outputs, provides a clear roadmap for institutions to make progress.

Drawing from national and international literature, the Charter recommends key strategic enablers, which institutions should put in place over time to support the sustainable implementation of UD, and proposes collaborative action to work towards goals under 4 key pillars of our institutions:

– Learning, Teaching & Assessment;
– Supports, Services & Social Engagement;
– the Physical Environment;
– and the Digital Environment

The “Recycling Art” project engages children in transforming waste into creative toys, fostering sustainable living habits and environmental consciousness in line with SDG 13, through imaginative and fun activities.

Recycling art

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