Luther Varsity in Southern Africa
A Place of Academic and Professional Excellence
In the LUSA context, the recognition of prior learning (RPL) is the evaluation and acknowledgement of the knowledge and skills that a candidate has gained other than through formal study to enable them to gain access to higher education even though they don’t meet the normal entrance requirements. This includes knowledge gained as a result of non-formal study, paid and unpaid work experience, community and organisational involvement, and individual inquiry. In the academic context, it is the acknowledgement that academically significant and socially useful knowledge is acquired through multiple formal, informal, and non-formal means. When evaluated through appropriate and reliable assessment practices, that knowledge can be used for purposes of academic access and accreditation.
Purposes of RPL
At LUSA, the purpose of RPL is:
- To recognise and, where appropriate, grant advanced standing for the expertise gained by skilled individuals in non-academic contexts.
- To contribute to the holistic assessment and self-assessment of people entering onto a learning path.
Principles Governing RPL at LUSA
- RPL practices for all LUSA programmes must be context-sensitive and framed to suit those differing contexts where RPL is deemed appropriate .
- The evaluation of prior learning is an academic task and, like other forms of assessment, is done by academic experts in a given field, drawing on other experts as needed. Academics make the decision on whether to introduce an RPL access route into a particular programme of study.
- RPL is based on a developmental model, not a deficit model of adult learning; it builds on knowledge and skills that adults have already acquired.
- RPL is part of LUSA’s broader commitment to be socially responsive to key social needs, and to significant constituencies in government and civil society.
Guidelines for RPL process
The assessment of RPL candidates and the decisions concerning their admission are the ultimate responsibility of the Heads of Department in consultation with the admissions officers within the department the prospective student is applying.
RPL processes at LUSA will typically involve the following procedures:
RPL procedures where learners’ choice of programme is clear:
- Adult learners seeking alternative access to a specific programme of study will approach the Admissions office or a Department office and will then be directed to the appropriate programme leader.
- The outcome of the RPL process, including a written report by the assessor(s), will be forwarded to the Head of Department concerned. The Head of Department is responsible for ensuring that quality assurance requirements have been met.
- The final decision regarding the admission of the RPL candidate to a particular programme of study will be made by the appropriate department committee or head.
- Appeals concerning RPL results will be handled consistently with other forms of academic appeal. In cases in which RPL candidates appeal, the department or programme will provide written reasons for the decision and an explication of the inadequacies in the evidence of knowledge and skill.
RPL and Academic Development
At LUSA, RPL is used in ways that allow students a reasonable chance of succeeding in their studies and provide sufficient academic support as well as appropriate and supportive pedagogical interactions.
In the case of LUSA’s future undergraduate programmes, candidates who intend to register for the proposed Bachelor of Theology Degree (for example) may first enrol for the Occupational Certificate in Theology and Ministry either at NQF levels 2, 4 and (upon accreditation) 5 for foundation courses in the formative disciplines in order to gain exposure to foundational academic literacy skills necessary for coping with the academic discipline.
LUSA recognises that different approaches to RPL are appropriate in different contexts; and thus, programmatic and organisational contexts will play an important role in shaping the RPL process. The form that RPL assumes is also shaped by its purpose:
RPL for access recognises prior learning that has prepared a learner to enter an academic programme for which they do not have the conventional entry requirements. In addition to the assessment of academic readiness and the identification of academic developmental needs, RPL includes recognition of the content knowledge the learner has gained in the area of study for which he or she seeks admission. In the short term, RPL will likely be used most often for access purposes.
RPL for exemption recognises that a learner has sufficiently mastered the content of sections of a course of study through prior formal, informal, or non-formal means and therefore will exempt those sections of the course of study and replace them with an equivalent number of alternatives.