SCQF – RPL – the Nuts and Bolts!

Intro written by Sandra Jane Grier, Lead: Learning & Teaching at CDN and blog witten by Fiona Garry, a Development Officer at the SCQFP.

There are many acronyms in education which at times can be confusing, especially if you are new to this sector and one of these is RPL.

In the context of life-long learning and fostering a joined up tertiary approach, QAA Scotland worked with key partners and staff from across tertiary education last year as part of their enhancement theme work – Resilient Learning Communities, producing a Recognition of Prior Learning: Framework for Scotland, to help support the growth and use of RPL across the Scottish tertiary education sector.


RPL is an important ‘tool’ for educators that can help further widen access to and participation in college education. It also plays a pivotal role in supporting learners to recognise the value of the often-diverse range of learning and personal experiences that they have gained throughout their life. But do you know how to make the most of the opportunities that RPL provides for your learners?

In the following short blog, Fiona Garry, a Development Officer at the SCQFP provides a succinct introduction to the RPL  process, but if you would like a ‘deeper dive’ into the practical application of RPL, you can learn more about all things RPL and ask questions at the upcoming Expo 2023 session on Wednesday 21 June (12.00-12.45) when Fiona and Kevin Briggs, Head of Student Experience at UHI Shetland, talk about ‘the nuts and bolts’ of using RPL and how this is being used within the college, for the benefits of our learners. Register your place here.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process where learners can be recognised for the learning they already have, in the form of credit transfer or work or experience they have gained in a variety of settings.

Credit Transfer is the simplest form of RPL and is used to enable learners to progress to the next SCQF level by moving SCQF credits from one award to the next award. So for example, continuing from a Higher National Certificate (HNC) at SCQF Level 7 onto a Higher National Diploma (HND) at SCQF Level 8 in the same subject area. Articulation agreements and collaborative agreements offer learners the freedom to choose the correct learning path for them when moving from College to University using Credit Transfer.

The benefits for learners in using Credit Transfer include:

  • avoiding duplication of learning
  • gaining advanced entry to a programme of study

RPL for admissions using life or work experiences can widen the pool of applicants to a wider group who may not have considered themselves eligible for a place at college.

When considering an applicant for a college place who doesn’t meet the standard entrance qualifications, the college are effectively assessing an applicant’s experience against entrance requirements.

Through the structured process of RPL the college can assess the suitability of a learner through a facilitated process demonstrating their life and work experience. This process can be done as a group or an individual exercise and there are many tools to tease out this learning in the SCQFP: Recognition of Prior Learning Toolkit.  During the RPL process institutions may enrol students on a module allowing them access to college systems which may familiarise them and offer them a head start when they enrol on their chosen programme of study.

The benefits of RPL for admissions can be:

  • a wider pool of candidates
  • motivated candidates with improved confidence and self esteem

RPL for Advanced Entry using work or life experiences can prevent a learner repeating something they have already done and shorten the path to completion.

This learning can be matched against the learning outcomes of units or modules within a programme of study to offer advanced entry or exemptions.  The college or learning provider’s RPL policy will offer guidance on how much of a match the learning must meet to offer exemption.

We have a number of inspirational videos on our website that show how RPL has successfully shortened a learner’s journey. Morag describes how RPL shortened her journey and was offered advanced entry to her degree with her work experience.

The SCQF Partnership offers an introductory workshop, which is open to anyone, to explain the basic principles of RPL and help embed the use of RPL in your college. This can be arranged online for your college as a bespoke session with a minimum of 8 delegates. If you have any enquiries regarding RPL, our workshops or resources, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at

Share This Story

You may also be interested in