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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Recognition of prior learning

​RPL is the process for recognising previous learning that has taken place in informal, formal or non-formal contexts: for example, in the workplace and through life experiences. Once recognised through this process, prior learning can be used to gain credit or exemption for qualifications, and/or for personal and career development.

QAA Scotland's work on RPL is part of the sector's broader approach to widening participation in higher education in Scotland, by making it more accessible to non-traditional learners, encouraging different forms of flexible learning paths and in engaging a more diverse student body.

Developing a National RPL Framework for Higher Education in Scotland


QAA Scotland is working with the Scottish higher education sector to develop a National Framework for the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

The key purposes of the Framework will be to:
  • expand and embed RPL to a much wider extent in the higher education sector within the context of 'flexible learning pathways'
  • raise awareness of and increase transparency of RPL processes for staff and students.
  • reduce inconsistencies in RPL processes between and within HEIs 
  • allow HEIs and other organisations to share and develop practice in RPL in a consistent and sustainable manner.
The project will be taken forward by the Scottish HE RPL Network as five work-streams. The work-streams will cover the development of the Framework for each of the levels above, plus overarching and coordinating support.

The outputs of the project are likely to include the development of a web portal with accompanying support material and work with higher education institutions to encourage development of their policies and strategy for RPL.

Recent work



These guidelines aim to support the university sector in Scotland to develop and implement more streamlined, enhanced approaches to Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) support and assessment.​

RPL network


In collaboration with Universities Scotland, QAA Scotland coordinates the Scottish HE RPL Network. It provides a forum for members to share and learn from RPL practice in Scotland and internationally. Professor Ruth Whittaker, Glasgow Caledonian University, chairs this network, which meets two to three times per academic year for workshops and discussions relating to RPL practice. The Network will also play a key role in the development of the National Framework for RPL in HE.

QAA Scotland also plays an active part in the European RPL Network.

For further information on any aspect of our RPL work, or to enquire about joining the Scottish Higher Education RPL Network, please contact Heather Gibson​, QAA Scotland.