Recognition of Prior Learning

What is Recognition of Prior Learning?

Learning happens everywhere. Through experience in work, volunteering, and involvement in sporting or community groups. ATU recognises this and gives it value called Recognition of Prior Learning, or RPL.

RPL makes it possible for a person to build on the learning they’ve achieved and to be rewarded for it, for example in the form of access to a programme or exemption on a module(s) in a programme.

Formal Learning:

Takes place through programmes or courses of study that are delivered in an organised, formal way by education providers and that attract awards or credits. Formal learning is sometimes referred to as certified or accredited learning.

Non-formal Learning:

Takes place alongside or outside the mainstream systems of education and training. It may be assessed but does not normally lead to formal certification. Examples of non-formal learning are planned learning and training activities undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector, or in community-based settings.

Informal Learning:

Takes place through life and work experience. Typically, it does not lead to certification.

Use Recognition of Prior Learning for:

Entry to a programme:

All programmes have entry criteria aligned with the National Framework of Qualifications. RPL may be used as an alternative means to satisfy entry criteria.

Advanced entry to a programme:
Advanced entry to a programme is where one joins a programme in year 2, 3 or 4. An applicant will be considered for advanced entry following a process of assessment where they satisfactorily demonstrate they have learning equivalent to the overall learning of the previous stage(s).

Module exemptions:

A fundamental principle of Recognition of Prior Learning is that one should not have to relearn something previously learned. It may be reasonable for a registered student to apply for an exemption for a module(s) on evidencing prior certified or experiential learning.
How Recognition of Prior Learning Works
ATU Galway Mayo

The RPL Process

Information: This is where applicants find out about what opportunities exist in ATU and how the process works. RPL Coordinators are available to meet with applicants, to discuss how RPL can work for them.


Identification: Applicants are asked to explore their experiences and learning to date in preparation of an RPL application.  This process follows a meeting with an RPL Coordinator, to discuss all the varied experiences and associated learning that can be valued.

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Documentation: Applicants undertake a reflective process and gather relevant materials to support their application. This process is guided by an RPL Coordinator.


Assessment: The application is then assessed by an academic staff member in ATU. A range of assessment mechanisms may be used including portfolios, interviews, essays, or examinations.  The RPL Coordinator will liaise with the assessor on behalf of the applicant to support this process.

Register your interest

Certification: If successful, the applicant will receive formal recognition which can lead to:

  • Entry to a programme
  • Advanced entry to a programme
  • Exemption from some programme modules


Contact the RPL Team
Logos for Recognition of Prior Learning