RPL in Australia

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Cameron, R 2010, 'RPL in Australia', PLIRC Monograph, J Harris & M Breir (eds), Thompsons River University, Kamloops, BC.


Australia introduced recognition of prior learning (RPL) as part of a larger national training reform agenda that included the introduction of a competency-based vocational education and training system. RPL is a standard and requirement of any offering of accredited training that is embedded in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), initially introduced under the national framework for the recognition of training (NFROT) in 1992. Since then RPL has slowly become a central activity within post compulsory education and training. Several definitions of RPL exist across educational sectors and different funding frameworks, policies, governance, accreditation and missions has lead to conceptual confusion relating to RPL policy and practice. As time has progressed and RPL policy and practice has evolved it has become more central to the VET sector than any of the other post compulsory educational sectors. This can be partially explained by the fact that RPL is mandatory in the VET sector, unlike the HE sector which is self-accrediting and has a certain amount of autonomy in deciding whether or not to have a RPL policy. RPL is also a significant activity outside the education sector and impacts on broader human capital and workforce development policy and initiatives. The Australian government’s current policies related to reforms in higher education and social inclusion (specifically social inclusion in education), may see even greater RPL activity across the other educational sectors. In terms of RPL research and literature in Australia there is a relatively small body of literature focussed upon reporting case studies, barriers and drivers of RPL practice, with an even smaller sub-set of literature related to specific disadvantaged groups and very little literature which engages critically with the theoretical underpinnings of RPL. This chapter attempts to chart the course of RPL in Australia since its inception with specific reference to the different contexts in which it is operationalised: post compulsory educational sectors; within industry; in relation to human capital policy and labour market interventions; the professionalization of specific industries (eg aged care services); professional and occupational recognition and innovative uses of electronic and digital technologies in RPL. A review of Australian RPL research and literature and contemporary policy and practice follows. The chapter concludes with a summary of the gaps within the literature, future areas of research and the policy and practice implications these future directions may have.