Frequently asked questions about RPL in the DIT

1. What precisely is RPL and what is its purpose?

RPL stands for ?recognition of prior learning?. Its purpose is to give formal acknowledgement to past, or prior, learning. Past learning may contribute to further learning by using it to gain entry to a DIT programme at the first stage or at an advanced stage. Past learning may also be used to gain exemptions from parts of programmes (modules) on some DIT programmes, but not on all. It may also be used to transfer from one programme to another.

2. Where would I get detailed information about RPL in the DIT?

You will get detailed information on the DIT website at:

3. Who could I contact in the DIT to discuss RPL?

The first place to contact for general information is The Recruitment and Admissions Office:
Phone ?  + 353 1 402 3445
Email ?
Your enquiry may be referred onwards to the Mature Student Recruitment Officer:

However, detailed information about RPL on individual programmes may only be available from the Department offering the programme. The DIT website usually provides information about the contact numbers and email addresses for individual programme enquiries.


4. What precisely is prior certificated learning?

Prior certificated learning is formal learning which was assessed and for which a certificate was issued on completion.

5. What is accreditation of prior certificated learning (APCL)?

APCL is the term used to describe the process of using awards gained through formal training or education - prior certificated learning  - to gain entry to a programme, to transfer to another programme, or to gain module exemptions.

6. What is prior experiential learning?

Prior experiential learning is learning you have acquired through work, voluntary activities or private study. It is sometimes called non-formal or informal learning.

7. What is accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL)?

APEL is the process of using experiential learning in support of an application for the purpose of entry to a DIT programme or  application for module exemption.

8. How could I use my prior certificated learning in the DIT?

In general, prior certificated learning may be used for entry purposes, for entry at an advanced stage, for module exemptions,  or for transfer into a DIT programme. However, the use of prior learning may vary from programme to programme.

9. What are levels of learning as used in RPL?

RPL processes use the same levels of learning as described in the National Framework of Qualifications (NQF). Level 6 through to Level 10 apply to higher education. 

10. How would I know the level of my prior certificated learning?

All certificated learning/awards are now being placed on the National Qualifications Framework. The diagram below shows the new award titles together with the main titles used before the development of the framework.  In general awards of higher level than Leaving Certificate are from 6 to 10. Undergraduate degrees are level 7 or 8. Postgraduate programmes are at levels 9 and 10. 

11. What are ECTS credits and  RPL credits?

ECTS credits refer to a system of describing volumes of student work on higher education programmes across Europe (European Credit Transfer System = ECTS).
The system now represents one credit as being roughly equivalent to twenty (20) learning hours, or hours of student effort.  So a module that is worth 5 credits would demand at lest  one hundred hours learning effort on the part of the student.
Modules may be small as in a 5 credit module, or very large as in a 30 credit module.
A year?s programme would generally be designed to involve 60 or 90 or 120 credits depending on whether it is full-time or part-time.

RPL credits are credits towards a DIT award that are approved on the basis of an RPL application. It is common for programmes to have limits on the amount of RPL credits allowed. Some programmes allow no RPL credits. Others may permit RPL credits only on the basis of specific prior certificated learning.

12. What is meant by RPL transfer credits, general RPL credits and specific RPL credits?

The DIT policy for RPL distinguishes among three types of RPL credits ? transfer, general and specific -  as follows:
RPL transfer credits may be awarded within the process of advanced entry to a DIT programme. Such transfer credits may be achieved through DIT or other programmes, or through APEL.
General credits are awarded when an RPL claim has been processed in relation to a stage of the receiving programme or to a set of programme modules but not necessarily in relation to individual module learning outcomes. These types of credits are awarded as exemption from a block of study (stage or named modules).
Specific credits are awarded when an APCL claim has been processed in relation to the module learning outcomes and credits of the receiving programme. Specific credits may be awarded where APEL is used to achieve module exemption/s. In both these cases it is usual to award the same level and number of credits as available for the module where an applicant can provide evidence of learning equivalent to the learning outcomes of the module and where RPL is acceptable for module exemptions in the first instance as outlined in the programme validation document.

13. How would I know the credit value of my prior certificated learning?

Most certificates/awards are now related to the National Qualifications Framework. Awards on the Framework are allocated a range of ECTS credits at the different levels. For example, what is now described as a National Certificate at Level6 may have from 60 to 90 credits attached to it.
However, you should be aware that you may not get the same number of RPL credits as your original programme credits.

14. How would I know if my prior certificated learning could be used to gain entry to a DIT programme?

In general, school-leavers use the CAO application system to gain a place on a full-time DIT programme.
Adults/mature students may use the mature student access scheme to gain entry to full-time, undergraduate programmes.
There are many part-time programmes which have direct entry procedures.  Some programmes accept only prior certificated learning for entry purposes, others do not require a certificate and will consider prior experiential learning or a mix of both. The specific entry requirements for any DIT programme are clearly stated in recruitment literature.

15. How would I assess myself for the value of my certificated learning?

Some programme documents state clearly how much prior learning may be used for entry and/or for module exemptions. Sometimes lists of possible certificates are mentioned: sometimes not. It is probably best to read the recruitment literature carefully before you contact the particular course co-ordinator to get further information.

16. How would I know if my prior certificated learning could be used to get into a DIT programme at an advanced stage?

The DIT has a specific procedure for advanced entry to undergraduate programmes by advanced
entry :  SEE

Some programmes offer applicants an opportunity to apply for module exemptions based on particular prior certificated learning, other do not.
It is best to check with the particular programme you have in mind.

17. How would I know if I could use my prior certificated learning to transfer into a DIT programme from another DIT programme?

There are procedures for transfer available at :

18. How would I know if I could use my prior certificated learning to get exemptions from programme modules?

Some programmes have arrangements in place for application for module exemptions and these arrangements are generally included in the students? Programme Handbook.
It is best to enquire directly with the particular programme co-ordinator when you start your programme.

19. When does my prior certificated learning go out of date?

It depends: some learning, such as latin, or  algebra, stay in date for a long time. Other learning, such as software design  goes out of date very quickly. Applications for RPL are usually judged for their ?currency? or ?recency? of learning as well as other qualities. If your learning is quite old and you have not kept it up-to-date it might be wise not to look for module exemptions!

20. Would I need certificates to prove my prior learning?

Generally Yes! If you have lost your certificate you might be able to get transcripts of examination results, or a formal letter from the awarding body instead. However, it is best to check the requirements of the receiving programme in this regard.

21. Would I need examination results as evidence?

Frequently Yes! Especially if you are seeking advanced entry or transfer. In general you need to show your capacity to succeed and benefit from being offered a place at advanced entry or through transfer.

22. Would I need detailed information about the courses I have successfully completed such as a syllabus or handbook?

Frequently Yes!

23. If I have no certificates would a letter do and whose letters might be acceptable?

Sometimes,  as 20 above.

24. If I got my certificates in another country how could I use RPL?

Certificates from other countries are generally measured against data bases of known awards such as the NARIC system or Qualifications Recognition. Other countries may not use similar descriptions of awards as we do, so do not be surprised if a foreign qualification seems more or less valuable than a similar Irish award.

25. Will I get the same number of credits for RPL as I got for my prior course?

It depends. If you are using RPL for transfer within DIT programmes you may get the same number of RPL transfer credits but this may vary from programme to programme.
You may also get the same number if there are arrangements between the DIT and other institutions for this precise purpose.
However, it may be the case that very little of your prior learning is of relevance to the new programme, and in such a case, you may get very few, or perhaps no, RPL credits.

26. Who decides the number of RPL credits I get for my prior certificated learning?

Each DIT programme decides about RPL credits separately, and generally keeps a record of past decisions to guide current and future decisions

27. Can I appeal a decision about RPL credits and apply again?

You can appeal an RPL decision on the ground that you did not have all the necessary documentation required at the time or application but you now have them.

28. Would I have to be examined again for RPL if I have certificates?

Unlikely! But you may be required to attend an interview or to make a case in writing.

29. How is RPL recorded on my examination record?

In general RPL does not result in grades, but this may change. If you accept RPL credits or module exemptions you should understand the impact it might make on your final assessment results and award classification.
It is best to discuss this with the programme Co-ordinator.
It may be the case that your academic record will show that you accepted RPL credits and/or module exemptions.

30. How is RPL graded for classification of awards?

Generally prior certificated learning is not re-graded for RPL or award classification purposes, but may be in the future.
Generally RPL on the basis of prior experiential learning is not graded either, but it may be in the future.
This kind of information should be in your Programme Handbook. If not, ask your programme Co-ordinator.

31. Would I be better off taking a module instead of accepting RPL if it affects my final grade or award classification?

It is best to fully consider the implications of RPL for award classification before accepting any exemptions.

32. Is there a cost for RPL by certificated learning?

At present the cost is subsumed in the cost of processing your application. But this may change in the future. However, payment for an RPL process cannot in any way be interpreted as payment for credits or exemptions.

33. How long might an RPL process take for a module exemption based on certificated learning?

This is generally a very quick process taking days rather than weeks. Be prepared to attend an interview if required.

34. What is my responsibility in making n RPL claim through certificated learning?

You, as applicant, are generally responsible for the entire application, including supplying the correct certificates, letters, exam results etc. though you may be given directions regarding what is required.

35. How would I prove that I have learned from work and life experience in an RPL claim?

The particular programme applications procedure/RPL procedure should indicate what is involved for you to prove your prior experiential learning. You may be require to make a written application only, or a mix of written application, interview, presentation, etc..  In some cases you may be offered a challenge test.

36. What kinds of APEL evidence might I offer as proof of appropriate learning?

You are likely to be required to provide authentic documents, letter of support etc.. You should be given specific advice on the size and content of the application required.

37. Who might guide me through the APEL process?

It is likely that you will receive sufficient  guidance from  the programme co-ordinator.

38. How long would it take from application to decision?

Applications are generally processed in good time for start dates of programmes and modules.
The more time you give yourself to prepare your application the better for yourself. So apply in good time.

39. How much does an RPL application cost?

Currently there is no cost separate fee for an RPL application other than any normal application fee. This may change in the future.

40. What are the risks and benefits of accepting APEL credits or module exemptions?

There are generally two risks as follows:
Risk 1:         If you accept module exemptions you may miss out on important learning.
Risk 2:     If you accept module exemptions at award stage you may not have them included in calculation of your final award classification.

The main benefits are:
Benefit 1:    You do not need to learn again what you already know
Benefit 2:    You get more time to devote to other parts of the programme
Benefit 3:    You may not need to attend class so often
Benefit 4:    If you are paying fees per module, you could have a smaller overall fee for your programme.

41. What is the difference between entry by RPL and non-standard entry?

RPL is the process of making a judgement on the value of prior learning.
Non-standard entry is the process of applying for a place on a programme where the applicant does not have the usual prior qualifications/certificates required as ?standard?.

42. Can I use RPL to gain entry to post-graduate programmes?

Prior learning can be used in this way in what is called ?exceptional case? entry. It may be the case that the applicant has a Diploma but may not have had the opportunity to gain a degree - perhaps there was no degree at the time of award ? and has significant work-based learning since graduating.
It may be the case that an applicant has a pass degree but not the honours degree required for ?normal? entry and has gained valuable work-related learning since graduating.
In both these cases a combination of APCL and APEL may be used to decide if an applicant gains entry. However, it is up to the receiving programme team to decide the entry requirements.
Non-standard applicants may be required to demonstrate their capacity to succeed and benefit from being offered a place on a post-graduate programme, usually through an interview.
Each postgraduate programme has its own specified entry requirements.

43. Can I apply for RPL at postgraduate level?

It is not usual for RPL module exemptions to be offered at postgraduate level, though it may be the case that an applicant has a doctoral level qualification that would justify an exemption.
Generally, it is not usual for APEL to be used for exemptions at post-graduate level but it may occur where the specific programme/s permit it.

44. Can I apply for RPL at an award stage?

This will depend on the specific regulations and conditions for  each programme or award. 

45. Can I apply for a whole DIT award by RPL?

Theoretically, an application for a whole award is possible, but rare. There is an existing arrangement for a PhD by Publications, which could be described as RPL.

46. How might I self-assess myself for my prior certificated learning?

The DIT is currently developing an on-line exercise which should assist applicants in preparing an RPL claim.

47. Where might I see a sample of APEL evidence for a DIT module?

Programmes which offer advanced entry usually indicate the type of prior learning evidence they require in an applications. If you are applying for a module exemption on your programme you will be given sufficient information to put together a set of appropriate evidence. The type of evidence required will vary from module to module.

48. What assessment criteria are used for APEL assessment activities?

It is general practice that there are common RPL criteria such   as: authenticity, sufficiency, relevance, currency, validity.
Additionally a programme team may use other assessment criteria specific to the particular module or stage. It is best to request these criteria directly from the programme team as criteria are likely to vary from programme to programme.

49. What happens at an RPL interview?

If you are applying for module exemptions the RPL interview team will probably use the opportunity to discuss your evidence of learning with you in relation to your RPL claim.
If you are using RPL for entry or transfer purposes the interview team will wish to establish that your evidence is sufficient, relevant and valid,  and that you have the  capacity to succeed on the programme and to benefit from being offered a place.

50. How is RPL shown on the Diploma Supplement?

The DIT is developing its Diploma Supplement and RPL exemptions may be indicated on it together with other standard information.

Note: The responses to the frequently asked questions above are for general information only and do not represent a contract.

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