Recognition of prior learning practices at professional education institutions

The legal basis for the recognition of prior learning exists in Switzerland. However, there is a lack of transparency on how RPL is actually implemented, especially at the tertiary level. This study is intended to shed light on recognition of prior learning (RPL) at professional education institutions (PEIs), how it is formally regulated and how it is concretely implemented and justified in practice. Best practice recommendations for RPL at PEIs have been formulated on the basis of our findings.

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Both the Confederations and the cantons consider positioning VET as the basis for lifelong learning and developing models to recognise previously acquired skills and competences ('prior learning') for formal VET programmes to be key education policy objectives.

Knowledge and skills acquired formally, non-formally and informally should be taken into account in RPL procedures. While Switzerland already has a legal basis for this, the recognition of non-formal continuing education and training (CET) and informal learning in particular has not yet been implemented in all areas of the education system. At the level of professional education institutions (PEIs), individual education and training providers have a great deal of leeway in deciding what prior learning may be recognised. Practices also vary from one study programme to another. Since there has been no systematic recording of these RPL practices, little is known about the real possibilities for recognition of prior learning at PEIs.

For this reason, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) commissioned this study to examine how Swiss PEIs interpret and implement RPL requirements and regulations. Particular attention is paid to the recognition of non-formal (e.g. CET) and informal learning (e.g. work experience, family work and association activities), as these forms of learning are more difficult to assess than formal learning. This report is based on a nationwide survey of PEI study programmes. It provides an overview of the current RPL practices of PEIs and formulates a series of best practice recommendations for RPL at PEIs.