Evaluating the success of students admitted via RPL (recognition of prior learning) for access on the Milpark Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Banking Qualification (NQF 8).

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Evaluating the success of students admitted via RPL (recognition of prior learning) for access on the Milpark Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Banking Qualification (NQF 8).



Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is an important tool for all role-players in the education and training sphere, and is high on the Agenda of the Minister of Higher Education and Training in South Africa. Hence, there is a great need for South African studies around the successes of RPL – as guidance and as reinforcement. This study was presented at the Stadio Academic Conference in October 2018 with the title: “Evaluating the Success of RPL Students on the Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) in Banking Qualification (NQF 8)". The authors were able to show that RPL students indeed can be successful, if RPL processes are in place and followed carefully. Various measurements for success were discussed and analysed, and it was concluded that a combination of criteria is best suited to influence the situation positively, rather than only using one or two specific criteria.


Servaas de Kock, Milpark Education

Dr Antje Hargarter, Milpark Education

Keywords: RPL, industry-focussed programmes, success / impact of educational programmes



Recognition of prior learning (RPL) involves the acknowledgement that an individual may have a sufficient basis of prior knowledge, understanding and skills to achieve all or part of the learning outcomes for a specific learning programme (Cooper and Ralphs, 2016). RPL is an important concept used in Australia and New Zealand, but also South Africa, partly to redress wrongs of the past and partly in an effort to further develop critical skills in the country. At the same time, large scale implementation of RPL has been hampered by a number of barriers, namely lengthy and sometimes manual processes, lack of resources, awareness and understanding as well as wrong perceptions (SAQA, 2014).

To address some of the challenges with RPL implementation in South Africa, and especially to establish a national co-ordinating mechanism for RPL, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) published a national RPL coordination policy (DHET, 2016). In an effort to align with this policy, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) released an amended national policy and criteria for the implementation of RPL (SAQA, 2019). The policy creates opportunities for all RPL role-players to make a difference and influence the national education and training agenda in South Africa positively. It further clarifies contexts in order to create consistency across different cases of RPL.

Based on the current policy (SAQA, 2019), two forms for RPL can be utilised in South Africa: a. RPL for access: to provide an alternative access route into a higher education qualification for those who do not meet the formal entry requirements for admission. b. RPL for credits: to provide for the awarding of credits for, or towards, a qualification or part-qualification registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).


Using a small niche programme at postgraduate level and a very small sample, the study was able to show encouraging successes of RPL students. Based on the qualitative data collected and analysed, the calibre of students admitted onto the PGD Banking Qualification and their contextualised pre-knowledge of banking, played an important role in this. Furthermore, perseverance was a major factor in influencing the success of the students. Hence, the findings of this study link back to existing studies. One example of this is the research of Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews and Kelly (2007), who describes grit as one of the success factors as the combination of consistency of interest and perseverance of effort.

While the results of this study are preliminary and further research needs to be conducted, widening access to higher education through an effective RPL strategy promises to be successful and should be supported. The challenge that needs to be overcome is to accompany as many RPL students as possible on their journey in such a way that there is no revolving door effect. Korobova (2012:1) summarises the challenge as follows: “It is not merely enough to get students and bring them, it is critical to serve them, retain them, and graduate them.”

29 May 2019