Recognition of Prior Learning

The RPL initiative of SR21 – Institute for Scientific Research, Zurich aims to equip professionals with  qualifications which will enable them to succeed in any workplace and further their careers. In addition, RPL through the credit transfer pathway allows anyone interested in obtaining a qualification from Zurich, which is a world-renowned center for education and research, to advance their studies and use it as a tool to achieve a degree from the prestigious and leading educational capital in Europe.

RPL is an initiative of global interest. It is based on the rules and regulations applied in Switzerland, with the added flexibility that the relevant rules and regulations regarding the RPL procedure in other countries (e.g. UK, US, Canada, Australia, Scandinavian region and others) can be applied. This process can help individuals acquire a formal qualification that matches their knowledge and skills, and thereby contribute to improving their employability, mobility, lifelong learning, social inclusion and self-esteem.

What is RPL ?

RPL stands for Recognition of Prior Learning, which is an assessment process that uses your already existing skills, knowledge and experience to achieve a formal qualification. RPL is a method of assessment that makes formal qualifications more accessible to people already in the workforce, building their careers. RPL initiative is a concept that enables individuals to have their learning and experiences recognised for a number of purposes which can benefit the individual, employers and the economy which include:

• RPL for personal or career development;

• RPL to gain entry to an award or qualification;

• RPL for the award of ECTS points to gain exemption from parts of an existing programme of study or to gain entry with advanced standing; and

• RPL to award vocational qualifications after assessment to specific occupational standard.

How does RPL work ?

RPL initiative takes into account the skills you’ve already acquired in your field of employment, as well as the knowledge you’ve gained via study and life experiences. An RPL evaluation utilises your existing talents to fulfil the credits needed for a formal qualification.

One of the advantages of RPL is that it recognises the value of learning in different settings. You can utilise your prior education, domestic and international qualifications, and samples of work experience. RPL also recognises the skills and knowledge you’ve gained outside of a formal context. This qualification recognises and values on-the-job learning. By combining all of your past experiences, RPL eliminates unnecessary repetition.

RPL works well because it recognises the worth of what you’ve learned.

Why should I choose RPL ?

The process of looking back on your past experiences and reflecting on what you learned can help you take stock of your skills and abilities and set career and educational goals. In turn, these goals can help you begin to build upon what you already know and can do.

The RPL process makes it possible for educational institutions, workplaces, professional bodies and other organisations to assess your knowledge and skills for the purpose of awarding credit, granting professional status or advancing your career.

The RPL process can help you save time and money by filling in the gaps in your learning without having to repeat things you already know and can do.

Being awarded qualifications through RPL initiative means that you don’t have to study what you already know. Instead you provide evidence that you already have the knowledge and skills that the qualification would give you.

Who is eligible for RPL ?

Anyone can apply for RPL. The RPL process takes into account all relevant skills, knowledge and experience that you have regardless of the way you got them. This includes experience and training you have gained through paid work, volunteer work or just life in general. Through the RPL process, you may be able to gain a complete qualification or, if you have gaps in your knowledge, parts of a qualification. If you need to, you can complete the rest of the qualification through training and a formal assessment.

Types of RPL

RPL is achieved when an individual can have their learning formally assessed and quality assured to successfully be admitted to or gain exemptions to components or parts of a formal qualification or award through the use of learning outcomes.

Formative RPL is where the candidate is looking to have knowledge, skills and competencies assessed for personal or career development.

Summative RPL is where formal ECTS credit is awarded and recognised as having the same value as credit gained in formal teaching institutions.

Credit Transfer is when a candidate has gained a formal award or qualification, and has received formal ECTS credit, and is looking to gain entry at an advanced stage or exemption from a component of another programme of study, where the learning outcomes of the first programme of study match the learning outcomes of the new programme of study.

When should I apply ?

You can apply for RPL anytime. The deadline for applying for RPL depends what you’re using it for. Remember to give yourself enough time to work on your portfolio of evidence, if this applies.

Why should I apply ?

RPL is generally faster than completing a qualification from scratch and provides you with the opportunity to get: 

  • a promotion or more money; 
  • entry into a different career or job; 
  • entry to or credit in another course; and 
  • satisfaction from having your skills formally recognised. 

The qualification you get is the same that you would get if you completed a full training qualification but with the added bonus that you won’t spend time in the classroom going over things you already know, making it faster.

Which Degrees are offered through RPL ?

Advanced Studies degrees are specifically geared towards a particular career profile. They are awarded in Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany and various other countries in the world, as a higher continuing education (‘Weiterbildung’) degrees. It is required for Associate Degree students to have 120 ECTS credits.
It is required for the Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Level 5 or 6)  120 – 180 ECTS credits.
It is required for the Master of Advanced Studies (Level 7) a minimum of 60 (postgraduate) ECTS credits.
The above mentioned awards may be credited and embedded within study cycles leading to a Doctoral degree award (Level 8).
Advanced studies degree schemes of SR21 – Institute for Scientific Research, Zurich may form an integral part of a doctorate level program.

Can I apply for RPL to gain a postgraduate award ?

If you already hold any relevant qualifications and other credentials, you could be eligible for RPL to gain advanced entry to a Master of Advanced studies, MBA, DBA or Doctorate of Advanced Studies. These awards are meant for working professionals with an interest in high-level roles or for individuals looking to excel to their highest potential as a working professional in their field.

What if I can't find my old qualifications, can I still process for RPL ?

Contact the organisation where you completed your studies as they may be able to provide you with a copy of your qualification. If you cannot get a copy of your qualification, you can still go through a RPL process; however, you will need to show your competence in some other way.

What short of evidence do I need to provide ?

Prior learning can be assessed in a number of ways. One method commonly used is assessment of a portfolio. The types of evidence required depend on the qualification you are seeking, and there are specific lists for each qualification. Here are some examples of the types of evidence you could provide for RPL:

  • Academic transcripts, qualifications and statements of attainment.
  • Language certificates.
  • Internal training documents.
  • Documentation that reflects your role such as budget plans and projections, operational plans, risk management plans, training needs analysis reports.
  • Documentation such as staff rosters, policy and procedure documents you have written or contributed to.
  • Minutes of meetings you have chaired or participated in.
  • Compliance records.
  • Task lists.
  • Power Point presentations.
  • Observations from your workplace.
  • Performance review/ staff appraisal documents.
  • Incident reports.
  • Any relevant licenses.

The portfolio will document what has been learned, where and how the student learned it, and how the student’s experiences meet the requirements.

The way you apply for RPL depends on the type of RPL you want to put towards your qualification. An RPL advisor will be assigned to you once you complete the inquiry form. The advisor will then contact you to discuss your case and provide advice and guidance on the RPL procedure.

How much does it cost ?

Fees depend on the award qualification you aim for as well as on the mapping of your previous credentials.
Awards via the RPL initiative are issued by SR21 – Institute for Scientific Research, Zurich. A second (double) degree can be awarded by our collaborative, public or private institutions / Universities (relevant fees apply). Please contact our advisors
 to guide you through the process and the relevant fees.

What happens next ?

The mapping of prior learning against learning outcomes is considered a matter of academic judgement. Our decision takes into account a number of factors based on the evidence you provide:

  • Equivalence: your prior learning must cover similar knowledge and skills to the learning outcomes of your chosen course
  • Depth: your application must outline clearly the nature of your achievements and (where necessary) prove that the achievements are your own
  • Relevance: Is your prior learning up to date and relevant? Both certificated and experience-based learning is considered ‘current’ if it is achieved within 5 years of your course start date.

To be considered for an RPL, you need to download and complete the application form. You should also include the following:

  • Valid ID or Passport
  • School Leaving Certificate (or equivalent)
  • Transcripts of Studies
  • Current Curriculum Vitae (suggested)
  • Personal Statement – please include a document of a maximum of 200 words demonstrating your career aspirations (suggested)
  • Academic/Professional References (suggested).

All you have to do then is email the above documents to: and an advisor will contact you to discuss your case and proceed with your application.

We will send you a formal decision in writing and – if relevant – we will require further information about the award you aim to achieve.

Who issues the awards ?

As mentioned above, RPL awards are issued by SR21 – Institute for Scientific Research, Zurich. A second (double) qualification can be awarded as an outcome by our collaborative, public or private institutions / Universities (relevant fees apply).

The recognition of prior learning can be considered in relation to the internal assessment of one or more Units of an award. It is unlikely that a learner would have the appropriate prior learning and experience to meet all the requirements of a full award. Our policy is to recognise prior learning as a method of assessing whether a learner’s experience and achievements meet the evidence requirements (ie the standard) of a Unit or Units and which may or may not have been developed through a course of learning.