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Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)


Top Education Institute (TOP)’s admission processes include explicit recognition of a student’s completed prior learning. This is known in higher education as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). There are significant advantages in acknowledging prior learning including a more tailored and relevant course of study, elimination of duplication of learning, enabling diversity and facilitation of credit transfers between educational institutions.

TOP’s RPL Policy complies with the requirements of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). TOP’s RPL Policy strives to be equitable and evidence driven and it provides a transparent process for determining an appropriate amount of RPL credit for each student.


i) Learning-Related Definitions

Learning Outcomes – are the expression of the set of knowledge, skills and the application of the knowledge and skills a person has acquired and is able to demonstrate as a result of learning.

Prior Learning – is relevant learning that has taken place prior to admission into a course.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) - is a process that involves assessment of an individual’s relevant prior learning (including formal, informal and non-formal learning) to determine the credit outcomes of an individual application for credit.

Formal Learning – takes place through a structured program of learning that leads to the full or partial achievement of an officially accredited qualification (e.g. course of study undertaken with a TEQSA registered education provider).

Non-formal Learning – takes place through a structured program of learning but does not lead to an officially accredited qualification (e.g. workplace or community-based training activities).

ii) Credit Related Definitions

Credit – is the value assigned for the recognition of equivalence in content and learning outcomes between different types of learning and/or qualification. Credit reduces the amount of learning required to achieve a qualification and may be recognised through credit transfer, articulation, recognition of prior learning or advanced standing. 

Specified credit - is granted for one or more specific units exempting students from those units and awarding the appropriate credit points in their place. It may be granted where the student has met the learning outcomes, attained the knowledge and/or developed the skills related to the specific units.

Unspecified credit - is granted in the form of credit points which take the place of elective units in a course. Unspecified credit may be granted where prior learning is judged to be relevant to the learning outcomes of a course as a whole but cannot be specifically related to an individual unit.

Block Credit - is granted towards whole stages or components of a course. For example, when a sequence of units undertaken at another institution is deemed sufficiently equivalent to the content and learning outcomes of a sequence of units at TOP, block credit may be granted.

Credit transfer - is a process that provides students with agreed and consistent credit outcomes for components of a qualification based on identified equivalence in content and learning outcomes between matched qualifications.

Articulation - enables students to progress from a completed qualification to another with admission and/or credit in a defined qualification pathway.

Articulation agreement - is an agreement between TOP and another institution to document and publicise a specifically approved pathway for progression between a course at the other institution and a TOP course, involving specific credit arrangements.

Advanced standing - is the granting of block credit of a semester or more. Advanced standing indicates that the student is deemed to have satisfied all the course requirements that are embedded in the semester(s) for which block credit has been awarded. Advanced standing reduces the number of units the student must undertake to successfully complete the whole course.

Nested Course – is a course of study leading to a higher education award that includes articulation arrangements from a lower level education award into a higher level education award to enable multiple entry and exit points. The articulation may relate to previous studies at TOP or at other recognised educational institutions. A nested course may also include a shorter course within a longer course within the same discipline, both at the same AQF level. 

Principles for Granting Credit

i) TOP has an equitable, evidence-driven and transparent process for determining an appropriate amount of RPL credit for each student. Details of RPL Credit are provided to prospective students prior to enrolment. Consistent with the process, RPL will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis on the merits of the case put forward by the student. Educational judgments concerning equivalence of learning outcomes are based on the discipline context, content, standards and assessment in the program or course the applicant has undertaken. Key considerations for decisions are that the integrity of TOP’s courses is upheld and that students have the ability to complete courses with no disadvantage in achieving outcomes.

ii) Specified credit for RPL may be granted on successful completion of the prior learning in relevant disciplines to achieve learning outcomes that are substantially equivalent to TOP’s relevant unit(s) or nested course(s). See TOP’s Explanation of Block Credit Transfer document for specific credit arrangements.

iii) Unspecified credit or block credit may be granted where prior learning is regarded as consistent with the broad learning outcomes of units or the course being undertaken. The unspecified credit will be restricted to non-core components of a course.

iv) The maximum credit granted in recognition of prior learning achieved in an incomplete course is 50 percent of the total credit points of a TOP course.

v) The maximum credit granted in recognition of prior learning achieved in a completed course, which does not substantially match any TOP nested course, is 50 percent of the total credit points of the TOP course.

vi) Where a completed course substantially matches a TOP course that is an equivalent course, credit granted in recognition of prior learning achieved shall be the full credit point value of TOP’s equivalent course. 4.7 AQF level 5 and 6 awards will be recognised as such without distinguishing whether they are obtained from a university, higher education, or VET provider.

vii) Prior learning that has been completed within the last five years will generally be considered current learning for the purpose of assessing RPL. Exceptions to the five-year time period may be approved in individual cases by the Dean or his/her nominee of the relevant School.

viii) All RPL applications shall close by the census date of each teaching period with respect to any application for granting of credit in the same teaching period. Extension may be approved in individual cases.

Procedures for Granting Credit

i) The assessment of prior learning is based on an evaluation of the evidence presented, using the following criteria:

Validity - the prior learning matches both the qualification type and the discipline learning outcomes for the relevant course. The applicant’s standard of achievement in the prior learning is consistent with the qualification level and type specified for the course.

Authenticity – the prior learning has been undertaken by the applicant and the standard of achievement in the prior learning is based on the applicant’s own work.

Currency – the prior learning has been achieved within the specified time limit for credit.

Sufficiency - the evidence of prior learning is sufficient to reliably verify the learning outcomes achieved are at the appropriate standard. In recognising prior learning consideration needs to be given to whether the volume of learning is sufficient in the context of the discipline for the AQF level and qualification type, as well as whether there is a sufficient portion of qualification components at the AQF level.

ii) Prospective students who wish to apply for RPL must indicate this intent on the Student Application Form, and also complete the Recognition of Prior Learning Form. These forms must then be submitted to the Admissions Office with the following supporting documents:

  • A certified copy of academic transcript/completion letter or equivalence;
  • A detailed, official unit outline for each unit in which credit is sought. The outline must show the:
    o unit details (institution details, unit name and number);
    o semester/year of study;
    o contact hours per week;
    o coverage of the unit, topics discussed each week;
    o assessment structure; and
    o reference and reading materials including textbooks.

iii) Where an applicant seeks credit for prior learning for a course or unit completed at TOP to meet the requirement of another TOP course, the Admissions Office may process the application without the supporting documents specified above in ii.

iv) Where considered necessary, an interview conducted by the relevant Head of School will be held with the student to clarify aspects of prior learning.

v) Supporting documents and evidence of studies taken overseas in a language other than English must be accompanied by a translation from a National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) qualified person or agency. Such person or agency must be accredited to at least 'translator' status. All translated documents must display the official NAATI stamp.

vi)  The Admissions Office shall preliminarily assess all RPL applications to determine if applications meet the stated requirements before submitting them to the Academic Assessor who is delegated by the Dean of School to give final approval.

vii) Prospective students shall be informed of the results of their RPL applications in the Offer Letter and where necessary fees adjusted accordingly. Any conditions of the RPL approval shall be stated in the Offer Letter. In the case of international students, a Confirmation of Enrolment shall be issued subject to the consideration and approval of any RPL application.

viii) Any credit granted for RPL shall be recorded in the student data system as part of the applicant’s study progression. Records of Results documentation will show credit granted through RPL.

ix) Where an error has been made in assessing an application, or where the documentation provided by the applicant is incomplete, misleading, false or invalid, TOP reserves the right to withdraw credit.

Quality Assurance

TOP will confirm that RPL credit remains valid and appropriate for the TOP units and courses by assuring the following occurs.

  • Assessment of RPL is evidence based and occurs on a transparent basis.
  • Assessment of RPL confirms that the learning outcomes have been met.
  • Credit awarded by another institution on the basis of RPL is not transferable to TOP.
  • Grades of “conceded pass” or “terminating pass” or equivalent from another educational institution will not be deemed to be successful completion of learning outcomes for the purposes of granting credit at TOP.
  • Standards for the assessment of RPL are reviewed annually by TOP’s Teaching and Learning Committee.
  • Specific decisions relating to the awarding of RPL credit are periodically reviewed by the TOP’s Teaching and Learning Committee.


Where an application for RPL is refused in whole or in part, a student may appeal for a review of the application. All students, including prospective students, are provided with access to TOP’s appeal and grievance resolution mechanisms. The appeal must be lodged with the Administration Office within 10 working days of the dates of notification of the RPL credit decision. The documentation must set out the grounds for the appeal. The Head of the relevant School shall make the final decision regarding the appeal application after a careful review of the RPL application including all supporting documentation. Written notification of the decision will include reasons for the decision and further avenues of appeal if relevant.

To read and download the full RPL Policy please click HERE