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UWC Pilots Project to Institutionalise Lifelong Learning for its Staff

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is spearheading a first of its kind project in South Africa to institutionalise lifelong learning of its staff members. UWC has played a pivotal role in spearheading the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy implementation and practice for the last 23 years. 

The policy and practice of RPL were often viewed as a multi-layered approach that involves the collaboration and cohesion of various stakeholders. 

RPL has a significant history in South Africa. Specifically, it remains a tool for addressing historical injustices and promoting access to education, and employment opportunities for previously disadvantaged individuals, who did not have the opportunity to study at a university. 

Dr Rekha Rambharose, the Head of the Recognition of Prior Learning Unit at UWC,  worked closely with the University’s Human Resources and its staff development team to spearhead a unique RPL employer model as a pilot project in 2024/2025. The pilot intends to provide credentials for vertical growth using institutional capital that existing and long-standing employees possess.

The model will consider experience, knowledge, institutional knowledge, and formal and informal learning as selection criteria for higher-ranked posts that would conventionally require a formal degree. This opportunity will open many doors for staff development, promotion, flexible learning, and lifelong learning opportunities at UWC. 

Dr Rambharose said the model was still in the design phase and would involve multiple university stakeholders, management and governance for it to be successfully implemented. 

The pilot project will be the first of its kind in South Africa, she said. Dr Rambharose said the pilot model has the potential to transform the lives of many individuals who have already given decades of service to UWC.

Overall, engaging in RPL scholarship and research on a national level was identified as a necessary component to embed RPL as a crucial agent of transformation within the higher education landscape.

UWC once again took the lead as its RPL unit planned and coordinated the national RPL Awareness Day on 18 March 2024. The event included the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority (LGSETA), University of Cape Town (UCT), Stellenbosch Municipality, the University of KwZulu-Natal, RPL student ambassadors, the Institute of Post School Studies, and UWC Human Resources, as well as UWC’s Faculties of Education and Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

The main goals for National RPL Awareness Day were to create a platform for RPL practitioners, assessors, advocates, students, and policy developers to engage. It also looked at what RPL was, who it affects, and what the role of stakeholders was.

The platform also aimed to create academic dialogue within the area of scholarship and pedagogy, to build capacity for RPL champions within institutions and nationally, to discuss barriers and potential solutions, to foster policy development and improved implementation of RPL, and to celebrate RPL through the sharing of milestones and to reflect on how far stakeholders had come.


Dr Rambharose said some key focus areas were discussions around the main barriers to RPL procedures and implementation within the context of higher education, mitigation of those barriers, articulation within the post-schooling and education training sector and the current burden on the RPL system. 

Additionally, the SAQA National RPL Implementation Policy also emphasised that the RPL Employer model can be implemented within higher education institutions. 

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