Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL for master's and doctoral studies

Process overview

RPL for master's and doctoral studies

1. Decide what to study based on the available research focus areas based on the available research focus area

Visit www.unisa.ac.za/applyMD to choose a qualification based on the offered research focus areas. This will ensure that departmental expertise is available.

If you are not sure what to study, visit Unisa’s Directorate for Counselling and Career Development website: www.unisa.ac.za/counselling.

2. Check that you meet the admission requirements for your chosen qualification

The admission requirements for each qualification are available on www.unisa.ac.za/qualificationsMD.  

Should you have any enquiries about the master's and doctoral (M&D) online application process, phone 012 441 5702 or send an e-mail to MandD@unisa.ac.za.

3.a NO, you do not meet the admission requirements. RPL is required.  

The RPL process allows for alternative access to a master’s or doctoral degree. Applying for direct access to a postgraduate qualification means the following:

  • You do not have a prerequisite degree (in other words, you might have an incomplete honours or master’s degree, or an honours degree and no master’s degree, and so on), but you do have considerable relevant experience in the field.
  • The qualifications you already have – when coupled with your relevant experience in the field – must meet the SAQA-level outcomes specified for a master’s student, as well as those laid down for entry into a doctorate if applying for admission to doctoral study. These claims must be supported by relevant evidence.
  • In deciding on the appropriate qualification for your master’s and doctoral studies, take into account your previous work experience, relevant prior learning and research experience in the field. 

3.b YES, you meet the admission requirements. RPL is not required.

This means that you meet the formal admission requirements for the chosen degree, and you should follow the traditional route to apply for a student number and admission.

4. Do the RPL self-assessment

If you consider an application for direct access to a postgraduate qualification through RPL, you are claiming that your prior learning and the learning gained though different contexts of learning is equivalent to the formal admission requirements of the qualification.  To access a master’s or a doctoral degree through RPL, you should demonstrate that you are competent in terms of your prior learning, relevant learning through experience and research skills. 

For full details on the exit-level outcomes, please contact the RPL specialist, Dr M Snyman (011 471 2838; msnyman@unisa.ac.za).

Self-assessment as preparation

You are strongly advised to reflect on your prior learning and then do a self-assessment exercise before applying for the RPL process. You do this by using the exit-level outcomes for a master’s and/or doctoral degree to establish how your prior learning meets the requirements.

You should be able to interpret the SAQA exit-level outcomes and transfer this interpretation to a practical situation. Your prior learning should be appropriate to the academic context of the specific qualification, and your learning as a result of experience must still be current, valid and applicable.

You do not need to submit the self-assessment activity, as it serves as preparation for your RPL application process.

5.a YES, you satisfy the criteria to apply for RPL

Make sure you satisfy sufficient criteria to apply for RPL
If you want to apply for RPL access to postgraduate studies (master’s and doctoral studies), you should prepare for your RPL application process by doing research on the area in which you have relevant experience and prior learning. Before you apply, you need to ensure that your intended research falls within the research area of the department, school and/or college where you intend to register for your qualification. 

Explore the possibilities in terms of the research focus areas on www.unisa.ac.za/applyMD, as this will assist you in choosing a research topic.

5.b  NO, you do not satisfy the criteria to apply for RPL. Complete the prerequisite qualifications.

This means that your prior learning and research experience are not sufficient to meet the requirements of the SAQA exit-level outcomes. We advise that you follow the traditional route of application and registration to enable you to complete the prerequisite qualification(s).

6. Contact the RPL specialist

You are advised to contact the RPL specialist, Dr M Snyman (011 471 2838; msnyman@unisa.ac.za), for details on this process before you complete and submit the application form. If you prefer, you may make an appointment to discuss the RPL application process. Dr M Snyman will send the RPL application form to you for completion.

7. Apply for a student number

Apply for a student number if you do not have one. You are advised to contact the RPL specialist, Dr M Snyman (msnyman@unisa.ac.za; rpl@unisa.ac.za) for details on this process.

No RPL application will be considered until you have a student number that is valid for your current/new qualification.

BEFORE THE END OF SEPTEMBER

8. Apply for admission and indicate that you have applied for RPL

There are two separate processes you must complete:

  • The master’s/doctoral (M&D) application process: www.unisa.ac.za/applyMD
  • The RPL application process
  • Apply for admission to your chosen qualification. You must apply for each new qualification even if you already have a Unisa student number.
  • Unisa will assess your application. This may take a few weeks and will probably only be finalised after the closing date for applications.
  • Apply for admission to your chosen qualification: Under TOPIC, enter: RPL APPLICATION SUBMITTED

9. Complete and submit the RPL application form and all supporting documents to the RPL specialist

Your application form should be posted/couriered or delivered to the RPL office. <Author: I suggest you include the office address here.>

Please ensure that you keep a copy of the completed application form and all supporting documents for future reference.

10. Wait for feedback from the RPL specialist

Once the assessment panel has considered your application, you will receive feedback.

  • If you receive a letter from the RPL Department stating that you are Competent (C) and that direct access has been granted, you may go ahead and register for your chosen degree in the next registration cycle.
  • If you are found Not Yet Competent (NYC), you will receive a recommendation from the assessment panel on the way forward.

11. Further RPL assessment necessary

After the evaluation of your RPL application form, further RPL assessment may be required. This can be in the form of a comprehensive portfolio of evidence and/or a panel interview or competency conversation.

12. Accept and prepare for RPL assessment

If you decide to continue with the further assessment, please confirm in writing within two weeks of receiving feedback. You will receive an RPL feedback letter with full details of the assessment. You may contact the RPL specialist for further support.

13. Undergo assessment

Full details will be provided in the RPL feedback letter.  

14. Conditional access to qualification granted

Details will be provided in the RPL feedback letter. 

15. Fulfil the conditions as per the RPL letter 

These conditions must be fulfilled within two years of receipt of the letter.

16. Advise the specialist

Advise the RPL specialist in writing when you have fulfilled the conditions as stated in your RPL letter. Also attach a copy of the letter and the evidence of the fulfilment of the conditions, such as your formal examination results.

17. Access granted. You can register.

If you receive a letter from the RPL Department stating that you are Competent (C), you may go ahead and register for your chosen degree during the next registration cycle.  Please attach a copy of the RPL letter to your registration form. In terms of this decision, you are NOT awarded any of the previous qualifications (honours or master's). You are merely granted academic standing for access to master's or doctoral studies.

19. No access granted

If you are found Not Yet Competent (NYC), it means that no access can be granted through the RPL process. You will receive a recommendation by the assessment panel on the way forward. The recommendation is usually that you are advised to follow the traditional study route and complete the prerequisite qualification.