Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL for undergraduate qualifications

Who can apply for RPL access

Who may apply?

You are welcome to apply for RPL if you feel that your prior learning meets the prescribed requirements for admission to an undergraduate qualification offered by Unisa.

If you are considering applying for access to a qualification through RPL, you are claiming that your prior learning (the learning you have gained through different contexts of learning) is equivalent to the formal admission requirements of that qualification. To be admitted to a qualification through RPL, you need to demonstrate that you are competent in terms of relevant learning through experience and research experience. 

Criteria for RPL access

As an RPL candidate, you must

  • have at least five years’ relevant working experience in the study field in which you would like to apply for admission to a qualification (This means that if you want to apply for access to a BCom Finance degree, for example, your experience should be in finance. If you want to apply for access to a BEd degree in Teaching, you will be required to have five years’ relevant teaching experience.)
  • have knowledge and skills from experiential learning contexts that are transferable to the academic context and that are at the  required level for admission to university learning programmes
  • provide acceptable supporting documents and evidence as proof that you have gained sufficient learning through experience to gain admission to university studies through an RPL assessment process
  • possess personal attributes, such as motivation and dedication to succeed in an open distance e-learning (ODeL) context
  • demonstrate the ability to plan academic activities realistically and to complete assessment within an ODeL context
  • have the ability to extract relevant learning from experience and to transfer knowledge and learning gained into the academic context as evidenced in the RPL application
  • have gained sufficient academic English literacy skills through prior learning at the required level for admission to university
  • have suitable and sufficient numeracy and mathematical skills gained through prior learning at the required level to meet college-specific requirements in the following colleges: College of Accounting Sciences; College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; College of Economic and Management Sciences; College of Science, Engineering and Technology

How long will it take?

RPL is a rigorous and lengthy process. This means that you must start the process well before your planned registration date. Please see the overview below for more steps in the process.

It may take up to a year from your initial application for admission before you are able to register for the qualification. This will enable you to submit the necessary evidence of your prior learning and allow the assessment panel time to assess your evidence and provide feedback. Please visit the Unisa website for the necessary application and registration information.

Overview of the process

1. Decide what to study

Select your qualification of choice from the Unisa website. If you are not sure of what to study, visit the Unisa Directorate for Counselling and Career Development website.

2. Check if you meet the admission requirements

The admission requirements for each qualification are available on the Unisa website.

2.a You meet the admission requirements of the qualification - PRL is not required

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

2.b You do not meet the admission requirements - degree or diploma

If you do not meet the admission requirements of your chosen qualification, check if you meet the requirements of a lower-level qualification (eg diploma or higher certificate). The higher certificate may be an option. In that case, you apply for admission to a lower-level qualification.

2.c You do not meet the admission requirements - higher certificate

If you do not meet the admission requirements of your chosen qualification or for the higher certificate, then apply for admission to your chosen qualification and after being declined, apply for RPL.

3. Apply for admission

  • Apply for admission to your chosen qualification. You must apply for each new qualification, even if you already have a Unisa student number.
  • The application section will assess your application. This may take a few weeks and will probably be finalised only a month or more after the closing date for applications.

Since you do not meet the admission requirements, your application will be declined. At this point, you may follow the RPL application route, if you meet the criteria listed above. You may contact the RPL academic coordinator for more information.

The RPL process allows for alternative access to an undergraduate qualification. Applying for direct access means that you do not meet the admission requirements to gain access to an undergraduate qualification or a higher certificate, but you do have considerable relevant experience to be admitted through the RPL access process.

4. Do the RPL self-assessment

4.a Complete the online readiness test

Before you complete the RPL application form, you should complete the online readiness test. This online test serves as a self-assessment to ensure that you are ready for university studies and that you have sufficient prior learning to be able to cope with the demands of your chosen qualification. Click here to try the readiness tool to find out if you're reading for ODeL.

After you have completed the readiness test, you will receive an automated report on your readiness for university studies. Attach the report as evidence with your RPL application.

4.b Reflect on the online readiness test and the report you received

After completing the readiness test, you need to reflect on your results by answering the following questions:

  • Why do you want to study through Unisa? Give reasons in no more than four sentences.
  • What are your strengths as an adult learner with work experience?
  • What are your learning gaps?
  • Are you ready to study at Unisa as an ODeL institution? Give reasons for your answer.

Attach your reflection answers as evidence as part of your RPL application.

5. Apply for RPL

Contact the RPL academic coordinator in the college in which you intend to study and request the RPL application form. Complete the RPL application form, include supporting documents and proof of payment of the application fee.

Submit documents to the university

Submit only the completed RPL application form (pages and the supporting documentation as per the checklist). These must be submitted directly to the relevant RPL academic coordinator only. You may submit your applications and documents by courier, e-mail or hand deliver them to the RPL office. Please keep a copy of the completed application form and all supporting documents for future reference. You must also bring a copy of the application form and all supporting documents to the three-day portfolio workshop.

Please do not submit an RPL application before you have spoken to the RPL academic coordinator and have been fully informed of the process.

As you engage in the RPL process, you will receive detailed information about

  • your eligibility for RPL
  • the correct banking details and RPL handling fee of
  • current timeframes and deadlines

6. Get feedback from the RPL academic coordinator

Once the assessment panel has considered your application, you will receive feedback on your application. You will receive an RPL feedback letter explaining

  • whether you are a suitable candidate for further assessment
  • details of the portfolio development workshop
  • details of the RPL maths test (if this is a college requirement)

7. RPL assessment

If you are found to be a suitable RPL candidate for access, further assessment is compulsory and comprises the following:

Portfolio of evidence

You have to submit a learning portfolio of evidence. The portfolio must be completed as per the portfolio guidelines. The link to the portfolio guidelines will be sent after payment of the assessment fee.

You must

  • confirm your attendance at one of the portfolio development workshops (details provided in your RPL feedback letter)
  • pay the full assessment fee
  • attend the scheduled portfolio workshop

Portfolio workshops

The purpose of the three-day portfolio workshop is to help you to compile a portfolio of evidence. The portfolio workshops will be offered at the main regional offices. There will be NO additional costs involved in attending the workshop. Full details will be provided on the myUnisa RPL site and also in the feedback letter you receive.

RPL maths test (as per college requirement)

If Maths is a requirement for admission to your chosen qualification, you must write the RPL maths test. The test will be written on day 3 of the portfolio workshop. If you are unable to attend the workshop, an alternative arrangement will be made. To help you prepare for the Maths test, a study guide is available on the myUnisa RPL site.

8. Submit your portfolio of evidence

The portfolios must be submitted by the due date. The due dates will be finalised at the workshops. NO late portfolio will be accepted.

9. Wait for the outcome of your assessment

Direct access granted - you may register

If you receive a letter from the RPL academic coordinator stating that you are Competent (C), you must go ahead and register for your approved qualification during the next registration cycle. You will only be allowed to register for the specific qualification as stated on your feedback letter. If you do not register in the next registration cycle, your opportunity granted via RPL lapses.

Access not granted

If you have been found Not yet competent (NYC), contact Unisa's Directorate for Counselling and Career Development to explore another suitable study option.

Last modified: 2023/08/07