What is RPL? Recognition of prior learning explained

Discover how previous work or study experience can count towards your university degree, helping you graduate sooner.

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Keen to apply for a degree, but don’t want to re-learn things you already know?  

If you have relevant work or study experience, then you may be able to skip subjects you’ve explored before by applying for recognition of prior learning (RPL). It’s a great way to graduate faster and save on the cost of your degree.  

Here's everything you need to know about applying for RPL.  

What is recognition of prior learning (RPL)? 

When you enrol in a new qualification, you can ask your university to assess the higher education, training or work experience you’ve previously completed.  

If they agree that you’re already across certain subjects, then you can have that experience counted towards your degree, and you won’t have to complete those subjects again. Universities call this recognition of prior learning, or sometimes advanced standing, credit for prior learning and credit transfer. 

How does recognition of prior learning work?

You can try applying for RPL if you’ve completed: 

  • An accredited higher education course (university or TAFE) within the last 10 years 
  • Non-accredited learning like a professional development course, short course or training workshop 
  • Relevant industry work experience 
  • A professional accreditation program 

Can you apply for RPL when you study online? 

You sure can. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying your degree online or on campus—you can apply for RPL. 

If you decide to study online through us, just know that you’ll need to submit your RPL application directly with your university. While we can help you understand what you need to do, we can’t approve requests for academic credit.  

How to apply for RPL when studying through Open Universities Australia

1. Apply for your chosen degree through our website 

You'll need to be accepted into your course and allocated a student ID number by your chosen university before you can apply for recognition of prior learning.

2. Start your formal RPL application with your university 

Once you're enrolled in your course and you've chosen all your subjects, you can download and submit an RPL application form via your university’s website. Let us know if you can’t find the appropriate form, and we’ll send you the right link.  

You should nominate the subjects that you'd like to be credited for before the first week of classes, and well before the census date, to avoid attracting fees for those subjects. If your application for credit isn’t approved until after the census date, then you may face unexpected study fees and academic penalties.  

3. Submit the appropriate evidence 

As part of your application, you’ll be asked to supply supporting documents that prove your competency in the subjects you’d like to skip. This may include copies of your past qualifications, academic transcripts, or an RPL letter from an employer. Your university can also ask you for follow up information if they feel your evidence isn’t sufficient.   

4. Wait for the university to conduct its assessment 

This will take about 10 days, though it can be longer during busy periods. If you’re successful, you’ll receive an email with written confirmation of your credited subjects. This means you won’t have to complete those subjects during your studies. Your enrolments for those subjects will also be automatically withdrawn.  

5. Check that the credit is reflected in your student account

This information will be forwarded to us here at Open Universities Australia. It may take five to 10 days after you’ve been approved for your credit to appear in your student account.  

Key things to know about the RPL assessment process 

There’s a limit to the amount of credit you can claim 

While it varies from institution to institution, your university will have a cap on the number of subjects you can include in your RPL application. For example, RMIT requires you to complete at least 50% of your subjects with them to graduate, while Curtin requires you to complete at least a third of your course with them. Make sure you read your university’s FAQs carefully to understand the rules. 

It’s worth chatting to your uni if you studied over 10 years ago 

Most universities won't consider offering credit for previous study that was completed over a decade ago because the course material has changed significantly since then. This time frame can be even shorter again if you’re applying for credit due to a past professional accreditation, especially if it has expired. Your university may be willing to make an exception for you, but it’s best to chat with your school or department directly to find out. 

It’s free to apply for university credit  

You won’t be charged any fees when applying for recognition of prior learning.  


If you have any other questions about applying for recognition of prior learning, our student advisors would be happy to guide you. Get in touch with them today.


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