Clear learning outcomes for courses and programmes and a commitment to validation within the entire higher education institution (HEI). These are important components if work with validation at HEIs is to be successful, according to the final report from UHR’s EU project “Recognition of Prior Learning in Practice”. Materials from the project are now available on UHR’s website.

Validation means that people who have developed knowledge and skills outside the formal education system can have them recognised. In this way, their acquired knowledge can transfer to credits and/or allow access to continued studies. When it comes to validation, both Sweden and Europe have been enthusiastic; however, the work has presented practical difficulties.

The past two years, UHR has coordinated the EU project “Recognition of Prior Learning in Practice” where experience exchange has been used as a basis for developing HEIs work with validation. In total, 21 partner organisations in 5 countries have participated in the project – a project which has now been finalised.

”One of our conclusions is that validation requires clear learning outcomes for courses and programmes, so that there is something to validate against,” said Anders Ahlstrand, project manager at UHR. “For validation to work, commitment and a willingness to work with the issue needs to exist throughout the HEI, both among administrative and teaching personnel.”

Clear information to applicants is critical

According to the report, clear information to those whose knowledge is to be validated and transparent processes at the HEI are keys to successful validation. It’s also critical that countries' national legislation does not create obstacles, and that a model for financing is in place that does not make the work of validation a loss-making proposition for the HEIs.

The project also concluded that experience exchange – so-called “peer learning” – is a good and functional method for developing the work with validation at higher education institutions.

”We have seen that there is a great need for networking in this area, not least among Swedish HEIs,” said Anders Ahlstrand. “The project’s recommendation is therefore that ministries and public authorities in different countries initiate discussions on how cooperation and peer learning can be facilitated in terms of validation.”

Materials for those working with validation

Within the project, a self-evaluation template was developed that HEIs can use to get started with or develop their work with validation. This template, along with recordings and documentation from the project’s three webinars and short film clips with project participants, are available at UHR’s website.

Quick facts: Recognition of Prior Learning in Practice

  • The purpose of the EU-financed project was to promote different ways of recognising competencies in order to give individuals the opportunity to receive credits at an HEI and/or gain access to further studies.
  • The project took place from 2019 to 2021 and was a collaboration between Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Croatia and Austria as well as The European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE).
  • UHR coordinated the project. Other participating actors included ministries, public authorities, and higher education institutions in the various countries. 

Report: “Recognition of Prior Learning in Practice. Putting policies to work – experiences from two years of p eer learning” (PDF)