By | April 27, 2022

Meet Dr Rekha Rambharose – one of the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) finest. She is a Nano biotechnology scientist, but the one area she is most proud of is her role as chair of the Implementation, Assessment and Articulation of Recognition of Prior Learning (IAARPL) practitioners committee and the principal investigator of the Technology Enhanced RPL Implementation (TERI) research project headed by the UWC Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Unit.

RPL is a system that takes into account people’s real life experiences, their careers and on-the-job learning skills and abilities and translates that into a measurable showcase of competency and academic readiness for university access or credits. Dr Rambharose has been championing this particular cause for UWC since August 2018. And she’s just scooped one of the most prestigious awards in the world for her efforts.

She recently won a global prize for Validation of Prior Learning best practice, policy implementation and products for the area of recognition of prior learning. This award recognises the value and merit of the UWC RPL TERI research project. She practices and implements RPL from a teaching and learning perspective and provides an opportunity for RPL candidates to gain access to university education and the academic skillset required to succeed as a full-time university student.

In March 2019 she moved the RPL Unit to a completely paperless entity, using technology to drive registration, assessment, academic programmes and learning for RPL candidates.

The Global Prize for Validation of Prior Learning is awarded through the European Centre for Validation of Prior Learning Organization. Prizes are given for best practice in three categories: products, procedures, and policies. The competition offers applicants worldwide an opportunity to communicate best practice, helping to further develop and implement effective VPL systems. There are three other prize winners, one from Austria, Vienna, Netherlands and Iceland. This means that at least two people will share a prize in a category. The first, second, and third prize winners will be announced in Iceland during the VPL Biennale on 19 May 2022. The organisers are yet to share details of what the prize entails.

Visit:Global prize VPL Biennale Europe

This recognition will open many opportunities for the UWC RPL Unit. These include: 

  • International research and teaching collaborations with other institutions around the world;
  • International practice and assessment of RPL cases; and
  • Membership on the UNESCO international policy forum.

“Further to this, it is important to note that the scholarship of RPL is globally presented through the VPL Biennale held in Europe every two years,” she added. “And this year, UWC RPL Unit has launched the Implementation, Assessment and Articulation of RPL international conference (IAARPL) that focuses on global scholarship of RPL. From this, we have also launched the IAARPL practitioners committee in which we meet once a month to discuss RPL related practice and research.”

This means that the RPL Unit has set a standard and will now be involved in massive implementation processes for many other institutions. The UWC RPL Unit will also be launching an IAARPL research group for post-graduate research supervision affiliated with the Institute for Post-School Studies and the Faculty of Education. Master’s or PhD students interested in post-graduate studies focusing on RPL related research should contact the RPL unit for more information.

Professor Vivienne Lawack, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, said: “I am proud of the sterling work done by Dr Rambharose of the RPL Unit located within our Directorate of Learning, Teaching and Student Success. Her innovative approach is taking our prior work on RPL practice as well as RPL scholarship to the next level at UWC”.

Dr Rambharose’s sterling work at UWC also caught the attention of many of her peers around the world since the hosting of an IAARPL conference. 

“I have been invited to showcase my TERI model to SUNY Empire State University, New York and have also been invited to teach on the portfolio programme at Munster Technological University, Ireland. In addition, I have been invited to implement RPL for LGSETA in the Western Cape region and assist the University of Fort Hare and the University of Zululand with their RPL implementation model and policy preparation. The RPL Unit has also been approached by some community members who are close to retirement and want assistance in getting their experience recognised. We have consulted and advised these candidates as a community engagement initiative.”

She added: “Journalists and media consultants always ask me for a human angle; RPL is completely a philanthropic and humanitarian process that pushes for social justice, social cohesion and educational transformation. The work that we do at the RPL unit impacts the community directly, contributing to enrichment and career growth not only for the candidate but for their family and generations to come.”

RPL students are different from conventional matriculants who access university. They are mature, and have real world experience and responsibilities as parents, breadwinners and community role models. Most of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are first generation university students.

“I am a proud ambassador for educational transformation in this country, and I enjoy enabling RPL candidates to access university and reach their dreams. Think of our grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbours who have worked many years, not having the opportunity to get a formal education or sometimes even complete a matric. There is a huge scope to make a difference and to empower and grow our community. We all need to understand RPL, what it means and what it can do. I am striving to create an academic space for RPL scholarship and gain support from the larger academic community who conventionally resist RPL.”