Learning is more than ever important and valuable, people are encouraged to invest in their potential throughout their lives, taking into account their prior learning. According to policy papers all across the globe, this should concern all citizens, including the underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners with regard to higher education because everywhere the knowledge-economy needs more higher-educated participation from all.

The European agenda on ‘the Social Dimension of Education and Training’ states that:

recognising prior learning and providing individualised support enhances participation of underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners in higher education (HE).

The strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET2020) supports this. However, HE-institutions are still considering how to offer/support lifelong learning perspectives and making use of the added value of methods for Validation of Prior Learning (VPL).

Some universities develop VPL-practices as an answer to economic and labour market needs; others use VPL as a way to widen access and participation of target groups which are obstructed in getting access to HE. Reality therefore calls for action on making HE more accessible for underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners by focusing on flexible lifelong learning-strategies, opened up by tailor-made VPL-approaches.

The crucial question for the consortium ALLinHE was how to further develop and implement VPL as an effective method in higher education, being able to integrate the selected target groups effectively and quality-assured into lifelong learning at HE-levels? This question related to several national priority areas linked to VPL  and the question of accessibility of HE:

a)     further developing and implementing existing national legislation on VPL-enhanced lifelong learning in the learning domain, especially of HE.

b)    shifting from national projects on integrating VPL in tertiary education-levels to practical implementation.

c)     organising the levels of professionalism in HE to be able to cope with customer-steered and competence-based lifelong learning, like functions of guidance, individualised and flexible teaching/learning, managing flexibilised programmes.

d)    opening up HE for all citizens with a special focus on underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners for the sake of opening learning chances for all. With this question in mind, the consortium ALLinHE linked the issues of underre­pre­sen­tation of specific target groups and the lack of practical VPL-approaches to a focus on widening access to HE and/or recognition at HE-levels within the sub-action ”ERASMUS social inclusion in higher education”. Investigating these issues

In Europe and Asia (South Korea) resulted in an overview showing the diversity of target groups to work on for creating solutions for social inclusion, more specifically migrants, refugees, elderly (50+), ethnic minorities and special needs groups.

The consortium established that there is within existing VPL-methodology a need for a more multi-targeted approach based on the diversity of learner’s needs and social-economic opportunities on education-levels across the globe. In the project it became clear that VPL isn’t yet fully operational as a multi-targeted approach for:

  1. personalised VPL, with divergent use of qualification-standards, based on all learning outcomes of the individual; for personal diagnostics, guidance and career-advice,
  2. summative VPL, with convergent use of various standards within qualification-related contexts, showing the most efficient way to a (HE-)qualification for the target groups.
  3. formative VPL, with convergent use of qualification-standards within job-specific contexts, especially showing the HE-level of prior learning outcomes and the possibilities for updating/upgrading within HE,

The book ‘The Power of VPL’ is both result of the project ALLinHE as well as an agenda for further exploring and paving the way for VPL, not only in higher education but also in other qualification-levels and – even better – in contexts of work, volunteering, citizenship, inclusion-activities and leisure.

With this book, the aim is to show that lifelong learning is possible in any context, country and culture, and that there are always shared elements that make it possible to make a manageable tool for lifelong learning out of the methodology of VPL. Why this is so relevant and of value to the citizens and their organisations across the globe is explained in the variety of approaches, practices and visions, presented in this book.

Editors: Ruud Duvekot, Bénédicte Halba, Kirsten Aagaard, Sergij Gabršček& Jane Murray