Research update from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)


Based on Contributions from Heidi Bolton

SAQA’s extensive contribution to knowledge regarding the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) has been augmented by recent studies and its latest national research conference.

The five-year SAQA/University of the Western Cape (UWC) study towards an inclusive RPL model recently drew to a close in March 2014. Outputs include four in-depth case study reports on RPL in four diverse NQF contexts: RPL in the workplace, RPL for access to undergraduate study, RPL for access to postgraduate study, and RPL in workers’ education. The RPL model developed during this
Study is the subject of a new book.

SAQA has also assisted many organisations or institutions to roll out RPL in their sectors, following requests from the entities concerned. Six such initiatives have been concluded successfully; 17 are currently underway. These RPL initiatives followed the widely supported 2011 National RPL Research Conference: Bridging and Expanding Existing Islands of Excellent Practice. SAQA’s new national RPL policy document was workshopped at the recent National RPL Conference: Tried and Tested, Tools, Templates, attended by over 350 delegates.  Successful RPL initiatives for workers were discussed.  Over 70 presenters shared information from successful RPL initiatives across the three NQF sub-frameworks. All the documents relating to the conference are available on SAQAs website

SAQA research which supports implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) includes long and short-term partnership research; in-house analyses; the development of research publications in differing formats; and seminars, workshops, colloquia and conferences for the dissemination of findings. The research typically feeds policy development and implementation, and is also used to assess the effectiveness of particular policy interventions or the NQF policy basket as a whole.


This work has focused on developing theoretical frameworks and analysing practice in areas such as: the integration of academic and vocational knowledge in selected areas of learning; intended and unintended consequences of NQF legislation for adult learners; Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges; and learning in workplaces.

Current long-term partnership projects focus on learning pathways and developing flexible articulated institutions of learning. Two shorter term sectoral scans are mapping learning pathways in particular sectors.

Dr Heidi Bolton is the Director: Research at the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). She can be contacted at  or 012 431 5017/65.

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The Research Bulletin on Post-School Education and Training is prepared by the Directorate: Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation. Enquiries or contributions may be directed to: Lesego RamoseTel: 012 312 5657 Email: Department of Higher Education and Training, 123 Francis Baard Street, Pretoria 0001