Linda Cooper is based in the Centre for Higher Education Development at the University of Cape Town. She is Associate Professor in Adult Education, and is involved in initiatives to broaden access to higher education by adult learners. Her research interests include: the history and contemporary practice of worker education; the impact of globalisation on workplace learning and knowledge; theorising informal learning in community and work-based contexts; and the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). She works in an educational support capacity with South Africa trade unions, and is involved in the training of trade union educators. Judy Harris is a freelance researcher and Adjunct Professor at Thompson Rivers University, British Columbia, Canada. Her research interests include the recognition of prior learning, work-based learning and widening participation in higher education, particularly their curricular and pedagogic implications using perspectives drawn from the sociology of education and knowledge. Her most recent publications are Re-theorising the recognition of prior learning (co-editor with Per Andersson, NIACE, 2006) and Researching the recognition of prior learning: International perspectives (with Mignonne Breier and Christine Wihak, NIACE, 2011). Judy has acted as consultant to the Ministerial Task Team of the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (2012) and to the Namibian Training Authority (2011). She is a Board Member of the Prior Learning International Research Centre (PLIRC) based at Thompson Rivers University. Correspondence: Judy Harris, Thompson Rivers University, British Columbia, Canada. Email: judithanneharris@yahoo.co.uk


This article explores the ‘knowledge question’ in the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). It poses the question: To what extent does the nature of the disciplinary or knowledge domain into which RPL candidates seek access determine the feasibility of RPL?1 It starts from an assumption of the differentiation of knowledge, in other words that while knowledge gained from life and work experience may be as valuable as formal, academic knowledge, these two forms of knowledge are not the same. A corollary of this is that experiential knowledge does not necessarily or automatically provide an adequate basis for access into academic study.