Recognising lifelong and life-wide learning to achieve Bradley's participation and equity targets for Australian higher education

Year: 2010

Author: Pitman, Tim, Vidovich, Lesley

Type of paper: Refereed paper

As a result of the Bradley Review (2008) of higher education, Australian universities are under pressure to enrol more students from diverse social and educational backgrounds. This paper considers how the recognition of lifelong and life-wide learning (commonly known as ‘recognition of prior learning’ or RPL) might be used to enhance higher education access for a larger and more diverse group of students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Within a critical theoretical framing, the paper presents selected findings from a larger research study of the admission policies and practices of different types of universities. The focus here is on the Australian Technology Network (ATN) group, which prides itself on championing principles of participation and equity, consistent with the goals of the Bradley Review. To complement a discourse analysis of university policy documents, findings from interviews with staff involved in the development and enactment of admission policy at one ATN university are analysed. Findings reveal that the ATN group is well-positioned to deliver increased enrolments of students from disadvantaged backgrounds through RPL. However there is evidence that current admission policies and practices focus on notions of academic quality and meritocracy, and this might act to undermine attempts to make the sector more accessible. Implications for admissions policy development which harmonise with the Bradley reforms are also discussed.