Connacht Ulster Alliance launches advanced-entry college application tool

Make your work experience count at

Author: GMIT Press Office
Date Article Written: Monday, March 14, 2016

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Institute of Technology Sligo (ITS) and Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LyIT) have launched the My Experience RPL (Recognised Prior Learning) Assessment Toolkit. The toolkit includes an information website and an online RPL application tool for candidates looking for access or advanced entry to a higher education programme. In addition, a free open online course has been developed for Higher Education staff seeking professional development in RPL assessment skills and supporting RPL applicants effectively (

In January 2016, the CU Alliance was awarded 49,000 euro from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching to deliver a 6 month project on RPL development. GMIT is leading this project with partners IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT. This project involved developing the open online educational course, further technical enhancements to the CUA RPL online application tool and sharing the My Experience RPL assessment toolkit with staff in the CUA, Waterford IT and DCU.

Gavin Clinch, IT Sligo, project team,, Dr Carina Ginty, Project Manager,, Nigel Murray and Lucy Bracken and students in the GMIT School of Science who recently completed the RPL application at to gain advanced entry to a level 9 Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship at GMIT. [Missing from the picture is Oran Doherty, LyIT, the third member of the project team]

Project manager, Dr Carina Ginty, says “The need to develop the My Experience RPL Toolkit arises from a number of factors including the fact that lifelong learning participation rate is just 7.3% in Ireland compared to the EU average of 10.5%. With regards to the employed sector, it is just 6% participation in Ireland, compared to the EU average of 11%. Therefore, there is great potential to promote RPL pathways to higher education among the experienced workforce in Ireland that are seeking to upskill and gain a formal qualification”.“Further challenges identified, include the lack of awareness that Recognising Prior Learning (RPL) actually exists or candidates are unsure how to build a portfolio of evidence. Our RPL toolkit helps address these issues and it will create more opportunities for mature learners to gain advanced entry to a programme at GMIT, IT Sligo and LyIT.”

As a result of the National Forum funding, DCU and WIT signed up to gain access to the My Experience RPL Toolkit to activate it in their own institute. Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) clinics on the My Experience RPL Toolkit will run in GMIT, IT Sligo, WIT and DCU for staff from March 14th-16th.

Candidates who are interested in applying for advanced entry to a programme at GMIT, IT Sligo and LyIT are encouraged to visit the website at and seek advice from the institute on making an application through the My Experience online tool. Some recent student success stories who completed the My Experience application tool include Lucy Bracken from GMIT and Alan Lowe from IT Sligo.

IT Sligo Student, Alan Lowe, explains “While I did not meet the standard entry criteria for an online programme at IT Sligo, I was made aware of the website and experiential learning could form part of a successful application. So I reflected on my membership of numerous professional and trade association committees and regular attendance at conferences and seminars and I realised I had developed knowledge and skills associated with a Level 8 Civil Engineering degree. This enabled me to gain advanced entry to the Level 9, Certificate in Road Maintenance Engineering and Network Management programme at IT Sligo.”

GMIT Student, Lucy Bracken explains “I read about the Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship course available in GMIT, instantly I made inquiries knowing it would be something that may help me embark on my business idea. My only concern was that although I had a vast amount of relevant experience, I had no formal third level education and I felt I would not be eligible to apply for the Level 9 certificate. On meeting with the RPL facilitator in GMIT, it was confirmed that I did not meet the formal entry requirements but that RPL was an access route and my 25 years of relevant experiential learning would be recognised when making my application. Using the website, I submitted my RPL ePortfolio including all supporting evidence required for the application. I found the tool very user friendly and felt that I gained a lot from creating the ePortfolio realising the importance of my experience and skillset, I sometimes took for granted. I am delighted I was accepted onto the course and I now have the opportunity to pursue my goals at GMIT”.

For further information on this CUA collaborative initiative visit or contact the project development team: Dr. Carina Ginty (GMIT) (087 7469072), Mr. Gavin Clinch (IT Sligo), Mr. Oran Doherty (LyIT)

About the Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA):

The Connacht-Ulster Alliance (CUA) was established by the three Institutes of Technology of Galway, Letterkenny and Sligo in July 2012, through the signing of a formal MoU. This was approved by each Governing Body with the support of each Academic Council. A set of ‘Guiding Principles’ has also been agreed between the three Presidents that provides a framework for engagement. The CUA made a Stage 1 submission in March 2015, for re-designation as a Technological University (TU) and received the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills in October 2015 to proceed to Stage 2 of the process.

Since their establishing in the early 1970s, the CUA partners have made a substantial contribution to raising the educational profile of the region and to attracting innovative enterprises into the region, and have demonstrated their capability to evolve over the last 45 years to meet regional needs. The CUA is committed to continuous change to meet the future needs of the region. In becoming a TU, the ambition is to enhance the services and programmes provided to students, widen the access from the dispersed population across the region, and to deepen the regional embeddedness and the level of engagement with enterprises.

For further information visit

How to Apply

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