At Cornerstone Institute, we pride ourselves on creating accessibility for all, because education is one of the key driving forces for positive change in the world. We aim to pave the way for lifelong learners and those wanting to make a difference through education.

Steps in the RPL Application Process


If you are one of the many skilled people in the country who wish they had a higher educational qualification, but were perhaps being held back by a lack of finances, a fear of how long it may take, or an inadequate matric pass at school, then our RPL or CAT services may be able to assist you. We at Cornerstone Institute want to find out what your skills are worth and if they could contribute towards a recognized qualification because we care about the knowledge you have, not the knowledge you lack. Our RPL and CAT Services are designed to assist in finding the best possible routes of study for you at Cornerstone.


We aim to understand, value and most importantly reward the knowledge and skills you have gained through formal education and experiential learning and offer you a better chance at gaining a qualification.


  • With years of work experience and a proven track record that has contributed towards a unique set of skills and knowledge.
  • Having completed workplace training programs or learnerships.
  • With expertise gained over many years of employment and wish to, or are required to have a higher educational qualification to continue working.
  • In a situation where the rules surrounding your professional license-to-practice have changed and you require a degree or postgraduate qualification.
  • Simply wishing to have a better opportunity at furthering your career and educational prospects.


  • You have completed a number of short courses or training programmes which could be recognised in helping you gain access to university study with possible exemptions.
  • You have an incomplete post-school qualification or simply feel you want to return to study and use your prior learning credits towards a qualification at Cornerstone Institute.
  • You have engaged in online learning, self-study and short courses that might count towards part of your qualification.

People wishing to return to learning can now apply for exemption or for credit transfer and if granted, will only need to complete the balance of subjects needed for the qualification.

At Cornerstone Institute we understand that your time is precious and we want to make it possible for you to accelerate the time to graduation wherever possible.


Your knowledge gained from work and other forms of experiential learning will be documented and assessed and if successful, may count for up to 50% of the credits acquired for the qualification you want.

Applicants will need to provide details of knowledge and skills acquired from:

  • Paid and unpaid work experience, volunteer work and training programmes.
  • Life experiences, such as life skills, hobbies, leisure activities or parenting.
  • Prior formal education, non-formal and informal study, online courses and workshops.

RPL for Access and RPL for Exemption

The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) can be used in two ways. It can be used either as an alternative access route into a qualification or for exemption from some modules or subjects in a qualification.

RPL for Access

The RPL for access route is suitable for prospective students who are older than twenty-three and do not meet the traditional entry requirements needed for a programme, e.g.  They were unable to complete a matric or only received a certificate pass, yet have gained sufficient knowledge and skills through the avenues of work experience, short and non-accredited courses, self-study or online learning. These skills can then be assessed against the entry requirements for the qualification, and if successful, allow you to enrol for a degree or postgraduate degree at the Cornerstone Institute.

RPL for Exemption

Similarly, if the knowledge and skills you have gained through prior work experience, whether paid or unpaid, short courses, self-study and online learning is comparable to the knowledge that is taught in a module within your chosen degree, then you can “challenge for exemption”, which if successful, means you will not have to complete that module in order to graduate. Note that exemption may not be granted for more than 50% of modules within a programme offered at Cornerstone Institute.


Credit Accumulation Transfer is the process by which any credits you have acquired towards a prior qualification or part-qualification is evaluated, and if successful, may be transferred as credit towards your chosen programmes of study. CAT makes it possible to transfer credits only for modules or subjects that are comparable, so for example, if you completed a few modules in Literature and Psychology towards a BA degree at similar institutions, and are now looking to continue your studies for the BA degree through Cornerstone Institute with similar modules, then you may apply for credit transfer and accumulation.


RPL is not a ‘walk in the park’ – but with the relevant prior learning evidence, hard work and our support systems, access with success is assured! We promise to guide you through the process as best as we can and even if you are not admitted to the program of your choice, we offer a range of support services to assist you in furthering your education at the Cornerstone Institute.

RPL & CAT Applications Service

Our RPL and CAT Unit will guide you through the documentation required to complete the RPL or CAT application. Our services include information and advice on the rules and procedures required. You will need to attend an information session and if asked, a Pre-selection workshop, here you will be tested on your ability to engage with the reading, writing and problem solving skills needed for entry to university level studies. These workshops are compulsory and if you are successful, you may proceed into the Portfolio Development Course for Access (PDCA) and/or the Tests for Access and Placement (TAPs).

RPL Access Course and Tests

The Portfolio Development for course Access (PDCA) is designed to assist you in compiling a Learning Portfolio unique to you, to be used as part of your application for admission towards your chosen qualification. The PDCA uses summative and formative assessments along with explorative and evidence based processes in the preparation of your Learning Portfolio. Some examples of what you are required to provide in your Learning Portfolio include a biographical essay explaining your knowledge and learning journey, transcripts and outlines of any previous learning and some form of assessment, depending on your chosen programme and whether you are applying for access or exemption.

We also use Tests for Access and Placement to evaluate whether you have the reading, writing and numeracy skills needed to succeed in higher education studies. These services are offered to applicants BEFORE they are admitted to undergraduate study at Cornerstone Institute.

RPL for Exemption and Applications for Credit Transfer.

Our Portfolio of Experiential Learning module is offered as part of the first year degree programme at Cornerstone Institute, and is specially designed to assist registered students who wish to challenge for exemption or put in an application for credit transfer.

Portfolio of Experiential Learning Module:

The module is included in all undergraduate degree programmes and commences with each new take in the academic year.

  • Fees: the rate is calculated as cost per credit, 12 credits 
    • For example, the estimated cost for 2021 will be 12 credits x R485 cost per credit = R5820

Classes begin on the 8th February 2021

Learn more about RPL and CAT at one of our special Information Sessions.

Portfolio Development Course for Access (PDCA) and Tests for Access and Placement Selection (TAPS)

Information session dates
  • Mondays – 17h00 to 18h30
  • Wednesdays – 17h00 to 18h30

RPL notice

Information Sessions are now open. Date of sessions to follow!


  • Q and A Information Sessions will only convene if we have received a minimum of 5 students

Pre-selection Workshop and Tests:

(Only by Invitation after completing an application form and attending an info session where a more specific questionnaire must be completed.)

  • Arts and Social Sciences: Date to be confirmed (TBC)
  • BCom and Psychology: Date to be confirmed (TBC)

Portfolio Development Course for Access

  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Date to be confirmed (TBC)
  • You will have four sessions with a mentor
  • Final submission of the experiential portfolio: Date to be confirmed (TBC)
  • Fees: total cost of the short course – R4500

Tests for Access and Placement

  • Date to be confirmed (TBC)
  • The venue for this session is to be confirmed (TBC)

Frequently Asked Questions

RPL stands for Recognition of Prior Learning, which may be used for access to undergraduate study or for exemption from one or more subjects or modules in a qualification.

RPL for access may be used if:

  • You are 23 years or older.
  • You do not meet the “traditional” entry requirements of a programme, for example, you have an incomplete matric certificate or you only got a certificate pass.
  • You feel that, after leaving school, you gained enough knowledge and skills through work and life experience and/or through short courses, self-study or online learning to prepare you for entry into a tertiary degree. This is an alternative entry point into a degree.

RPL for Exemption may be used if:

  • You feel you are able to show evidence that you have acquired enough  knowledge and skill through work experience (paid or unpaid) and/or short courses, self-study, online learning,  that is potentially comparable to the knowledge that is taught in a module within your degree.
  • You can then “challenge” for exemption of said module(s).
  • Note that credit will not be granted for the module you received an exemption for in this case.
  • It will state you have been exempt on your transcript.
  • You cannot be exempt for more than 50% of modules within a programme.

Credit Accumulation Transfer refers to the formal learning you have completed and the credits you received for modules/programmes. Where these modules are comparable between courses and institutions, the credits from an accredited qualification or part-qualification can be transferred to another. Eg: You completed a few modules through UNISA, and are now looking to continue your studies through Cornerstone Institute in a similar programme. Some of the modules you have completed at UNISA might be similar or comparable to modules at Cornerstone, making the option of transferring those credits available to you. Please note National Policy states that you cannot transfer more than 50% of credits between courses.

The National Policy states that courses or modules completed more than 10 years ago, cannot be used for the transferring of credits. Applying for exemption through RPL can still be an option.

Comparability is key when it comes to transferring credit and providing the exemption. The knowledge acquired through formal or informal learning should be comparable to the content of the modules you are applying though CAT or RPL exemption for. The determination of whether prior experiential learning or credits acquired towards another qualification are comparable, is the responsibility of the academic staff at Cornerstone Institute.

You will be guided through developing a Portfolio containing an extended CV, some literature reviews, perhaps a biographical essay explaining your knowledge and learning journey, transcripts and outlines of any previous learning and some form of assessment, depending on your chosen programme and whether you are applying for access or exemption.

The Process for Access:

  • Apply for alternative access by completing the application form, attend an information session and pre-selection workshop, and if successful,
  • Enrol and complete the Portfolio Development Course and Tests for Access and Placement. The results of your performance on the PDCA and the TAPs will determine whether you can be admitted to study on the basis of RPL

The Process for Exemption:

  • Apply for your selected programme through the normal application process. Upon acceptance, apply for CAT or RPL for exemption, by filling in the CAT or RPL for an exemption application form.
  • You will receive an invite to an information session.
  • Register for the Portfolio of Experiential Learning Module.
  • Once the module has been completed you may proceed with any further applications for exemption and/or credit transfer.

From first enquiry to the final outcome, depending on how long in advance you start applying:

  • RPL for ACCESS: 3-4 months (PDC- runs for 6 weeks)
  • RPL for exemption 6-9 months (PDM – runs for 1 Semester/6 months)


  • PDC Access Course:
  • TAPs:
  • Portfolio of Experiential Learning Module:
  • RPL Challenge for Exemption:
  • Applications for Credit Transfer:

Contact our RPL & CAT Advisor in the RPL Unit at:

Andrewene Botha-Soma: