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Welcome to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about RPL


 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about RPL


 The decision to begin a programme of study at university is often a lot more complex than it seems. Programme choices, entry-level requirements, RPL options, finance etc, all of these things must be considered.

 There are three levels of help available to you:

•    FAQs

•    Front-line advisers

•    RPL specialists


We have tried to cover the most frequently asked questions below. This should be your first port of call for more information or if you have a query.

Front-line advisers

The advisers provide general information on what is available and how to get more help if needed. Advice is offered in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English and you can contact us 021 959 2799.

RPL specialists

Alan Ralphs is the RPL specialist in the Division of Lifelong Learning (DLL). The DLL run the PDC, administer the TAP and provide specialised advice to RPL students and academic staff. They also run a number of information sessions at UWC to explain the different RPL choices available.


Frequently asked questions

1.    How do I apply for admission through RPL?

You must apply to the RPL Office in the Division for Lifelong Learning (DLL). There you will be advised on the correct procedure to follow.

If you approach departments, schools or faculties directly you will be redirected to the RPL Office.

2.    What are the RPL options at UWC?

The routes of access for admission through RPL are:

• Tests for Access and Placement (TAP)

• The Portfolio Development Course (PDC)

• Departmental, school or faculty procedures.

3.    Do the RPL routes provide access to all undergraduate programmes at UWC?

Yes they do, although the assessment criteria and methods may vary from programme to programme.

4.    I cannot study full-time – should I still apply through RPL?

Most programmes at UWC are not offered on a part-time basis. This applies especially to programmes offered in the Faculties of Arts, Law, Natural Sciences and Community and Health Sciences. Details of courses available for part-time study can be found in the Part Time prospectus on this site.

5.    How does RPL related to age exemption?

If you turn 45 before or during your first year of study, you may apply under the age exemption and gain access without going through the formal RPL procedures.

 If you turn 23 before or during your first year of study, you may qualify for the age exemption under certain conditions as specified in the University Calendar. If you meet the required conditions, you may gain access without going through the formal RPL procedures or tests but this does not guarantee you a place at the university. It only exempts you from writing the tests. However we do advise that you take the PDC if you not studied recently.

 Please note: there is an administrative fee for candidates seeking access through these routes.

6.    I have a Senior Certificate but not a Matriculation Exemption – should I still apply through RPL?

If you have a Senior Certificate you should contact the Student Administration to find out if you qualify for admission by Senate Discretion without RPL. You may qualify if you have enough subjects on the higher grade.

7.    Do I need experience in the field of study I want to enter?

Not necessarily, but adequate foundations in language, maths and science will be required for entry to certain programmes. If you apply for an undergraduate course, specific experience in a particular field is not necessary, but it would be an advantage. For example, if you are interested in Law and have practiced as an administrator in a law firm, you may have already developed key knowledge and skills within the field. However, if you apply for Advanced Standing (credit within a qualification for your prior learning), considerable experience in that particular field is a requirement.

8.    Should I do the Tests for Access and Placement (TAP) or the Portfolio Development Course (PDC)?

Candidates with substantial post-school experience usually choose the PDC because it allows them to demonstrate what they have learnt through this experience. Younger candidates who wish to demonstrate that they can function at the academic entry level as defined by the University, usually prefer the TAP route.

9.    What are the overall costs involved?

  • ​PDC Costs for 2017: R1250
  • TAP Costs for 2017: R425.00​

In addition, for those who are successful, a fee of R480.00 (in 2018) is payable to the Matriculation Board (HESA) for a Certificate of Conditional Exemption. You will be asked to pay this fee at registration.

10.    Are any of the monies refundable afterwards?

The costs cover a number of services which include counselling, teaching, administration and assessment. Accordingly, if you have made use of some of these services, no monies are refundable.

 Portfolio Development Course (PDC)

11.    What is the PDC?

The PDC is a 16 week course normally offered once a year – May to September.

The PDC consists of workshop sessions on Saturday mornings, 9am-1pm followed by individualised advising sessions during the following weeks. The primary purpose of the PDC is to assist you in developing and compiling your learning portfolio to demonstrate that you can function at the academic level as defined by the University. Completed portfolios will be submitted to the relevant faculty or faculties for assessment. Faculties may ask for additional evidence before admitting you.

12.    How do I apply for the PDC?

You can download the application form or get a hard copy at the RPL Office at the Division for Lifelong Learning.

13.    What is the lowest school-leaving qualification that is required for access to the PDC?

There is no formal school-leaving standard for access to the PDC. However, you should have advanced reading and writing skills to cope with the tasks within the PDC. This can be established at the initial interview.

14.    Do I have to complete a separate application form to study at the University?

Yes, you need to complete a University application form. In general the university application form is submitted at the same time as your completed portfolio.

15.    Do I have to write any tests after I have submitted my portfolio?

In addition to the portfolio, faculties may decide that they need additional evidence of competence, so you may be required to write additional tests. For example, in the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences all RPL candidates have to write the National Benchmark Tests (NBT) prior to admission. Applicants for admission to Natural Science and Community Health Science programme will have to write the Science challenge exam.

16.    What happens after I have submitted my portfolio?

The Division for Lifelong Learning (DLL) will submit the portfolios to the respective faculties for assessment. The faculty officer will liaise with you to arrange an interview if required and a copy of the final result will be sent to the RPL coordinator in the DLL.

17.    Is everybody called in for an interview?

No, not all RPL candidates are called in for an interview. Portfolios will be assessed by the faculty’s panel of assessors and they will decide who should be interviewed.

18.    What can I expect from the faculty interview?

The interview can be a tool to verify information given in the portfolio and also to give assessors clarity on some issues. Additional information may be asked during the interview.

19.    What happens after I have been interviewed by the faculty?

The assessment panel will decide whether you should be admitted or not and the faculty officer will let you know of their decision.

20.    What possible reasons could there be for a faculty not to grant admission?

• The assessors are not convinced that the standard of writing and reflection in the evidence provided in the portfolio is not sufficiently valid or reliable for a sound judgment to be made

• The portfolio is of an acceptable standard but unfortunately there are more successful RPL applicants than places available. In this case you will be referred for consideration against your second choice of qualification.

21.    When can I expect to hear from the faculty?                                                       

Faculties assess portfolios at different times. In most cases you will be informed before the closes in December.

22.    Can I appeal against a decision made by the assessment panel?

Yes, you may raise an appeal through the RPL coordinator in the DLL. We will advise you on the validity and process for an appeal and we will communicate your decision to the relevant faculty.

23.    Will I receive a certificate once I have completed the PDC?

The PDC is not an accredited course so you will not receive a certificate. If you have been granted admission to study at this university, it does not mean that you will be issued with a Matric Certificate. The University will however, on your behalf, apply to the Matriculation Board for an exemption from the requirement to write a university entrance exam.

Please note: A fee is payable for this Letter of Exemption.

Tests for Access and Placement (TAP)

 24.   What is the TAP?

These tests assess your academic literacy and numeracy skills. The language test    focuses on general reading, writing, comprehension and analytical skills.

The TAP is usually written in October. If you achieve a pass mark in these tests (over 50%),    you will be considered for admission by faculties. Faculties may ask for additional evidence or higher results before admitting you.

You will be notified by the faculty whether you have been granted admission or not. If you are successful, you should submit a completed admission form to the Admissions Office.

25.    What are the departmental, school or faculty procedures?

Some departments, schools and faculties have their own procedures, e.g. the School of Business Finance and Management Studies and the School of Nursing introduced special procedures for admission to their courses. The RPL Office in the Division for Lifelong Learning (DLL) will advise you about whether to seek access via these routes.

26.    Where can I get further information?

RPL Office

Division for Lifelong Learning

University of the Western Cape

Private Bag X17



Tel: 021 959 2799


Alan Ralphs – Email:

Rethabile Mcube​ - Email:

Student Administration - Call Centre

University of the Western Cape

Private Bag X17



Tel: 021 959 3900/ 3901/ 3902/ 3903​

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