In a world where the global economy has become more competitive as the world has "become more flat" (Thomas L. Friedman), education has become more than ever valuable. People are encouraged to invest in their academic potential all throughout their lives, taking into account their prior learning. According to EU policy papers, this should also concern the underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners (migrants, special need learners, elderly, low socio-economic background) with regard to higher education because the European knowledge-economy needs more higher-educated participation from all. The European agenda on ‘The Social Dimension of Education and Training' states that recognizing prior learning and providing individualised support enhances participation of underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners in higher education (HE). This is grounded within the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET2020).
However, HE-institutions are still considering how to offer AND support lifelong learning perspectives and make use of the added value of methods for Validation of Prior Learning (VPL). Some universities develop VPL-practices as an answer to economic and labour market needs; others use VPL as a way to widen access and participation of target groups which are obstructed in getting access to HE. (see: EU University Association: Lifelong Learning Charter (2008), response to ‘Innovation Union’ strategy (2011)).
Reality therefore calls for action on making HE more accessible for underrepresented groups and non-traditional learners by focusing on flexible lifelong learning-strategies, opened up by a tailor-made VPL-approach.