2018 Applications to HEAR and DARE


CAO applicants wishing to be considered for HEAR or DARE have until 1st April to submit all their supporting documentation to CAO to complete their application to one or both of the access routes.

What is HEAR and DARE?

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education. The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is an admissions scheme set up to support school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. HEAR and DARE schemes offer places on reduced points and extra college support to students throughout their third level education.

2018 Applications to HEAR and DARE

According to CAO figures released earlier this month the number of students who applied for DARE entry this year increased whereas the figures for HEAR were down. Overall the applications for CAO are down by over 3,000. This is a 4.5% decrease on the numbers applying in 2017.

DARE figures have steadily increased since 2010, the rate of eligibility for DARE is up by over 200% on the numbers eligible 8 years ago. 2018 has continued the upward trend with DARE applications up by 2.9% on 2017, despite the decline in applications to CAO this year. Increased applications in recent years may be influenced by the addition of three new colleges engaging in the DARE scheme: Carlow IT, IADT and LIT. Overall 2018 has seen 6,571 students apply for DARE; that accounts for 9% of all CAO applications.

The story is somewhat different for HEAR. Like DARE, HEAR also experienced growth. During the same period as mentioned for DARE, 2010-16, the eligibility rate for HEAR increased by 100% but since 2014 the figures for HEAR appear to have reached a plateau. Two new colleges have entered the HEAR scheme in 2017, IADT and IT Sligo. Despite the increased pool for application, this year’s numbers for HEAR are down by a significant 8.9%

Number Applying for HEAR are Down by 8.9%


The reasons for the drop off in HEAR applications in 2018 is unknown but some of the following factors may have contributed. Firstly the number of applications to CAO 2018 is down by 4.5%, this could inevitably have affected the HEAR figures. The economy is improving therefore creating greater job opportunities which may have attracted students into the work place who would have gone to college during the recession years. Another contributing factor could be the rise in availability of apprenticeships, earn while you learn may be a more attractive route to education for students from families on  a lower income.

The drop off in HEAR applications will be disappointing for the Higher Education Authority (HEA) who are actively seeking to attract more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into Higher Education. The HEA’s National Access Plan for Higher Education 2015-19 has promised to increase the number of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Significant funding has been invested in this project and the HEA have been in partnership with HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) to meet targets.  Most HEIs have a target of 25% of the undergraduate student body to be comprised of mature students, students with a disability and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

DCU have made great strides in attracting HEAR candidates. In 2017, 11% of all undergraduates applied through the HEAR programme. DCU was closely followed by Maynooth University, with 9.6% of students accessing the college through Hear. This compares with about 8% in Trinity College and NUI Galway, 7% in UCC and University of Limerick, and 6% in UCD.

When students successfully attain a place in Higher Education through an access route it can be a challenge to keep them there. Many HEAR applicants struggle to integrate because they feel pressure to adapt to the dominant middle class culture in college and may feel unrepresented.  Olive Byrne, UCC’s access officer commented on this, “They [HEAR students] are adapting to the dominant culture rather than being given a chance to demonstrate the cultural and social capital, includingeducational resilience and life experience, that they have to offer.” 


On an encouraging note, evidence shows that once access students get through their first year in college they are slightly more likely than their peers to stay on in their studies.

Author: Francis O' Toole

Francis O' Toole is a Educational Psychotherapist & Guidance Counsellor. I set up this blog page to help students gain as much information as possible to be able to make right choices and decisions regarding their career options. I believe that we will be very successful in our careers if we follow what we enjoy.

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