The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third-level alternative admissions scheme open to students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, while the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a similar scheme open to students who, as a result of having a disability, have experienced additional educational challenges.
Separate from maintenance grants or financial assistance, these instead operate to specifically support students who may not traditionally go on to third-level education.
One benefit of qualifying for these schemes is that students are offered extra assistance by their college throughout the academic year.
This includes individual meetings with student advisers and help with study skills. Both are operated at most colleges.
Students who qualify for HEAR, DARE, or both schemes in some cases, may be offered a course of study even if their total Leaving Certificate score is lower than the general admissions cut-off.
This means that students may be offered a place even if they do not have enough points for their preferred course.
This is to take into account the evidence that shows students who are disadvantaged socio-economically, or who have a disability, face greater obstacles when it comes to progressing to higher education.
Research shows that students with disabilities from disadvantaged backgrounds face a “double disadvantage”.
As such, students who qualify for both HEAR and DARE are prioritised by colleges when it comes to allocating reduced-points places.
Both HEAR AND DARE are open to students who live in the Republic of Ireland and are under the age of 23 as of January 1.
HEAR applicants must meet a range of financial, social, and cultural criteria to be considered for the scheme.
Mainly, the student must come from a family whose income is less than €46,790 for a family of fewer than four. This income threshold is higher for larger families, or if there are two or more family members already at college.
At the same time, two other ‘indicators’ must also be met in order for a student to qualify for HEAR, including medical card status, social welfare payments, socio-economic group, the disadvantaged status of school or local area, and the occupation status of a parent or guardian.
Before beginning their application, students are advised to review both the HEAR and DARE handbook with their parents or guardians to familiarise themselves with the process, and the necessary paperwork they will be required to gather.
Supporting documents can take several weeks to issue, so keep this in mind.
- The process for both the HEAR and DARE scheme is triggered through the CAO, and in order to begin the process, you must first apply to CAO by 5pm on February 1.
- For the HEAR scheme, all elements of the online application form must be completed by 5.15pm on March 1.
- Students must then gather and send the relevant documentation to the CAO by 5.15pm on March 15. Students are recommended to keep all original documents and obtain a certificate of posting from An Post each time documents are sent.
For the DARE scheme, students must disclose their disability in their CAO application and fully and correctly complete Section A of the supplementary information form.
Students who wish to be considered for DARE must tick ‘Yes’ to Question 1 by 5pm on March 1 and complete Section A, questions 1 to 5 of the supplementary information form.
They must also answer ‘Yes’ to question 1 of this section, which asks ‘Do you wish to be considered for DARE?’ by 5.15pm on March 1. Students must then download an ‘Educational Impact Statement’ from Section B of the CAO website, and have their school complete the form.
Separately, if students do not have a report verifying their disability that meets the DARE criteria, they must also download a Section C ‘Evidence of Disability’ form.
Both forms must be posted to the CAO by March 15 to be received by 5.15pm.
For 2023, DARE has changed its eligibility criteria for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) to make the scheme more inclusive.
These changes come on foot of the recommendations from a working group consisting of psychologists with expertise in the area of SpLD, and representatives of DARE, HEAR, the CAO, and the participating colleges.
DARE has disaggregated the SpLD category and it has created two new expanded categories in its place — ‘Dyslexia/Significant Literacy Difficulties’ and ‘Dyscalculia /Significant Numeracy Difficulties’.
There are now two ways in which applicants with Dyslexia/Significant Literacy Difficulties can apply to DARE.
They will be assessed on the basis of evidence submitted with the DARE application, and DARE will accept evidence from two categories; applicants who have a psychological assessment report identifying dyslexia, and applicants who have significant literacy difficulties but do not have a psychological assessment report identifying dyslexia.
For students who have dyscalculia, applicants must also have only one numeracy attainment score at or below the 10th percentile carried out before February 1, 2021, when this was previously two.
This is just a brief overview of both schemes. For full and comprehensive information around eligibility and for full details of these criteria, visit www.accesscollege.ie.