3rd Level Access Schemes, DARE & HEAR, win Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award

21st June 2012: At a ceremony in Dublin Castle today (June 21st), An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. presented a Public Service Excellence Award to two college admission schemes the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) and the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) . The awards, which seek out improvements and innovative activities from the public sector, recognise the success of the DARE & HEAR schemes in increasing the numbers of students entering third level with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds.


DIT has a 120-year tradition of providing education opportunities to a diverse range of students and continually seeks to remove barriers to participation in higher education.  DIT has been a partner institution in both the DARE and HEAR schemes since their inception.  According to Kieran Houlihan of DIT’s Access & Civic Engagement Office “DARE and HEAR give a points reduction to disadvantaged students and students with disabilities thus increasing their chances of success in getting to Third Level. The schemes also offer a package of supports including academic, personal, financial and social supports.  Access and Disability officers are on hand in each college to support students through the application process and continue to offer guidance and support throughout the student’s college life”.

Since the schemes were opened up to all secondary school students nationwide in 2009 HEAR has seen a 154% increase in applications and a 103% increase in acceptances. The number of acceptances of a college place through DARE has risen by over 300% from 214 in 2009 to 753 in 2011.

Accepting the award on behalf of the 18 higher education institutions operating the schemes Cliona Hannon, Chair of the DARE & HEAR Strategic Development Group said, “The DARE & HEAR schemes are a fantastic example of how higher education institutions can work collaboratively in the public interest.  The schemes have significantly increased the number of talented, ambitious young adults with a disability or from a socio-economically disadvantaged background progressing to degree courses and this outcome will continue to have an impact on their families for generations to come.  We are delighted the schemes are receiving national recognition”.

The schemes, with support from the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority (HEA), have undergone major change and development over the last 3 years to help meet the HEA National Access Office targets of a 54% college entry rate for all socio-economic groups by 2020 and a doubling of the number of students in 3rd level with sensory, physical and multiple disabilities by 2013.

  • Applications to both schemes were embedded in the CAO online application process;
  • The Applicant Base jumped from 300 secondary schools to all 730 schools nationwide;
  • For HEAR, extensive means testing by individual colleges was replaced by a multi indicator approach covering financial, social and cultural circumstances;
  • For DARE, varying disability criteria across the institutions was replaced with uniform disability criteria set by external expert panels;
  • The Accesscollege.ie website , Twitter, Facebook & You Tube sites were launched;
  • Presence at student information events was increased and Application Advice Clinics are run nationwide every January offering one to one advice to applicants in the run up to the February 1st application deadline.

These developments have also yielded robust national data which provide an invaluable evidence base for development of national policy to further increase opportunities for students from under-represented groups.

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