The Central Applications Office (CAO, ) was established by the Irish universities in 1976 and is owned and controlled by the universities and other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The purpose of the CAO is to process centrally applications for entry to the first year of undergraduate courses in HEIs in the Republic of Ireland, to issue offers to applicants only when instructed by HEIs, and to record acceptances.

The CAO application process provides applicants with an opportunity to apply for up to 10 courses on the Level 8 list (Honours Bachelor Degrees) and 10 on the Level 7/6 list (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees and Higher Certificates), across the universities and other HEIs.

The CAO processes, on behalf of the HEIs, applications from school-leavers presenting qualifications from Ireland and other EU and Non-EU countries, mature applicants, applicants presenting Further Education qualifications (e.g. FETAC level 5) and applicants presenting previous Higher Education qualifications. The CAO also processes applications for the DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) and HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) schemes.

Details regarding the Points System used by HEIs to score applicants, the minimum entry requirements to individual universities and particular courses, how applicants who present non-Irish Leaving Certificate results (e.g. FETAC awards, UK GCE/GCSE grades, other EU and non-EU school leaving qualifications) can be found in the CAO Handbook. The latest copy of the CAO Handbook can be downloaded from