Access Schemes DARE & HEAR win Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award

At a ceremony in Dublin Castle today (June 21st), An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. will present aPublic 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.

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 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.

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.


For more information contact: Lia O’Sullivan, Chair of the DARE & HEAR Communications Group. Tel: 01 664948. Email:


Additional Notes:

See for detailed information on the schemes

Participating Colleges

HEAR: 7 universities, DIT, 6 colleges of education, National College of Ireland and Pontifical University Maynooth

DARE: 7 universities, DIT, AIT, CIT, Mater Dei Institute of Education, National College of Ireland and Pontifical University Maynooth


HEAR Applications

  • The number of complete applications has been steadily increasing over the last 3 years from 4234 in 2010 to 5477 in 2012.
  • Of the 2751 eligible applicants in 2011, 1383 students accepted offers from colleges.

DARE Applications

  • The number of eligible applicants jumped from 701 in 2009 to 1279 in 2011
  • Acceptances have jumped from 214 in 2009 to 753 in 2011

Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards 2012

The Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards are organised as part of the Government’s programme of Public Service reform. The Awards are held every two years to recognise and reward examples of excellence in the delivery of public services and/or administration, by public servants. Approximately 190 applications were received from public service organisations. All applications received were assessed by the Awards Selection Committee, and 20 selected projects will receive Awards at a Conference in Dublin Castle on 21 June, 2012.