Frequently Asked Questions

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Higher Education Access Route

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What is the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)?
HEAR is a third level admissions scheme for school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Eligible students compete for a quota of reduced points places in the colleges that run the scheme.



Who is HEAR for?
School leavers who have the ability to benefit from and succeed in higher education and who come from socio-economic groups in Irish society that are underrepresented in third level.



Why was HEAR set up?
To tackle educational disadvantage. Socio-economic disadvantage negatively impacts on educational attainment at school and affects progression by some second level students to third level. Research in Ireland shows that for example, the son/daughter of an unskilled manual worker (e.g. factory worker) is less likely to progress to higher education than the son/daughter of a higher professional (e.g. doctor).



What does "reduced points" mean?
Applicants eligible for HEAR may gain entry to college courses on less than the full CAO points. For example, a course that is 450 points through CAO may be offered to a HEAR student with 410 Leaving Certificate points. All HEAR students must however meet college matriculation and specific course entry requirements where they apply.

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Which colleges take part in HEAR?
Dublin City University
Dublin Institute of Technology
NUI Galway
NUI Maynooth
Trinity College Dublin,
University College Dublin,
University College Cork,
University of Limerick,
Marino Institute of Education,
Church of Ireland College of Education,
Mary Immaculate College, Limerick,
Mater Dei Institute of Education,
National College of Ireland
Pontifical University, Maynooth
St. Angela’s College, Sligo,
St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.

This means students can apply through HEAR for the quota of places in any of these colleges.



How many places are there for HEAR students each year?
Each of the colleges set aside a quota of places for HEAR students each year. In 2011, 1383 students accepted places in the participating colleges through HEAR. For further information on the number of places available in particular institutions or courses, please contact the access office in the college of your choice.



How do I know I know if I'm eligible to apply to HEAR - what criteria are used?
Each HEAR applicant is assessed in relation to six indicators (criteria). Each applicant must meet at least three of the indicators in order to be eligible for the scheme. Only certain combinations of the indicators make an applicant eligible. Every applicant must meet Indicator 1 in order to be considered. The indicators are:

Indicator 1 Low Income - Is the household income below the HEAR Income threshold (in the relevant year)?
Indicator 2 Medical Card - Is the applicant or his/her mother/father/guardian in receipt of a medical card (in date on 31st December 2012)?
Indicator 3 Social Welfare – Is the applicant’s mother/father/guardian in receipt of a means-tested social welfare payment (for a minimum of 26 weeks in the relevant year)?
Indicator 4 Socio-Economic Grouping (based on occupation and employment status) – Is the applicant a member of a group underrepresented in higher education?
Indicator 5 DEIS School – Did the applicant attend a school part of the Department of Education & Science “DEIS” scheme (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) for the duration of their second level education?
Indicator 6 Geographical Area – Does the applicant live in an area of concentrated disadvantage?

The combinations for eligibility are:

INDICATOR 1 plus 2 plus 4 or 5 or 6
INDICATOR 1 plus 3 plus 4 or 5 or 6
INDICATOR 1 plus 4 plus 5 or 6
INDICATOR 1 plus 5 plus 6

If you think that you meet Indicator 1 plus any other two indicators then you may be part of an underrepresented group and you should apply.

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How can I apply to HEAR?
Students can apply online at the CAO website from 5th November 2012. As part of the application process, and depending on individual circumstances, applicants will be asked to submit documentation relating to their parent(s)/guardian(s) or to themselves to support their application. Applicants must be able to clearly document household income in the year specified.

Examples of the documentation required are:

  • P21(s) or Long Form Notice(s) of Assessment
  • Statement of welfare benefits received from Department of Social Protection

All supporting documents must be returned to the CAO no later than 1 April 2013. Late documentation will not be accepted.



How do I know what supporting documents to provide?
When completing a HEAR application, applicants will receive online prompts requesting that they submit specific documentation.



My parents are seperated or divorced. Do I need to include both of them in Section 7 of the online application form and provide evidence of their income to HEAR?
With regards to divorced or separated parents, the income of the parent with whom the applicant lives will be taken into account. If parents are separated but remain residing in the same house as the applicant, both incomes should be taken into account.



What happens after HEAR applicants are assessed?
After assessment, applicants will be informed whether or not they are eligible for the scheme. Eligible applicants will go forward to compete for the quota of reduced points places in the HEAR colleges to which they apply. Ineligible applicants compete for places in college in the usual manner.



What happens if I am offered a place in college through HEAR?
Students who secure college places through HEAR are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level. Such supports include an orientation programme (before courses start), academic guidance and assistance, a bursary when available and advice regarding grants and scholarships.



I’m ineligible but I think there was some mistake in the assessment of my application – what can I do?
Ineligible applicants can apply to have their applications rechecked if they believe there has been an error in the screening of the application. Please read the information on the Recheck process below.



Can I defer my HEAR eligibility for 1year?
Eligibility for HEAR carries forward for one year provided that you:

  • apply to CAO by 17:15 on 1 February 2014 and indicate that you wish to apply to the HEAR scheme by 17:15 on 1 March 2014
  • supply your correct 2013 CAO number

The outcome of your 2013 HEAR application was communicated to you in writing in June 2013. If you applied to CAO in 2013 and you were deemed eligible for HEAR in 2013, then your HEAR eligibility can be carried forward to your application for entry in 2014. You must enter your correct 2013 CAO application number in the box provided. You are required to complete ALL relevant sections of the 2014 HEAR application form, however you DO NOT need to supply supporting documentation as part of your application. Applicants can contact a HEAR representative if they require information about their 2013 HEAR eligibility. In the event of being offered and accepting a HEAR place in 2014, you will be required to provide the original documentation, copies of which accompanied your 2013 HEAR application.



I am currently supporting myself (through either work or social welfare) and I am completely independent of my parents/guardians. How do I fill in sections 6 & 7 of my HEAR application form?

The HEAR scheme will only consider applicants who wish to be assessed independently of their parents/guardians in exceptional circumstances. If you feel your application should be considered in this way please email, outlining your circumstances, for advice on filling in the HEAR online application form. If you are in foster care/care of the state please go to page 27 of the HEAR application guide & workbook.

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