Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question below to find the answer.

Higher Education Access Route

back to top

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?
If you apply to HEAR and meet the application criteria (that is, are deemed eligible for HEAR)
you may be offered a place even if you do not have enough Leaving Certificate points for your
preferred course. Each participating college and university has a number of reserved places to
offer eligible HEAR applicants at lower Leaving Certificate points or reduced points.
An example of a reduced points offer is that the Leaving Certificate points for a particular
course is 360 points. An eligible HEAR applicant could be offered a place with a lower points
score e.g. 350 points. This applicant would also, like all other applicants applying to college on
the basis of their Leaving Certificate results, need to meet the minimum entry requirements
and any specific programme requirements before being considered for a HEAR reduced
points offer.
The amount of points a particular course is reduced by is dependent on a number of factors,
such as;
 The overall number of places on the course.
 The number of reserved HEAR places on the course.
 The number of HEAR eligible applicants competing for these reserved places.
The reduction in points for HEAR places varies every year.

back to top



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

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 2014, 3,424 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 2013
Indicator 2 Medical Card - Is the applicant or his/her mother/father/guardian in receipt of a medical card (in date on 31st December 2013)
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)? 2013
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.

back to top



How can I apply to HEAR?
Students can apply online at the CAO website from 5th November 2014. 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 Self-Assessment Letter – Chapter 4 for 2013

    •Department of Social Protection form or statement

    Further information on the type of supporting documents required is available on pages 24 to 29 (the Supporting Document Section) of the HEAR Application Guide. 

All supporting documents must be returned to the CAO no later than 1 April 2015. 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.

Applicants will receive a supporting document checklist at the bottom of the application form.  The supporting document checklist will list what documents they need to submit to the CAO to complete their HEAR application.  The checklist is based on the answers given in Section 7 of the online HEAR application form.


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.



I have no contact with one of my parents? What should I do?

In section 6 of the HEAR application form, select no contact for one parent.

In section 7, select the parent/guardian who contributes to your family’s income and answer Yes or No as appropriate for that parent under Type of Income. (Eg Employee, paid employment, social welfare)

I am no longer in Care of the State. What do I need to make an application?

If you were a foster child or were in the Care of the Health Service Executive / TUSLA, you must supply a letter from TUSLA detailing that you had previously been in the Care of the State/HSE. Enter your PPS number in Section 3 Medical Card / GP Visit Card of the online application form.



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 2015 and indicate that you wish to apply to the HEAR scheme by 17:15 on 1 March 2015
  • supply your correct 2014 CAO number

The outcome of your 2014 HEAR application was communicated to you in writing in June 2014. If you applied to CAO in 2014 and you were deemed eligible for HEAR in 2014, then your HEAR eligibility can be carried forward to your application for entry in 2015. You must enter your correct 2014 CAO application number in the box provided. You are required to complete ALL relevant sections of the 2015 HEAR application form, however you DO NOT need to supply supporting documentation as part of your application. Applicants can contact the CAO helpdesk if they require information about their 2014 HEAR eligibility. In the event of being offered and accepting a HEAR place in 2015, you will be required to provide the original documentation, copies of which accompanied your 2014 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 pages 15 & 29 of the HEAR application guide & workbook.

back to top