Each Higher Education Institution (HEI) is responsible for determining its own admissions policy and entry criteria to its academic programmes. This also extends to the number of access route places.
The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) offers places at reduced points to school leavers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and students with disabilities. Admissions under the HEAR and DARE scheme are regulated by the institutions themselves. Each institution determines its own admissions policy in relation to the schemes, the number of places they reserve and the allocation of those places. The HEAR/DARE scheme is administrated by the CAO on behalf of the higher education institutions that participate in the scheme. The number of places vary year to year and are offered on a course-by-course and HEI-by-HEI basis.
In 2017 the total eligible HEAR applicants were 4287 of which 3043 accepted an offer and the total eligible DARE applicants were 3542 of which 2423 accepted an offer.
Currently, there are 23 HEIs participating on the HEAR scheme and 24 HEIs participating on the DARE scheme. In addition to the HEAR and DARE schemes, many higher education institutions also operate their own access routes including places available for access students.
Arising from the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19, my Department has made available increased funding for equity of access both through core institutional budgets and also through targeted funding, including in particular the newly established Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund.
Through the PATH fund an investment of €16.2 million will be made over a three-year period to support greater levels of access and participation across higher education. Different measures through PATH will increase access to initial teacher education for 120 students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan; award up to 200 Bursaries each year in a three year period to enable students to participate fully through their studies, and regional and community partnership initiatives for increasing access to higher education for 2,000 additional students from the target groups through means of pre-college entry activities.