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Higher Education Access Route - HEAR

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a third level admissions scheme for school leavers from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds.

The scheme is run by a number of Higher Education Institutions, and is open to students from all 730 secondary schools in Ireland.

As well as possibly being allocated a place on a reduced points basis, students who secure a place in the University of Limerick through HEAR, are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level.

What HEAR is not:

HEAR is not your maintenance grant (SUSI grant). The maintenance grant is the main source of financial assistance available from the Irish State for students in full-time Post Leaving Certificate Courses (PLCs) and full-time higher education undergraduate courses. HEAR is an admissions scheme to help students who may not traditionally go on to third level.

Who can apply to HEAR?

HEAR is for school leavers under the age of 23 as of 1 January 2021 who are resident in the Republic of Ireland. Mature and Further Educational Training (FET) students have their own admissions routes and should contact college admissions offices for more information ( HEAR applications can only be made online. No means other than by way of online submission of a HEAR application form will be accepted.

Disability Access Route to Education (DARE)

DARE is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school-leavers whose disabilities have had a negative impact on their second level education. DARE offers reduced points places to school leavers who as a result of having a disability have experienced additional educational challenges in second level education. You should apply to both DARE and HEAR if they are relevant to you. Applicants who apply and are deemed eligible for both DARE and HEAR will be prioritised by the participating colleges and universities when offering their reduced points places. For more information on DARE contact or see

What are the benefits of making a HEAR Application? How do Reduced Points Work?

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 or reduced Leaving Certificate points.

An example of a reduced points offer is where the Leaving Certificate points for a particular course is 366 points, and an eligible HEAR applicant could be offered a place with a lower points score, e.g. 356 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 reduction in points for HEAR places varies every year. 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.

Further details can be found at

Extra College Support

If you get a place through HEAR you will receive a variety of academic, personal and social supports while at college. Specific to UL, examples of extra college supports may include:

  • An Orientation Programme to introduce you to the university. The UL Transition to University Course is a mandatory requirement for all HEAR students who wish to avail of supports throughout their years of study 
  • Extra tuition if required, study skills and exam preparation
  • One to one meetings with student advisers/mentors
  • Social gatherings/mentoring
  • Extra financial assistance when available/advice regarding grants and scholarships.

Should I apply?

HEAR applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators (criteria) to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support. Here is a list of all the HEAR indicators:

Indicator 1. Income: Your family income falls on or below the HEAR Income Limit for the full year previous 

Indicator 2. Medical / GP Visit Card: Your family has a Medical Card / GP Visit Card that was in date on 31 December of the year previous

Indicator 3. Means Tested Social Welfare: Your family received a means-tested payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for at least 26 weeks in teh full year previous

Indicator 4. Socio-economic Group: You belong to a group that is underrepresented in higher education based on the occupation and employment status of your parent(s) or guardian(s). The underrepresented groups are the Non-Manual Workers Group and the Semi and Unskilled Manual Workers Group.

Indicator 5. DEIS School Attendance: You completed five years in a second level school that takes part in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme run by the Department of Education and Skills

Indicator 6. Area Profile: You live in an area where there is concentrated disadvantage – in other words an area where, for example, there is high unemployment and poverty and where only a small proportion of adults have attained third level education.

You must meet Indicator 1, the HEAR Income Limit, plus a correct combination of 2 other indicators to be eligible for HEAR.

The combinations are: 

  1. Indicator 1 + 2 + 4 or 5 or 6
  2. Indicator 1 + 4 + 5 or 6
  3. Indicator 1 + 3 + 4 or 5 or 6
  4. Indicator 1 + 5 + 6

Essential HEAR Information

How do I apply to HEAR?

Applicants applying for HEAR must:

  1. Be under the age of 23 as of 1 January of the year of application
  2. Apply online to CAO by 17:15 on 1 February of the year of application. CAO applications open on 5 November at 12 noon.
  3. No later than 17:15 on 1 March of the year of application, indicate in your CAO application that you wish to apply for the HEAR scheme and fully and correctly complete all elements of the online HEAR form. Once you have completed the HEAR application form, a checklist will appear on screen telling you which documents you need to supply.
  4. Post your supporting documents to arrive in CAO no later than 17:15 on 15 March of the year of application.

Further information can be found here:

All UL HEAR application queries, contact Sorcha: 


Important Application Dates:

By 1st February: Apply online by 17.15.

By 1st March: Complete all sections of online HEAR Application

By 1st April: Submit photocopies of supporting documentation to the CAO.


More Information: is available on

For a HEAR Application guide and workbook please click on the link below.

Important Notice: All applications must be made online at

Pupils can apply for any of the courses offered by these institutions and may be offered places on a reduced points basis.

NOTE: Pupils who accept places at the University of Limerick through HEAR must attend the compulsory, residential Transition to University Course.

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