Higher Education Access Route(HEAR)


The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university admissions scheme which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

HEAR has been set up by a number of colleges and universities as evidence shows that socio-economic disadvantage can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college.

HEAR Applicants must meet a range of financial, social and cultural indicators to be considered for a reduced points place and extra college support. 



HEAR is for school leavers under the age of 23 as of January 1st 2013, who have completed an Irish Leaving Certificate. Mature and FETAC students have their own admissions routes and should contact college admissions offices for more information




Who should make a HEAR application?

HEAR is for school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. If you can answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you should make a HEAR application:1. Do you have a Medical Card/GP Visit Card?2. Do you parents'/guardians' receive a means-tested social welfare payment?3. Based on your parents'/guardians' income do you expect to be eligible for the Higher Education Grant from your Local Authority or VEC?4. Do you attend a secondary school that is part of the DEIS initiative run by the Department of Education and Science?5. Are you a member of the traveller community?


Why should I make a HEAR application?

Each participating HEI has allocated a quota of places on a reduced points basis for student entering through HEAR. The quota of places available differs from one institution to another. 


Students who secure a place through HEAR are offered a variety of academic, personal and social supports while studying at third level. At NUI Galway we offer students

  • An Orientation programme to introduce you to university
  • Study Skills and Learning Support
  • One-to-One meetings with student advisors, social gatherings and mentoring
  • A bursary and advice regarding grants and scholarships.               


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.
How many places are there for HEAR students each year?

Each of the participating colleges set aside a quota of places for HEAR students each year.  For further information on the number of places available in particular institutions or courses, contact the Access Service in the college of your choice.In NUI Galway, 15% of places are reserved for non-traditional students. Non traditional students include socio-economically disadvantaged students, mature students and students with a disability. So on average; HEAR students compete for 5% of reserved places in NUI Galway. In 2012, approx 199 students accepted places in NUI Galway through HEAR.


What are NUI Galway’s Entry Requirements for students applying through HEAR? 

In order to be considered for places in NUI Galway through HEAR, applicants must meet matriculation and course specific requirements.As a HEAR applicant you are considered competitive if, after matriculation and course requirements, you reach approximately 80 – 90% of the Leaving Certificate points for the course of your choice.


How do I make a HEAR application?

  • Apply online at www.cao.ie as part of the CAO application process by 1 February 2013
  • Indicate your wish to be considered for HEAR in the appropriate section of the CAO application form. 
  • Complete the separate online HEAR application form. 
  • Complete a number of additional questions relating to:
    • Your family's financial situation
    • Employment status of your parents
    • School you attend
  • Submit supporting documentation to the CAO (e.g. P21, Notice of Assessment) by 1 April 2013
Applications for HEAR can only be made online. Making an application to HEAR after February 1st will not be possible. 


Does HEAR look at all of my CAO course choices?

HEAR only considers course choices for the participating HEIs i.e. NUIM, DCU, DIT, NUIG, TCD, UCC, UCD, & UL and the 7 colleges of education.


Will HEAR know if I change my CAO choices?

If you are changing your mind, you should complete the “Change of Mind” form available through the CAO. Individual HEIs may impose restrictions on ’Change of Mind’. A table of restricted courses is available on the back of the Application Guide. There is no need to notify the Access Office in the event of a ’Change of Mind’. 


What happens next?

  • Places are offered to students as part of the CAO offers process. Students will also receive a letter from the Access Office of the relevant HEI.
  • If at any stage of the process your application is deemed ineligibe for HEAR the CAO will you in late June 2013.
  • There is a Recheck facility if you feel there was an administrative error. You will receive details of the Recheck in late June 2013.
  • Once the place is offered the student must follow the normal CAO acceptance process.
  • Students who accept a HEAR offer are required to attend a full-time Orientation Programme in the HEI in which they accept a place.
  • The Orientation Programme is a compulsory element of the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR). Failure to complete the programme may result in the withdrawal of the HEAR offer and/or post-entry supports.
  • A student wishing to defer their course offer must contact the relevant Access and/or Admissions Office for advice.


What supports can a HEAR student expect to receive while at college?
Along with existing HEI Student Services, each Access Office will endeavour to provide academic, personal and social supports to students.In addition you should apply separately for the Higher Education Maintenance Grant through your Local Authority or Local VEC. The closing date for this separate grant scheme is likely to be summer 2013.


Where can I get more information?


Who has access to my personal details?

All information provided in the HEAR application is treated with the utmost confidence.  Some information provided by you may be used (once anonymised) for research purposes to inform future developments of HEAR.


Closing dates:

Completed Application Form

1 February 2013

Financial Documentation in Support of your Application

1 April 2013


Further information

For information on HEAR in NUI Galway contact hearnuigalway.ie  or 091 494053