The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) and Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) published their Annual Report today, showing a 22% increase in acceptance of places in higher education by students with disabilities and 15% increase by students experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage for the 2020-21 academic year.
The report shows that almost one in five students who applied to the Central Applications Office (CAO) in 2020 were assessed for HEAR and/or DARE eligibility, and 11,576 places were offered to these applicants.
In addition to the increase in the number of places offered to eligible students from last year, the number of applicants to each scheme also increased, by 28% to DARE and 14% to HEAR.
These access schemes were launched in 2010, and since then, they have grown from eight participating Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to 25. The number of applicants to DARE in those ten years has increased from 1,836 to 5,642, and for HEAR, the number has increased from 4,229 to 6,555.
All Universities, Institutes of Technology, Technological Universities and Colleges of Education in Ireland now support the schemes. Each HEI reserves at least 5% of its places per year for applicants to DARE and HEAR in partnership with the CAO.
Access Manager at the Irish Universities Association Colm Downes, who authored this year’s report, stated that “considering the influence that COVID-19 had on Leaving Certificate students in 2020, we are delighted to have been able to substantially increase the number of DARE and HEAR applicants accepting reduced points offers for Higher Education this year”.
A second-year Biomedical Engineering student in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Cian O’Connell, is currently supported by the HEAR scheme. Upon the release of this year’s report, he noted its benefit in his studies, outlining that it has helped him in many ways, “from one-to-one meetings, to financial bursaries, and help in purchasing a new laptop so that I could continue with online study during COVID-19”.
Another student, Iqura Naseem, is currently pursuing a Masters in Accounting with support from both DARE and HEAR. She reports that “the access scheme connects everybody like a family. There’s so much help out there, in every college there is a disability office and they give you all the supports that you need”.