Mar 6, 2024

Discrepancies in DARE Admission Policies Revealed

Disparities in the approaches Dublin universities take to publicising grade boundaries and allocating places to DARE applicants reveal inconsistencies regarding access to education for students with disabilities.

Clara RocheEditor
Photo by Edmund Heaphy for The University Times

In 2009, the supplementary admission procedures operated by several Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Ireland were nationalised and relaunched as the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) scheme. The scheme aims to recognise the challenges faced by students with disabilities by allowing them to gain access to courses of their choice without the required leaving certificate points.

The scheme is conducted as part of the general CAO admissions system. However, an investigation by The University Times has revealed that the publication of grade boundaries and the allocation of places to DARE applicants is not standardised, and varies by institution and course.

Of the four universities in Dublin, three set the minimum entry requirements for each course for DARE eligible students as a percentage of the required points. Of these three, University College Dublin (UCD) offers the highest maximum points reduction to DARE applicants at 20 per cent. Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) offers the lowest at 12.5 per cent. 


In a statement to The University Times, a spokesperson for the admissions department at TU Dublin said: “TU Dublin’s CAO offering in 2023 included over 150 programmes, ranging from 556 points (not including portfolio programmes) down to AQA (i.e. “All Qualified Applicants” without regard to Leaving Certificate points). Due to this significant variance in the required points, a 12.5% reduction has proven to be the most equitable option to accommodate both high points programmes and those at the lower end of the points spread.” 

Previously, the TU Dublin website stated that DARE eligible applicants should present with at least 200 leaving certificate points. This “out of date” information was removed in response to questioning from The University Times, and the spokesperson clarified: “TU Dublin does not have any such restrictions.” 

The spokesperson noted that mature students and young adults from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are guaranteed a place at TU Dublin on completion of the university’s Access Foundation Programme. 

Dublin City University (DCU) offers a maximum points reduction of 75 points, and both DCU and UCD require eligible candidates to present with a minimum of 300 points to qualify for a reduction.

In some cases, available data also indicates discrepancies between the number of places reserved for Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) And DARE applicants. The HEAR scheme offers school leavers from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds reduced-points places. Most universities reserve an equal number of places for HEAR and DARE applicants on each course, at 5 per cent each. However, in the case of Medicine at UCD, 10 places are reserved for HEAR applicants while only two places are reserved for DARE applicants.

In response to questioning from The University Times, a representative from UCD said: “UCD is proud of its track record in enabling access for a wide range of diverse students, with 34.6 per cent of the student population drawn from access priority groups. UCD is a recognised leader in ensuring access and inclusion is a strategic whole-institution priority.”

She continued: “UCD has developed several additional entry routes which offer admission pathways to priority access groups, including HEAR, DARE, Mature Entry, QQI-FET Open Learning and  University Access; a quarter of first-year places are ring-fenced for these access routes.” 

“Within this access quota, eligible DARE applicants with sensory and physical disabilities and eligible applications that are both HEAR and DARE eligible, are prioritised by UCD when allocating access places.” 

“While a minimum of 2 places are listed for DARE, within the access quota, there is flexibility to maximise the number of access students entering UCD each year, which  means the access quota can be reallocated between the various admissions pathways (HEAR, DARE, University Access and Matures)  to ensure the maximum number of eligible access students are offered places in Medicine in UCD.” 

While UCD publishes the average grade boundaries for HEAR and DARE applicants, Trinity does not. A representative from the Disability Service told The University Times: “For Data Protection reasons, Trinity cannot confirm the cut-off points for HEAR or DARE offers for specific courses. Due to the small number of students admitted through these pathways, sharing this information would risk breaching the privacy of individual applicants.”

“We do have maximum points reductions that could be published but these may be misleading for students as competition for HEAR places on many courses is so high that the lowest points offer can be well above these figures.” 

The University Times has reached out to a representative from Trinity’s Disability Service for comment.

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