University admission schemes, Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) and the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) were recognised recently under the Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Awards. The awards, which seek out improvements and innovative activities from the public sector, recognised the success of the DARE and HEAR schemes in increasing the numbers of students entering Third Level with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Since the schemes were opened to all secondary school students in 2009 HEAR has seen a 154% increase in applications and 103% increase in acceptances. The number of acceptances of a college place through DARE has risen by over 300% from 214 in 2009 to 753 in 2011. The University of Limerick has also seen a rapid increase in both student cohorts with numbers increasing by 240% over the same period.
The Access and Disability Offices at the University of Limerick have played an important part in the development and management of both national schemes with staff members chairing the two Operational Groups and holding membership of the National Strategic Development Group over the life-time of the project. The two offices work in close collaboration with the Admissions Office in the Student Affairs Division to ensure that eligible candidates under the HEAR and DARE schemes are admitted to its undergraduate programmes. As part of this process, the University manages a “quota” of places for eligible candidates who may not have achieved the level of points required for admission purposes.
The presentation of the Award for Excellence specifically noted an additional key role of the University of Limerick in facilitating the national role out of the admission schemes by developing and managing the data management function.
The University of Limerick provided the technological infrastructure to facilitate the screening of all applications nationally to the HEAR and DARE schemes. This empowered all participating institutions to screen applications more efficiently reducing the amount of resources required to complete the screening process.
Dr Bernadette Walsh, Director of Student Affairs, said; “In an environment of increasing pressures on the availability of resources, models of collaboration and shared services are becoming increasingly important in the Higher Education sector. The HEAR and DARE schemes are a perfect example of such a model. The HEAR and DARE system will greatly assist new applicants to the institutions all over the country and ensure an efficiency and transparency in the processing of their applications."