What is Access/ Widening Participation?

Equity of Access to Higher Education

Widening participation has been a priority for colleges and universities in recent years. Recruiting students from all walks of life who demonstrate the ability, motivation and potential to succeed at third level will, over time, draw outstanding talent from a broad pool of applicants. This will make sure that our colleges and universities remain diverse, vibrant places in which to study and become more representative of the society which they serve.

Entry to colleges and universities has been traditionally dominated by school leavers who have completed the Leaving Certificate Examination. Entry is decided on an open, transparent and competitive basis through the Central Applications Office [CAO] established by the universities. Many colleges and universities have made significant strides in providing programmes aimed at achieving equity of access for learners of all backgrounds, identities and abilities.

As a means of widening participation in 3rd level, participating colleges have developed a range of initiatives including the following supplementary admission routes:

Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)
Mature Students