About Access

From humble beginnings…

DCU’s location is quite unique, servicing radically different neighbourhoods, incorporating some of Ireland’s most affluent communities and some of the country's most disadvantaged.

From its inception as a small technological university DCU has sought to actively engage and provide equal access to all groups within the wider community. 

In 1989 as a fledgling University, DCU’s Governing Body voted in favour of implementing a local initiative aimed at addressing the low numbers of students entering third-level from one of its closest neighbourhoods in North Dublin – Ballymun. Through successful partnership with a number of key community groups in the local area, the Ballymun Initiative for Third Level Education (BITE) was founded. In 1990, six students entered DCU through the BITE initiative. Today, over 1,200 Access Scholars, representing every county in Ireland, are studying at undergraduate and postgraduate level across the University.

If you have any questions please contact us at access@dcu.ie.



Using evidence-based practice, we work with our DCU colleagues, schools, communities and corporate groups to champion higher educational opportunities, to provide equal access to and support progression through and beyond DCU for groups affected by economic and social adversity.



  • To increase the number of students being targeted through our outreach programmes, to engage their parents, schools, and communities, and instill the belief that third-level education is a viable and achievable option for them.
  • Through the delivery of bespoke supports ensure successful transition, retention, progression, and outcomes for Access students by harnessing the support of the DCU community and its philanthropic partners.

The work of the DCU Access Service can be broadly divided into four key areas. These are:

1.     DCU Access Outreach Programme

Provides support to DEIS Schools, Communities and Access eligible individuals in North Dublin through the U & University, UniTY, and UFirst programmes. Click here for more information.

2.     Entry Routes for Leaving Cert Students

Facilitates three separate Entry Routes through which Leaving Certificate students can apply to study at DCU on an Access Scholarship. These are: Access DCU Entry Route (ADER), Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and Access DCU Entry Route-Accelerator Scheme. Click here for more information.

3.     Support to Access Scholars in DCU

Provide a host of financial, academic, professional & personal development supports to over 1,000 Access Scholars studying at undergraduate and postgraduate level in DCU. Click here for more information.

4.     Conduct / Commission Research

Conduct and commission research which helps inform our work, creates best practice and impacts upon the wider national and international Access Agenda. Click here for more information.

All students under the age of 23 who have completed a Leaving Certificate and are from one of the following target groups:

  • Students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds living in Ireland
  • 1st generation students with no history of 3rd level education in the family
  • Students residing in North Dublin in communities with lowest progression to third level education
  • Students experiencing double disadvantage (disability and socio-economic disadvantage)
  • Working class boys
  • Young people in the care of the State
  • Young carers
  • Members of the Traveller community.
  • DCU has the oldest and largest Higher Education Access Programme in Ireland.
  • The Programme is built on 30 Years of experience informed by practitioner-led research.
  • 93% of Access students who enter DCU complete third level education.
  • In 2020, 97% of Access students were awarded a higher honours degree with 83% achieving a first-class or second class - grade 1 honours degree.
  • The employment rates for DCU Access graduates is 96% with 85% of Access graduates employed in an area directly related to their degree.
  • There are 1,168 Access students currently studying in DCU with 332 students entering first year in 2020.
  • In 2020, one in five access students accepting a reduced point level 8 offers in Ireland attends DCU. 
  • 10,000 primary and secondary school students in the North Dublin Region, partake in Access DCU initiatives yearly.
  • Our Access to the Workplace programme places second-year access students on a paid summer internship

DCU students and employers explain the importance of Access to the Workplace which provides work experience to Access students. 

The DCU Access Impact Report for the academic year 2019/2020 is available for download.