Secondary Schools | Access

Secondary Schools

DCU Access have set out to create a ‘life cycle of engagement’ between the university and our Access students which starts in 1st year in secondary school and continues through to graduation.


U & University

U & University (1st to 3rd Years)

U & University is the DCU Access widening participation outreach programme for junior cycle secondary school students. Through activities & events with students from the Junior cycle, the U & University programme aims to introduce 1st to 3rd year students from our 22  linked schools to the DCU campus. 

Activities include:

  • Interactive and fun activities such as sports blitzes (rugby & soccer) 
  • Maths quizzes which are open to 1st and 2nd year students from our linked schools

In May 2019, 17 teams from 11 schools took part in the quiz. The winning team from Grange Community College were awarded their prizes by representatives of our sponsor Verizon.

Our Maths quizzes for 1st and 2nd years are scheduled to take place in March and April 2020.

  • Campus tours and motivational talks in schools about skills they can develop in order to achieve success

  • Junior Discover DCU workshops exploring the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to go to college and what campus life looks like.

  • Talent search for gifted students to take part in the range of programmes run by the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland.

Achievement Awards

The Access Achievement Awards Ceremony is a key event in the DCU Access service calendar. This scheme was launched by the DCU Access Service in 1997 for students from our linked secondary schools in the North Dublin region. It is designed to recognise, reward and encourage excellence in both the academic and extracurricular aspects of a student's school life. The Access Achievement Awards aim to foster positive attitudes to education and encourages young people to remain at school and consider third-level education as a viable option for them.

Students in 3rd year who are attending our linked schools are recognised for their various accomplishments and achievements in the areas of:

  • Academics
  • Sports
  • Arts & Culture
  • Community Spirit
  • Exceptional Nomination

Our last DCU Access Achievement Awards took place on 26th November’19 in the Helix and rewarded over 300 third year students from 17 schools for their achievements in the above categories: Academic, Community Spirit, Arts & Culture.

DCU Summer Scholars*

In collaboration with the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI) the DCU Access Service has a number of places on the ‘Summer Scholars’ Programme available to our linked schools. With the support of Matheson a limited number of reduced-cost places are available, allowing students the opportunity to engage in new subjects as well as subjects of interest in a fun and motivating environment. While studying their courses, students will also have the opportunity to participate in sport and recreational activities. Gifted children can be identified through the CTYI assessment process, which is also available free of charge to students in our linked schools thanks to the generous support of Matheson. 

* This programme is open to students aged between 12 and 17.

For more information, please see DCU Summer Scholars.



DCU TY (Transition Year)

DCU TY is a skills based programme specifically aimed at Transition Year students, aged 15 to 16 years old. The programme has been designed to increase student engagement in education and raise motivation and career aspirations and broaden students' world view.


UniTYThe programme centres on curriculum which is largely technology based. It consists of 4 Modules which are delivered in schools by teachers who receive training and support by DCU.

20 hours of curriculum on Multimedia & Social Innovation

The Multimedia module enables the students to become digital creators. It empowers them by giving them a voice to create awareness and drive change in their communities through the development of a video. This module develops important 21st Century Skills, such as collaboration, problem solving and becoming a self directed learner.

20 hours of curriculum on Smart Skills

Smart Skills focuses on Coding and App design. Students learn how to design, code and test Android apps and develop necessary skills for successful software development. Critical skills developed through this module include project management, problem solving, teamwork and communication skills.

16 hours of curriculum on Employability & Leadership

Employability & Leadership empowers students with leadership skills and prepares them for work placements during their Transition Year. The module involves a series of workshops for students on discovering their own skills and how to plan for their own future.

16 hours of curriculum on Student Empowerment

Students Empowerment focuses on dealing with unhelpful thinking, stress management, procrastination and how to reach your full potential.


The DCU TY Awards, will take place on 21st of April 2020 and will recognise and celebrate the personal and professional achievements of TY students who have participated in the programme. DCU also recognises our partner schools and their participation in the programme.

For more information on DCU TY, see

Ryan Academy Summer Camp – May’19

We’re delighted that the partnership between the DCU Institute of Education, the DCU Ryan Academy and the Access Service continued this year. Thirty places were offered on the Entrepreneurship & Robotics Summer Camp to Transition Year students to schools from north Dublin linked to the DCU Access Service. 

Students attending Ryan Academy entrepreneurship and Lego ACADEMY



UFirst ( 5th and 6th Year)

The U First programme is a key initiative available to our 22 linked schools. It offers the opportunity for secondary school students in fifth and sixth year to engage in an intensive two-year programme of support throughout the academic year. 

In September 2019, 65 students from 17 schools enrolled in our programme and are attending a series of thematic workshops between October 2019 and May 2020 enabling them to:

  • Find out more about College life and preparing for University
  • Get support and guidance on different courses they can study in college and how to apply
  • Take part in careers workshops - learn CV building and interview skills
  • Learn about different routes to college and supports available
  • Be supported in their personal development with life coaching
  • Shadow a DCU student studying a subject of interest

Who can apply?

UFirst is for 5th Year students who are studying at least two higher level subjects and at least ordinary level maths and who have an interest in progressing to 3rd level.

However, as long as you are studying in a DEIS School (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), we will consider all applications from students who:

  • live or have lived in the care of the HSE
  • are a young carer
  • are a member of the Traveller community

Applicants should also meet as many as possible of the criteria for the HEAR/Access DCU Entry routes,

For more information on HEAR eligibility criteria please see HEAR.

How do you apply?

Each September, we invite sixty 5th year students from our linked schools to make an application to participate in the programme. Interested students complete an online application and provide contact details for a teacher/ guidance counsellor in their school or college so we can get in touch with them to verify their application.

For more information on the application process, please check our U First leaflets:

U First information for students & U First information for teachers

We look forward to receiving your application!

Some useful information about U First

  • The UFirst programme is completely free of charge.
  • U First participants will participated in a minimum of seven workshops in year 1 and will receive tailored support in year 2
  • Participation on UFirst does not guarantee a place at DCU but we hope that the skills you gain and experiences you acquire while on UFirst will enable you to progress to 3rd level
  • The DCU Access service seeks the expertise of other units within the Student Support & Development Service to offer the best experience to students

If you have any questions about applying to UFirst or would like to chat about the process further, get in touch on or call the DCU Access Outreach Officer, Laurence Van der Haegen on 01 7006040.

CPD for Teachers

CPD for Teachers

Student Empowerment and Life Skills Training

Training is provided to the linked schools  who intend to deliver the Student Empowerment and Life Skills module. These sessions are delivered by Helena Ahern, Psychologist and Psychotherapist and Head of Counselling and Personal Development in DCU.

In February / March 2020, the Access Service, in partnership with the counselling service have planned to offer peer to peer support/ mentoring training to guidance counsellors.

For more information on the Student Empowerment and Life Skills module and training, please contact

Multimedia & Social Innovation Training

For our linked schools participating in the DCU TY programme and who intend to deliver the Multimedia Module, training is provided by our eLearning Project Officer.

Next training date:  September 23rd 2019

For more information on the Multimedia module and to register for the training, please contact

Smart Skills Training

Next training date: September 23rd 2019

For more information on Smart Skills and to register for the training, please contact

Leadership Training

There is currently no training planned for this semester.

For further information on the programme, please contact

For any other training needs, please feel free to contact your DCU Access Outreach Officer, Laurence Van der Haegen, 01 7006040.