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Access Service

Access Service

Secondary Schools


U & University

U & University

U & University is the DCU Access widening participation outreach programme for junior cycle secondary school students. This programme offers events and activities on the DCU campus to students from 1st to 3rd year attending our linked schools.

Sporting DCU

Sporting DCUIn collaboration with DCU Sports and the Students Union, Soccer and Rugby Development Officers will visit linked schools and give inspirational talks to students about skills they can develop in order to achieve success. Talks are aimed at Junior Cycle students and areas covered will include motivation and time management.

In addition, we will host a Sports blitz on Friday 28th September for 1st year students attending our link schools.

Junior Discover DCU - discovering pathways to third level

Our Junior Discover DCU programme of workshops are offered to 2nd year students and will run on selected Wednesday mornings. Nominated students from our linked schools will attend a workshop here in DCU which will explore goal setting, and 'how to get to college'. These are interactive and fun workshops which are aimed at introducing students to the idea of going to college.

In collaboration with Young Social Innovators (YSI) a number of workshops will be offered to 2nd year students from link schools.  These workshops will be held on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 11th October 2018.

Maths Initiatives

Maths InitiativesThe DCU Access Service will host a number of maths quizzes here in DCU which are open to 1st and 2nd year students from our linked schools. Teams of 4 students are invited to represent their school and supporters are welcome.

We are delighted to announce continued sponsorship from Oath for our highly successful Trinity Comprehensive Mathematics Outreach Programme. In conjunction with Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun and the DCU Maths Learning Centre, current DCU students volunteer to work with school students in junior cycle on a weekly basis, providing them with one-to-one tuition in the area of mathematics.

Achievement Awards

The Achievement Awards 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 are an important strand of the DCU Access Service Schools Programme, which fosters 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

The 2018 Access Achievement Awards ceremony will take place in The Helix on Tuesday 11th December 2018.

Attendance Awards

The DCU Attendance Awards aim to encourage and reward students who achieve the highest attendance records in their group throughout the academic year. Certificates will be awarded at the end of term to nominated students from our linked schools from 1st to 3rd year who have either full attendance or who have most improved attendance.

Introduction to Campus Life

Campus LifeWe offer each of our linked schools the opportunity to bring students onto the campus for a tour and talk by a staff member and an Access student. Linked schools at primary and secondary level attending school plays in The Helix are encouraged to combine their visit with a campus tour.

The Access Service are also delighted to welcome community groups and youth agencies onto campus for tours and a talk by a staff member with a view to promoting a positive educational experience.

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. Applications are available from the DCU Access Service from September 2017.

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

For more information, please see DCU Summer Scholars.




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.

DCU TY exposes students to transformative educational opportunities by engaging them in curriculum which facilitates 21st Century Learning. The following video gives an overview of the programme, including feedback from some of the TY students involved.


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 by DCU 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, 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, which take place in April each year are provided by DCU to recognise and celebrate the personal and professional achievements of TY students who participated in the programme. DCU also recognises our Partner Schools and their participation in the Programme.

For more information on DCU TY contact

Guiding the Way Forward - Career Exploration for Senior Cycle Students

Guiding the Way Forward is an Award winning Initiative, funded by the Citi Foundation in collaboration with DCU. The initiative provides a Career Guidance Curriculum and a suite of Multimedia Resources for use by Career Guidance Counsellors in DEIS Schools. The curriculum contains Ireland’s largest repository of peer-to-peer audio and video resources on Career Guidance. The multimedia content was created, designed and produced by third level students in collaboration with Senior Cycle students in DEIS Post Primary Schools.

The Programme aims to provide engaging multimedia content for use in a classroom context, equipping senior cycle students in DEIS Schools with career management skills necessary for career choice decisions and to support the development of attributes for the broader life-career context. More importantly it aims to address specific challenges facing second level students experiencing socio-economic disadvantage in terms of their future career planning and progression to higher education.

Guiding the Way Forward curriculum

Audio and Video resources

Guiding the Way Forward website - log in with username guest and password gtwf2015

Citi Foundation Logo



What is UFirst?

UFirst is a programme of supports throughout 5th and 6th year of secondary school available to students from less privileged backgrounds on application. This programme of events, activities and workshops has been created to provide support in applying to university and build the skills needed to succeed as an undergraduate student.

Tell me more about UFirst

UFirstUFirst is a programme specially designed for students in 5th and 6th year who are part of underrepresented groups. It’s designed to give you the knowledge, confidence and skills you need to begin your university journey. It’s completely free of charge.

As a UFirst student, you’ll:

  • Find out more about College life and preparing for University
  • Get support and guidance on different courses you 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 your personal development with life coaching
  • Attend a one week summer school between 5th and 6th year to help build the skills needed to prepare you for college life
Who is it for?

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

We’d really love to hear from students who live or have lived in the care of the HSE, are young carers themselves, or are members of the Traveller community.

Applicants should also meet as many as possible of the criteria for the HEAR/Access DCU Entry routes, i.e. low income, means tested social welfare payment, living in a disadvantaged area and attendance at a DEIS school. Each indicator is weighted and priority given to those students who meet all of the criteria.

For more information on HEAR eligibility criteria please see HEAR.

How do I apply?

UFirst was created to help students from underrepresented groups access higher education, so we have a strict eligibility criteria – make sure you read this section fully before starting your application.

Who is UFirst for?

UFirst is for 5th Year students who are studying at least two higher level subjects and at least ordinary level maths.

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
How are students shortlisted?

As well as the criteria above, we’ll take a look at the following when we’re shortlisting students for the UFirst programme:

  • Where you live - We are particularly interested in applicants who come from an area where there is low participation among young people in higher education
  • The school you attend - Applicants will be prioritised if they are attending a DEIS School (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools)
  • Social Welfare Payment - We are particularly interested in applicants whose family income includes a means tested social welfare payment
  • Medical Card - We are particularly interested in students who either themselves, their parents/guardians have a HSE medical card/GP visit card
  • The quality of your personal statement - Your personal statement is a 400-word essay that covers what you hope to get out of UFirst and why you think you’d be a great participant.
How do I apply?

Applications for 2018-19 will open on 11th September 2018 and close on Friday 5th October 2018.

Before starting your application, please read the following notes carefully:

As well as the time it takes to write your personal statement, we recommend allowing 10-15 minutes to work your way through the application form. You can’t save your application as you go, so make sure you give yourself enough time to complete it. You’ll be asked to provide contact details for a teacher in your school or college so we can get in touch with them to verify your application. This should be:

  • Year Head
  • Guidance Counsellor
  • The teacher who told you about UFirst

Please make sure your contact knows that we’ll be in touch.

You will not receive an email to confirm receipt of your application, but there will be a ‘Thank You’ and confirmation screen at the end of the application form. Please do not contact us to check whether we’ve received your application as, due to a high volume of queries, we are unable to process these requests.

Click here to go to the UFirst Application Form.

What’s the deadline?

Applications for 2018-19 will open on 11th September 2018 and close on Friday 5th October 2018.

How will I know I have a place on UFirst?

If your application to UFirst has been successful, we’ll get in touch by email. Once we’ve contacted you, you’ll need to complete a final acceptance form and your teacher will need to verify your application. When this has been done, we’ll send a final email confirming your place.

It’s really important that you provide the correct email address on your application form (check, check and check again!) and that you check your emails regularly, including the junk folder.

If you’ve been unsuccessful, your name will be added to a waiting list and we may be in touch later in the year to offer you a place on UFirst if there’s space available.

If you have any questions about applying to UFirst or would like to chat about the process further, get in touch on or call 01 7006040.

We look forward to receiving your application!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cost to be on UFirst?

The UFirst programme is completely free of charge.

What does the school need to do?

We have worked hard to ensure that UFirst does not represent an extra administrative burden on school staff. The scheme is centrally administered and all correspondence goes directly to the pupil. We do, however, ask for some key actions from school staff:

  • to provide a reference for each pupil who applies for UFirst
  • to provide a named contact within your school
  • to give permission for pupils on UFirst to leave school for a set number of activities throughout the academic year. Please note, we will not run any activities during exam periods.
Will my participation in UFirst affect my application if I apply to study at DCU through the CAO?

Participation on UFirst is not a guarantee of a place at DCU. However, if you successfully complete the programme, we hope that the skills you gain and experiences you have during your time on UFirst will support and enable you to progress to 3rd level. Participants will be given information and support in applying to the CAO, completing HEAR/DARE applications and Grant applications as part of the programme.

What is the UFirst Summer School?

The UFirst Summer School is a completely free of charge, non-residential activity for all students enrolled on the UFirst programme. Students will come to DCU for a week during their summer holiday to take part in academic tasters, fun activities, and social events.

Will there be activities outside of the timetable?

We aim to keep the number of activities that you will be participating in to a minimum. However, opportunities may come up at various points in the year that will not be compulsory. We will let you know when these come up.

When do applications open/close?

Applications for 2018-19 will open on 11th September 2018 and close on Friday 5th October 2018.

How can I find out more information about UFirst?

You can email us at or phone 01 7006040.

For a summary of the programme, download our information booklets:

UFirst Information for Students

UFirst Information for Students

UFirst Information for Teachers

UFirst Information for Teachers



CPD for Teachers

Student Empowerment and Life Skills Training

For our linked schools participating in the DCU TY programme and who intend to deliver the Student Empowerment and Life Skills module, training* is provided by Helena Ahern, Psychologist and Psychotherapist and Head of Counselling and Personal Development in DCU.

Next training dates: 9th October and 23rd October 2018

* Please note that the Student Empowerment and Life Skills training module should only be delivered by a qualified Guidance Counsellor or equivalent.

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 Darran Heaney, eLearning Project Officer with the DCU Access Service.

Next training date: Monday 24th September 2018

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

Smart Skills Training

Next training date: Monday 24th September 2018

For more information on the Smart Skills module and training, please contact

Leadership Training

There is currently no training planned for this semester.

For further information on the programme, please contact


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