1. Introduction

The HEA uses Deprivation Index Scores (DIS) to assess the socio-economic profiles of higher education students in Ireland. Widening participation for equity of access is of utmost importance – to ensure that the higher education student population reflects the diversity of the wider population in Ireland. Data and evidence in this area is crucial to policy-makers – to drive and implement change, and to further promote accessibility of third-level education to all.

  • What are Deprivation Index Scores?

    How affluent or deprived is the area you live in?

    The Deprivation Index Scores measures the relative affluence or deprivation of a particular geographical area. This uses data from the 2016 Census, and is measured right down to street level, based on small-area statistics (on average, 80-100 households).

    Thus, showing the extent to which every neighbourhood, suburb, and village is affluent or deprived. Ten key indicators are included in this measure (e.g., the proportion of skilled professionals, employment levels, education levels).

    More information on Deprivation Index Scores can be found here.

  • Methodology

    The Socio-Economic Profiles requires an Irish student home address. Therefore, by default, only Irish-domiciled students are included in the analyses. In total, there are 220,280 Irish-domiciled students in 2020/21. Of these, only 3% of addresses could not be assigned a DIS. As such, DIS coverage for the 2020/21 profiles is 97%.

    Note that all graphs and visualisations provided in this report have a minimum cell count of 100 students applied, unless otherwise stated.

  • How do I interpret Deprivation Index Scores?

    Deprivation Index Scores (DIS) range from a scale of -40 (most disadvantaged) to +40 (most affluent). DIS scores are categorised in the following way:

    • -40 to -10: Disadvantaged
    • -10 to 0: Marginally Below Average
    • 0 to +10: Marginally Above Average
    • +10 to +40: Affluent

Executive Summary

  • One in ten higher education students in Ireland are disadvantaged, while one in five are affluent (29% are Marginally Below Average, and 42% are Marginally Above Average). Compared to 2019/20, this is largely the same.
  • The average DIS score in 2020/21 is 2.1; in 2019/20, this was very similar at 2.0.
  • Postgraduate students tend to be more affluent (DIS = 3.8) than Undergraduate students (DIS = 1.7). One in four Postgraduate students are affluent.
  • While 24% of affluent students are engaged in Postgraduate studies, only 13% of disadvantaged students are engaged in Postgraduate studies.
  • By entry basis of Undergraduate New Entrants, students entering through the HEAR scheme are most disadvantaged, where one in three are disadvantaged. In contrast, students entering through the DARE scheme are, on average, most affluent, where one in four are affluent.
  • 3 in 4 affluent students enter higher education through second level school leaving exams, compared to 59% of disadvantaged students. For disadvantaged students, 13% are entering through Mature Years, and 10% are entering through a further education award or equivalent.
  • By detailed field of study, Child Care and Youth Services are most disadvantaged (DIS = -2.2), while Economics students are, on average, most affluent (DIS = 6.8).
  • Students from Dublin are most affluent (DIS = 6.3), while students from Donegal are most disadvantaged (DIS = -5.5).
  • The median travel time for students from their home address to their institute is 43 minutes.

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