Sport Ireland Institute ASAS Awards

01 Dec 2022
Stephen Walsh

Four Third Level Institutions Awarded Accreditation for Student Athlete Support

Four Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been awarded the Sport Ireland Institute Accreditation for Student Athlete Support (ASAS), which recognises good practice in ‘dual career’ support for student athletes.

Dublin City University and Ulster University have been awarded full accreditation in conjunction with Student Sport Ireland, with the National College of Ireland and University of Galway being named as an ASAS Affiliate recipient.  These awardees join the inaugural group of six HEI’s awarded accreditation earlier in 2022 - Queens University Belfast, Setanta College, Technological University Dublin, University College Cork, University of Limerick along with Trinity College Dublin (Affiliate level).

ASAS is based on providing equal opportunity to all high-performing student-athletes to combine sport and education and is grounded in the right to education. The accreditation outlines clear dual career criteria that third-level institutes must have in order to receive the accreditation. The accreditation aims to identify and establish a network of accredited institutions who support elite athletes to achieve dual career excellence by applying guiding principles.

Speaking at the awards presentation, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers TD commended the introduction of the accreditation for third level institutions: “The ASAS initiative is a very welcome addition to the high performance sport landscape, recognising the important role that our third level institutions play in the development and support of our student athletes. Having an athlete centred approach makes pursuing education and sport at the highest level a viable and worthwhile option for athletes. All ASAS accredited third level institutions are to be commended on their work to date, and I look forward to seeing many more join them in the years ahead.”

Sport Ireland Chief Executive Dr Una May commented: “It’s no surprise that high-performance athletes have unique demands in comparison to the non-student athlete population. Because of increased time and energy demands, increased accountability to various support providers, international travel and competition requirements, athletes require flexible and supportive structures in order to successfully attain a dual career. Creating an environment that supports dual career athletes is a key success factor.  A suitable dual career environment requires understanding and consistent, structured support, and that is what our successful ASAS are providing on an ongoing basis. A lot of work has been put in behind the scenes to make this accreditation possible, and the team in the Sport Ireland Institute and Student Sport Ireland are to be commended for bringing this to fruition.”

Combining education or full-time work with a sporting career is known as a ‘dual career’. Over the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of high-performance athletes engaging in third level education. The short and long-term value of gaining an academic qualification in advance of athletic retirement has been well documented and includes;

  • benefits to performance
  • having a more rounded and integrated identity
  • enhanced personal development and future employability
  • a healthier post-athletic career adjustment

Director of Sport Ireland Institute Liam Harbison added: “The main aim of the ASAS programme is to formalise and raise the level of dual career support for student athletes throughout the higher education sector in Ireland.  Our goal is to have a majority of Higher Education Institutions ASAS Accredited by 2025. A promising start has been made towards this target, with ten now fully accredited or on the journey to doing so. Sport Ireland Institute will be seeking applications for accreditation once again in 2023, and we are encouraging all HEIs to work towards the ASAS standard.”



For Further Information:

Emma Saunders 


**Photography of accreditation presentations available FOC through Sportsfile**


Notes to the Editor:

ASAS Award Committee:

  • Liam Harbison, Director, Sport Ireland Institute (Chair)
  • Mary Dorgan, Board Member, Sport Ireland
  • Pierce O’Callaghan, Board Member, Student Sport Ireland
  • Niamh O’Sullivan, Director, Sport Ireland High Performance Unit
  • Eoin Rheinisch, Head of Athlete Lifeskills, Sport Ireland Institute
  • Henry Shefflin, Independent Member 


ASAS Steering Committee:

  • Emma Saunders, Dual Career Lead, Sport Ireland Institute (Chair)
  • Deirdre Lyons, Rugby Players Ireland
  • David McHugh, Setanta College
  • Jeff Gomez, UCC
  • Niamh O’Callaghan, High Performance Committee Chair, Student Sport Ireland
  • Yvonne McGowan, DCU
  • Gary Ryan, Head of Capability & Expertise, Sport Ireland Institute
  • Ian Smith, Dept. of TCAGSM
  • Gabriel O’Gorman, Dept. of TCAGSM


Individual HEI Quotes:

Dublin City University

“DCU are delighted to be awarded the Sport Ireland Accreditation for Student Athlete Support and to be providing equal opportunity to all high-performing student-athletes to combine sport and third level education. We’re looking forward to building and continuing networking relationships both internally and externally to support our high-performing student-athletes with a holistic approach.


Thank you to Sport Ireland for the recognition, to our DCU staff who will continue to provide such supports and to the coaches and background teams of our student-athletes for their ongoing cooperation.”

Prof. Daire Keogh, President


Ulster University

“Ulster University is honoured to have been awarded the Sport Ireland Institute Full Accreditation for Student Athlete Support (ASAS) in recognition of our work in supporting our high performing student athletes, to achieve their dual academic and sporting ambitions. 

At Ulster University, we play a key role in developing talent for the future, in sport and in many other facets of society.  We are committed to continuing to invest in the long-term aspirations and futures of our students and in our campus environments.

Through a collaborative approach with key stakeholders within and beyond Ulster University, we will strive through our dual career programme to ensure the best possible future outcomes for our high performance student athletes.”

Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor 


National College of Ireland

"Everyone here in NCI is delighted to receive affiliate level award. The commitment of our student athletes is something that we are immensely proud of and we will continue to support our students from both and sporting and academic perspective to ensure. This award/accreditation is further testament to the great work done by our sports staff, coaches and students themselves and our desire to achieve full accreditation in the very near future".

Stephen Cleary, Engagement & Experience Officer

University of Galway

“University Of Galway is delighted to be part of the Dual career initiative led by the Irish Sport Institute. This initiative will allow Irish athletes compete on a level playing pitch with the very best in the world as well as allow our very best the opportunity to pursue their Sporting ambitions While at the same time ensuring that they are well educated to take their place in society once their sporting careers come to an end. The university of Galway values this partnership with the sport institute and looks forward to working with the institute on further sporting initiatives in the coming years.”

Mike Heskin. Director of Sport & Physical Activity.


About the ASAS Award:

To achieve the full ASAS award, applicants must satisfy all of four broad criteria.  An Affiliate Award, denoting that a HEI is on the journey to the full ASAS award is issued to applicants who meet all but one of the criteria.  They have a period of 2 years to fulfil the outstanding requirements for the full award.

The primary criteria are in four specific areas:

  1. Nominated Lead Dual Career Coordinator with named nominated mentors in each school/department and clear roles and responsibilities for each
  2. Formal institution wide academic flexibility in place
  3. Evidence of formalised student athlete responsibilities to receive dual career support
  4. Evidence and examples of how the institution will self-evaluate the effectiveness of the programme each year

The programme was launched in July 2021 following lengthy conversation with the third level sports sector but also briefings with the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA).  Student Sport Ireland also endorsed the programme with their member HEI’s. Prior to this, in order to build relationships between Sport Ireland, HEI’s and the High Performance sport system, the Sport Ireland Institute hosted annual Dual Careers Fora for ideas to be shared. Ultimately the development and support for the ASAS programme emerged from these fora and have been widely supported by the student sport sector.