This article explains the university Clearing process, how it works and how it can help you find a university place if you don't already have an offer or have missed the results you needed. For a comprehensive guide to how to get through Clearing, take a look at our Guide to Clearing article.
What is Clearing?
- Clearing is still part of the UCAS process.
- It is a way for universities to fill any spaces they have left for the new academic year.
- It gives applicants who do not hold an offer another chance of finding a university place.
- If you haven't met your offers, have changed your mind or have only recently decided to apply for a university place then Clearing may be for you!
When does Clearing take place?
Clearing actually starts in early July and continues up until 22 October! However, if you don't yet have your exam results then you will need to wait until you receive them before you can apply through Clearing. In 2013, A-level results day is on Thursday 15 August. Scottish Higher and Advanced Higher results are released earlier, on Tuesday 6 August.
Applicants to Scottish universities will be able to use Clearing through UCAS Track from the afternoon of 6 August until 6pm on 7 August. After this and until A-level results day you will only be able to add a Clearing choice by phoning UCAS. A-level applicants will only be able to add a Clearing choice on UCAS Track from 5pm on the 15 August. If you have your exam results and know that you're in Clearing you can contact universities in advance to get invitations to add a university/course as a Clearing choice when the option appears on UCAS Track.
Most Clearing places are published and allocated to applicants in the week after A-level results day, but some places will be available for much longer. It is increasingly common for universities to publish their Clearing vacancies on their own websites before the official publication of clearing lists on A-level results day.
Can I go through Clearing?
You are eligible for Clearing if you have applied in the current application year, you have not withdrawn your application and one of the following criteria applies to you:
- you applied before 30 June and were not made any offers
- you applied before 30 June and declined all of your offers
- you did not meet the conditions of your Firm and Insurance choices, and they have declined to take you, or you have declined any alternative offers (changed course offers)
- you applied after 30 June. If UCAS received your application after this date, it will not have sent it to any universities or colleges and you will go straight into Clearing
You must have paid the full £22 UCAS application fee in order to be eligible for Clearing. If you have only paid £11 and made a single choice, then you will need to pay a further £11 to UCAS to use Clearing.
If you are in Clearing then this will be clearly displayed on your UCAS Track, where you will also find your Clearing number. You will need to provide universities with this number when talking to them, so as to allow them to view your UCAS application. You cannot apply through Clearing unless you have your Clearing number and universities may not talk to you without it.
Where do I find Clearing places?
- The Daily Telegraph newspaper publishes a full list of all Clearing vacancies on A-level results day. In addition it offers a Clearing mobile app for iPhone and Android.
- The electronic lists on the UCAS website are updated frequently, as universities inform UCAS that places have been filled.
- Most universities will publish their vacancies on their own websites - this is the most accurate list of vacancies available and will include more information on what grades are suitable and how to apply.
- You may also see some universities advertising in your local newspaper or on the TV.
You can apply to any university and any course that has vacancies during Clearing. Never enter a Clearing choice on UCAS Track without having been asked to do so by the university, as this can slow the process down and may result in you missing out on a place at university this year. Universities are very unlikely to accept you unless you have spoken to them first!
You don't have to apply for the same type of course that you applied for when making your original UCAS application, although the university will want to hear your reasons and motivations for wanting to study the new course. If you do change your subject choice then make sure the new course is right for you!
Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, LSE and UCL don't usually enter Clearing because there is such a lot of competition to attend these universities in the first place. However, other "top" universities sometimes enter Clearing for a few courses.
How does Clearing work?
Here's a short summary of what happens when universities get the exam results:
Lets say the quota of places on your course is 50. The uni might give out 120 offers, of which 40 accept as conditional firms, and another 30 accept as conditional insurance.
The universities get everyone's results from UCAS on the Sunday before the results get released to students, so they can see who has met the requirements and who has not. Lets say 30 of the 40 conditional firms make their grades, and 12 of the conditional insurances miss their firms but make their insurance. That means that 42 out of 50 places on the course are automatically filled up, and the uni has to spend the next few days, from Sunday to Thursday, deciding who will get the final eight places.
They will consider those 10 conditional firms who missed their grades, rank them, and choose the lucky eight who are going to get offered places anyway. They aren't obliged to do that; if only six of them had semi-decent grades and four had missed by a long way, the uni might keep the other two places free and go into Clearing, hoping to pick up some high grade achievers who had missed their offers elsewhere.
The Admissions Team then informs UCAS that they have vacancies for courses a, b, or c, and this information is published in the electronic lists on the UCAS website. What isn't published is how many places there may be. Grade requirements may be stated on the university's own website, but otherwise should be assumed to be as given in the standard prospectus.
The Daily Telegraph publishes the full list as declared by unis on the Monday before results day, but this will rapidly become out of date and should be used only to give you a general idea of what's on offer. The printed version of the Clearing listings is much nicer and easier to browse through and spot universities and courses that you might not find using the online UCAS course search - just double check once you find a course/uni that interests you whether it is still open. If a university finds out that more of their Insurance students will be coming than expected on the Tuesday or Wednesday before results day then a course might be full before the results are published.
Applicants in Clearing must contact universities directly, not UCAS. Clearing contact details for each university can be found in the Clearing Contacts Directory. During a conversation with the admissions tutor, an applicant will be asked about their grades and interest in the subject they are applying for. After this, the applicant may be offered a place straight away, put on a reserve list, or turned down. It is common for a university to say that an offer is only valid for X amount of time (e.g. 12/24/48 hours) and this means this applicant has to add the institution as a choice on UCAS Track during this period for the offer to be upheld by the university. If the applicant misses the deadline then the university will give the place to another applicant. If you receive a verbal offer then ask for written confirmation of the offer and the agreed time conditions - most universities will happily email you to confirm.
When you talk to universities during Clearing, keep a note. Ask who you are speaking to, what their job title is and write it down along with a summary of what they say to you. It's very easy to get confused and misinterpret information or come away with the wrong impression, especially when you are speaking to lots of different universities in a short period of time.
Applicants can talk to as many universities as they want to but can only make one Clearing choice at a time via their UCAS Track, and can only enter a choice after 5pm on results day.
An applicant should only put down a clearing choice in Track if they have discussed it with the university and been given a verbal offer (or a verbal offer confirmed in writing via email). Clearing acceptances do happen quickly, and you will not have to wait as long for offers as when you first applied. After the university has accepted an applicant's Clearing application, it will send out an AS12 email and letter confirming the place.
If you've got questions about Clearing, our Clearing, applications and UCAS forum is a great place for help and advice. Read up on the 'sticky' discussions at the top of the forum first, where you can find help on being prepared for results day and how to make sure you're all set to get a uni place - even if you think you might miss your uni offer. Of course, you can also start your own discussion, or chip in with a comment on someone else's.
How is Clearing different from Adjustment?
You will hear both Clearing and Adjustment discussed during the results and university confirmation period. Clearing is applicable to anyone who does not hold any offers from universities, while Adjustment allows those who have done better than expected (by meeting and exceeding their firm offer) to trade up for a better place elsewhere. In Adjustment you can talk to other universities for a period of five days while still holding onto your existing Firm choice place. If you are eligible for Adjustment, it is usually better to search for a place in Adjustment because of this added security of holding onto your existing firm choice offer. If you can't find a better place, you can always stick with your original Firm choice! There are no published listings for adjustment vacancies, but places in Clearing will normally also be available to those in Adjustment (although the reverse does not necessarily apply) and many universities will publish Adjustment vacancies on their website.
For both Clearing and Adjustment, you are required to ring the universities and to receive a verbal offer from them. When ringing the university, be clear about whether you are applying via Clearing or Adjustment. A key difference in Clearing is that it is the applicant who puts in the choice on UCAS Track, which is then confirmed by the university. In Adjustment, if you have agreed to accept an offer on the phone, the university will add itself to your UCAS Track. At this point your previous Firm place is lost.
This is only a brief look into the Clearing process. For more information and detail see the Guide to Clearing. If you are in Clearing, make sure you follow our top tips for surviving Clearing. You can also find out more about Adjustment on the UCAS website.
Thanks to Juno for writing the original version of this article and MagicNMedicine for the summary of how clearing works.