Introduction to Clearing

Have you got any idea how in-demand you are?

All over the country, universities are currently focused on just one thing: attracting students like you to fill tens of thousands of available course spaces.

Durham, Surrey, Exeter, Leeds and York are just some of the big-name universities offering course places in Clearing in 2017.

And with university applications having fallen by 4% this year, these universities are going to find it even harder to fill up their courses.

That's good news for anyone looking to start university this autumn. So if you want to go to uni but don't have an offer - or you've missed the offers you did have - make no mistake: unis are desperate to talk to you.

You can seriously improve your chances of finding the right course for you in Clearing by understanding the process fully and being well prepared.

Here we'll introduce what Clearing is all about, and we've also got a detailed guide to using Clearing.

girl on phone to clearing

What is UCAS Clearing?

  • Clearing is a part of the UCAS university application 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.

When does Clearing take place?

Clearing actually starts at the beginning of July and continues up until 23 October.

At the start of July, a lot of Clearing spaces are advertised on the UCAS website, so you can start your research then. 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 2018, A-level results day is on Thursday 16 August. Scottish Higher and Advanced Higher results are released earlier, on Tuesday 7 August.

Applicants to Scottish universities will be able to use Clearing through UCAS Track from the afternoon of 7 August until 6pm on 8 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 3pm on 16 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.

boy going through clearing

Can I go through Clearing?

You're 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, you'll be able to see this on your UCAS Track, where you'll also find your Clearing number. Universities will ask for this number when you talk to them, so they can view your UCAS application.

Where do I find Clearing places?

  • 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.
  • The electronic lists on the UCAS website are updated frequently, as universities inform UCAS that places have been filled.
  • 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.
  • You may also see some universities advertising in your local newspaper or on the TV.

You can apply for a place on any course with vacancies in Clearing. But make sure you don't enter a Clearing choice on UCAS Track unless you've been asked to do so by the university. Universities are very unlikely to accept you unless you have spoken to them first, and you won't be able to add a replacement Clearing choice while you're waiting for another to be removed.

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.

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. But there are plenty of top quality universities that do offer Clearing places. As we said: you're in demand!

How does UCAS Clearing work?

Here's a short summary of what happens when universities get everyone's exam results:

Let's say a uni has a total of 50 places on a particular course. It wants to fill all those spaces, so it might give out 120 offers. Of the students who receive an offer, 40 accept it as their conditional firm and another 30 accept as their conditional insurance.

Universities receive everyone's exam results on the Sunday before they're released to students, so they can see who has met the requirements and who has not.

Let's 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. But 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 on certain courses, 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 you're safe to presume they're the same as in the standard prospectus. 

You'll find the most up-to-date Clearing lists online - either on the UCAS Search page or on the websites of specific universities. The Daily Telegraph also publishes a full list of Clearing spaces on A-level results day. This is a list of spaces declared by unis on the Monday before results day; it's useful for easy browsing but it does got out of date very quickly, so just use it as a general guide to what's on offer.

girl on the  phone clearing

Contacting universities in Clearing

If you're in Clearing, you need to contact universities directly, not UCAS. Clearing contact details for each university can be found in The Student Room's Clearing Contacts Directory.

Once you've found a Clearing course that interests you, call the uni's Clearing number. You'l speak to an admissions tutor, where you'll be asked about your grades and interest in the subject you're applying for.

After this, you might be offered a place straight away, put on a reserve list or turned down. If you get made an offer, it will probably be valid for only a certain amount of time (eg 12/24/48 hours). This means you'll need to add the institution as a choice on UCAS Track within that timeframe if you want to get the place.

Miss the deadline and 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. Write down the name of the person you speak to (and their job title) 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. 

You can talk to as many universities as you like, but you can only make one Clearing choice at a time via UCAS Track, and you can only enter a choice after 3pm on results day. 

Remember: you should only put down a clearing choice in Track if you have 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 your Clearing application, it will send out an AS12 email and letter confirming the place.

Clearing help

You'll find lots more information in our exam results section.

If you've got questions about Clearing, our Clearing, applications and UCAS forum is a great place for help and advice. You can start your own discussion, or you might find someone else has already had an answer to a question like yours. 

Finally, don't get Clearing and Adjustment mixed up! Clearing is applicable to anyone who does not hold any offers from universities, while Adjustment allows those who have met and exceeded their firm offer to trade up for a better place elsewhere. For more information on both of them, take a look at our Clearing and Adjustment information.


More on TSR

Your guide to A-level results day

More information about A-level results day

Help and advice about Clearing and Adjustment