What you need to know about finding a university place through Clearing
Every year, universities across the UK have tens of thousands of course spaces to fill.
This year, Exeter, Leeds, Nottingham and York are just some of the big-name universities offering course places in Clearing: find out more on our sister site The Uni Guide.
And with continuing uncertainty around the coronavirus situation, universities are going to find it even harder to fill up their courses.
So if you want to go to uni but don't have an offer, you've missed the offers you did have or don't want to accept your offers, make no mistake: unis are eager 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.
What is Ucas Clearing?
- Part of the Ucas university application process
- A way for universities to fill the spaces they have left for the new academic year
- An opportunity for applicants without an offer to find a university place
- A second chance for those who don't want to accept the offer(s) they hold
Want to know more? Courteney Sheppard from Ucas explains how Clearing works in our video.
When does Clearing open and close?
Clearing started on 5 July 2021 and continues up until 19 October.
Once you've received your results, you'll be able to make an application through Clearing.
In 2021, A-level results day is on Tuesday 10 August. Btec results are released in the same week.
A-level applicants will be able to add a Clearing choice on Ucas Track from 2pm on 10 August. If you have your exam results and know you're in Clearing you can contact universities in advance to get invitations to add a university or course as a Clearing choice when the option appears on Ucas Track.
More like this: Ucas Track on results day
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You're eligible for Clearing if you have applied in the current application year, you have not withdrawn your application and one of the following criteria applies to you: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 didn't get any offers (or declined all you did receive)
- You declined your place using the 'decline my place' button in Track
- You didn't meet the conditions of your firm and insurance choices, and they have declined to take you
- You're applying 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 £25 Ucas application fee in order to be eligible for Clearing. If you have only paid £20 and made a single choice, then you will need to pay a further £5 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.
- 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 and LSE 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. Like we said, you're in demand!
For advice on all things Clearing check out this video from our sister site The Uni Guide.
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, or want to decline, 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. Updated grade requirements for Clearing candidates may be stated on the university's own website, but they may stay the same as they were before.
You'll find the most up-to-date Clearing lists online – either on the Ucas search page or on university websites.
Contacting universities during Clearing
If you're in Clearing, you can find available courses via the Ucas course search page. You'll need to contact universities directly in order to get a place on the courses you find.
You'll also be able to use a optional tool within Clearing called Clearing Plus. Clearing Plus will give you a personalised list of courses with available places that have been matched to you – you'll still able to search for courses yourself as well as or instead of using Clearing Plus though.
Once you've found a Clearing course that interests you, call the uni's Clearing number. You'll speak to an admissions tutor, who will ask you about your grades and interest in the subject you're applying for.
You might be offered a place straight away, put on a reserve list or turned down. If they make you an offer, it will probably be valid for only a certain amount of time (eg 12, 24 or 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 could 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 at least a verbal offer, or even better an 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.
More like this: top 10 tips for Clearing 2021
Wondering what the call might be like? This video from Staffordshire University gives an overview.
You'll find lots more information in our exam results hub.
If you've got questions about Clearing, the 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 advice on Clearing and Adjustment.
And here's some handy stuff to help you get ready for results day...
- Everything you need to know about A-level results day
- Ucas Track on results day 2021
- Your 'just-in-case' guide to Ucas Clearing 2021