Going To University Through Clearing

Going To University Through Clearing

By Sharon Black

If you already have sufficient qualifications or you end up without the exam grades you were looking for (or you don’t have an offer for a place at university for the coming academic year, 2016), the UCAS Clearing system could be for you.

First-things-first, getting into higher education isn’t easy; it’s not supposed to be. In fact every year tens of thousands of students find a place, not through the initial direct UCAS application system but through Clearing. Whilst it may not be what you expected to have to do to get into a degree course (or similar), you shouldn’t feel too unhappy and certainly not worried. Clearing can provide options for you. The key to using it is in understanding the process and being prepared.

Clearing is an official part of the University and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS), the organisation, that, as you’ll already know, (if you’ve applied to a university course) through which your applications to universities and most colleges of higher education are processed. Clearing is a way for universities to fill any spaces they have left for the new academic year and gives applicants who do not hold an offer, another chance of finding a university place.

(If you’re eligible for Clearing, your Clearing number will be on the ‘Welcome’ page and ‘Your choices’ section of Track – the online system you’ll have used during your application process.)

Identifying courses that interest you

Clearing allows you to identify the courses (with vacancies) that interest you and contact course providers directly to discuss whether or not they’ll offer you a place. Just as you did during your original application (and personal statement) remember that universities are looking for the best undergraduates they can find. This still stands – make sure you have an idea about why you want to study that particular course at that particular university. It’s a good idea to look at individual university profiles on either the UCAS website or the websites of individual universities. Keep going until you receive an offer you are interested in accepting. Informal offers are usually issued immediately or very soon after you’ve spoken with a university. (You can collect a number of informal offers and then make a choice from them.)

The process

You’ll need to give the universities you contact your Clearing number. This will be on the welcome email you received from the Track service. (You’ll know you’re using Clearing if your Track status reads: ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’ – if it doesn’t it may be that your results haven’t been updated and it might be that your application, even if you haven’t met the entry conditions, to a particular university, is still being considered. If this is the case, contact them to see if they are still prepared to accept you.) The search tool on the UCAS website enables you to find courses that might be suitable for you. (Once you have a verbal offer from a university that you’d like to go to, you can add the course in Track.)

You may have originally only applied for one course for the reduced fee of £12, in which case you’ll have to pay an additional £11 to enable you to apply for multiple courses.

Check the official Clearing listings on the UCAS website, or the websites of individual universities to find out about vacancies. These official listings are always the most comprehensive and up-to-date. (There may be a few vacancies not listed in the official vacancy listings because the universities know they can fill them with speculative applicants but these tend to be small in number and get snapped up pretty quickly.)


Universities often offer open days enabling Clearing applicants to visit.

According to the Complete University Guide website: “Even if there is not an official opportunity to visit, the Clearing applicant is well advised to contact the university and try to see the place prior to making a firm commitment.”

Universities tend to have the interests of the applicant in mind and provided that there is not too great a gap between receiving an offer and making the visit, they will generally hold open the offer of a place.

More tips about Clearing:

  • Consider different subjects – you don’t have to stick with your original idea. You might need to expand your thinking about the courses you would like to take up in order to maximise the choices available to you. Think about alternative courses (perhaps a joint course with another subject instead of a single subject course). Before you start ringing up universities it might be a good idea to make a brief list of possible courses and universities you like the look of, in order of preference.
  • The online list is updated regularly – you might not find the exact universities or courses you’re looking for – some might be full, but some might get vacancies later on, so keep checking.


UCAS – www.ucas.com

The Complete University Guide – www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk

Applications to universities will soon be flowing like a thalweg. Civvy Street Magazine spoke with the Course Enquiries and Applications Manager at The University of Winchester, Alistair Garmendia, about what you need to know about Clearing.

How does your team help applicants?

My role at the university is to manage the Course Enquiries and Applications Team. We deal with undergraduate and postgraduate applications that come through to the university as the first point of contact, including Clearing enquiries. We’re very familiar with the different qualifications people will be coming in with and also what they need to do to apply and enrol at the university.

What do applicants tend to ask about?

The main questions we get (relate to) entry requirements for the course they want to study, particularly if they’re a mature student who may have been out of education for a while. (Enrolment) depends on if their background is suitable. We look at what they’ve studied at GCSE and also their English and maths and what recent study they’ve done in the last five years.

There’s more to it than grades though…

There are certain subjects; for example, if you wanted to go into teacher training, then you’d have to have certain grades in certain subjects at GCSE or if you wanted to study an English degree we’d be looking for the student to have an English A-level. But for a lot of our courses we don’t have specific subject requirements so it can be flexible and based on the applicant’s background.

So the flexibility within Clearing can help applicants…

It certainly does help. Over the last couple of years with the removal of the student control cap across the sector, there’s been a lot more flexibility across most universities.

Are there any common misunderstandings amongst students?

That it starts on 18 August – that’s probably the biggest one. That’s A-level results day this year so students get their results – but actually Clearing opens in July. If they’ve already got their qualifications there’s no need to wait until mid August, they can contact us in early July.

Any more tips?

If they’ve already got all of their qualifications, (students are advised to) contact us; the sooner, the better. It gives us more time to consider them.

There’s no guarantee that we’ll have vacancies all summer and it can change on a course-by-course basis depending on the number of people that we pick up. Certain courses fill up.