Updated: Jul 12
If you’re going through the process of applying to University in the UK then you may be familiar with the term ‘Clearing’ – but what does it actually mean?
This guide will give you everything you need to know about Clearing and how to use it!
What is Clearing?
Clearing is when all the available university places are advertised once offers have gone out. Courses may have become available because certain applicants haven’t got the necessary grades for that place or other potential students have turned down the offer.
This year Clearing opens on 5th July and closes on 19th October 2021.
Why use Clearing?
You can use Clearing if:
You’re applying after 30th June 2021
You didn’t receive any offers you wanted to accept
You didn’t meet the conditions of your offers
You've paid the multiple-choice application fee of £26
You’ve declined your firm place on the UCAS portal
Clearing used to be seen as something people only used if they had been rejected or didn’t meet their conditional offers, however it is now seen as a viable alternative to the formal UCAS application process, with some students starting the process once they’ve received their results to see what’s available to them.
It’s worth noting, however, that it is unlikely that highly competitive courses and university places will appear on Clearing. In fact, universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, LSE and UCL have a policy that they do not have places in Clearing. Similarly, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary courses are highly unlikely to ever feature in this system.
There will always be plenty of opportunities for law, engineering, humanities programmes and science degrees even at top universities such as Kings College London, Warwick, Bristol, and Edinburgh, if you are presenting with the right qualifications.
Students who already have offers may go into Adjustment or Clearing to see if there are better opportunities available.
Students who have changed their minds about what they want to study may use Clearing as an opportunity to see what other courses are available to them.
Clearing is also still there for those who have not made their conditional offers to give them insight into other opportunities available.
How to use Clearing
1. If you haven’t already applied through UCAS, you’ll need to register to and submit an application.
2. If you are already in the system then you can log into Clearing and start exploring. This year you’ll also be able to use Clearing Plus, where the system will suggest courses that may be of interest to you, and the type of students certain universities are looking for, based on the information in your original application.
3. Once you’ve identified a degree course, you will need to call the university and ask if they would consider you for a place. Ideally you will secure some informal offers over the phone from various universities and then you can decide which ones you want to pursue.
4. Once you have permission from your chosen university, you can add your choice into the Track system on the UCAS website. Click 'Add Clearing choice', and fill in the course details by the date the university/college gave you on the phone. This counts as you accepting the offer definitively, so once they confirm, it will show as an acceptance on your 'Choices' page in Track.
5. You can only add one choice at a time, but if the university/college doesn't confirm your place, you'll be able to add another.
If you are already holding an offer from a university and you want to change, you can decline the offer in UCAS Track and release yourself into Clearing and then you can apply to a different university or course through Clearing using UCAS Track.
If you have not met the conditions of your offers then you should automatically be released into Clearing.
Before you make your choices it’s worth bearing in mind the following:
Keep checking, Universities will regularly update their Clearing offers as people accept and reject them
Do your research – take your time and make sure you’re making the right decision for you
Take a look at the content for the course, year by year
Try and do a virtual online tour before making your final choice
Look up student feedback on the course and the university as a whole
Find out if there is still student accommodation available
Don’t be pressured into accepting an offer over the phone, however persuasive they are
If you find an interesting course then be quick to follow it up, as things move quickly and there may only be one or two places available
Universities keen to fill their places, so it is always worth a call even if you don’t quite meet their entry criteria
How to prepare
While you’re waiting for your results to be announced, you can go into the Clearing site from 5th July and see what’s available and make a note of any courses you’re interested in. Check you meet their criteria and you can even have a preliminary conversation with them to see what they are looking for in a student.
If you’ve not met your offers then do not be downhearted – this is not life defining and there are plenty of other options. Consider looking at alternative courses or a joint honours degree.
Clearing can be very stressful, especially around results time, but if you’ve done your research and have a list of universities ready to approach then you just need to keep trying until you secure a place where you want to be.
For advice on Clearing, please contact Fiona McKenzie, our Head of Education at Carfax,
on +971 44385276
"As we are getting closer to a level results day, I am starting to panic a little. I am unsure as to how the clearing system works and what I should do right now in order to be ready if indeed I need to go through clearing? You are so kind to give me a hand because I have to admit that I am a little stressed."
Clearing Student 2020, now successfully studying at Newcastle University.
"Thank you for all your help, I cannot thank you enough for helping our daughter with her selection in Clearing."
Parent of Clearing Student 2020