The business of 'Clearing'
Strategic-first thinking is key
Exam results season and Clearing – love it or hate it, it’s probably one of the biggest moments in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year. For many, it’s a pivotal point where they’ll make decisions which will affect the course of their lives – and with so much choice for applicants, providers need to ensure they plan just as strategically for this period as they do for their regular recruitment activity.
In 2018, we saw the largest number ever being placed the day after A level results day – and more students applying directly into Clearing. It’s not news that behaviours during Clearing have changed – but the stats are now bearing this out, with 42% of applicants in 2018 saying they accepted the first place they were offered. With no sign of that changing, how can you ensure you’re ready?
Savvy providers will have spent the months preceding Clearing understanding their own position, and which gaps they’ll have to fill in their portfolio – looking at a broad overview, right down to course level. It makes economical and operational sense. Having a data-led approach, to help identify exactly where you need to focus your activity from day one of Clearing means money can be focused on the areas that really matter, and performance and conversion can be optimised. A less targeted approach to recruitment might get seats filled – but with the right students? Possibly not.
It can be daunting to know where to start. So, where better than with the facts. A robust methodology, that removes the need for best guesses, or even worse the assumption that all will be well, makes sound business sense.
At its simplest you could look at the percentage of the CFs and CIs you convert historically, but analysis should go far deeper, to predict conversion behaviours. How many applicants will miss their predicted A levels? How many will you accept regardless? How many will you lose to another provider, and how many might you gain from others?
The opportunities to naval gaze are endless. But model that against the 100k applicants who we can see are going to be unplaced on A level results day, and instantly you can pinpoint your activity to identify the gaps, and then find exactly the types of people you may need.
Clearing is no longer a route to sweep up applicants to fill spaces. Students are breaking the mould, evidenced by the 16,000 applying directly into Clearing, so ensure that you take a data-led approach this summer, and recruit the students who want you, and who you need.
Sarah Barr Miller is Head of Insights for UCAS Media