Law tops list for clearing intake

August 18, 2006

Some subjects rely on the last-minute scramble to fill their courses, reports Alan Thomson.

Students entering the final rush for degree places in clearing this week are up to three times more likely to be accepted on to some courses than others, according to new figures.

Wide variations in the number of places taken up in each subject during clearing are revealed for the first time in figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Law by topic (eg, criminal, commercial or contract law) and subjects allied to medicine tend to fill some 15-16 per cent of their places in the annual clearing round, according to the figures, which show the number of clearing acceptances as a proportion of total acceptances by subject.

Other subjects, such as physics, design studies and zoology, tend to fill just 5 or 6 per cent of places through clearing, according to the figures for 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Whether a student is successful in clearing depends on a number of factors, not least how they did in their A levels.

But the figures reveal that some courses will enter clearing with a far higher number of places unfilled than others, potentially giving students the upper hand in negotiating with admissions staff.

In 2005, about one in seven (1,067 of 6,976) places in subjects allied to medicine - including physiotherapy, dietetics and radiography - were filled during clearing. It was second only to law by topic in terms of reliance on the last-minute scramble for places.

Margaret Sills, academic director of the Health Sciences and Practice Subject Centre based at King's College London, said: "I think this may be due to allied health subjects being second choices after, for instance, medicine." But she added that areas such as physiotherapy and dietetics are increasingly becoming first-choice subjects, resulting in fewer clearing places.

At the other end of the scale, design studies has only ever had to fill 6 per cent of its total places through clearing.

David Clews, manager of the Art, Design, Media Subject Centre based at Brighton University, said: "It would be impossible to manage interviews and portfolios for large numbers of (design) students during the brief clearing period. Academics in design subjects operate a far longer term admissions process."

The Ucas figures reveal significant changes in the proportion of places available through clearing in some subjects. English studies reduced its proportion of clearing places from 9.4 per cent (807 places) in 2003 to 7.1 per cent (655) in 2005; in computer science, places fell from 11.8 per cent (1,831) in 2003 to 10.1 per cent (1,302) in 2005. Some subjects increased their clearing presence, including sports sciences, where the figure rose from 9.2 per cent (715) in 2004 to 10 per cent (910) in 2005.

alan.thomson@thes.co.uk </a>

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