If you’re receiving your A-level results this year, you may have heard of clearing. This is the process students can go through if they don’t receive the grades they were expecting and miss out on their first and insurance places.
Our guide to Ucas clearing explains what it is, how to apply and when, so you can use clearing to your advantage.
Thousands of students go through clearing each year and it can lead to opportunities at universities you never expected to attend. Below is a guide on how to navigate clearing and the opportunities it can provide.
What is Ucas university clearing?
Clearing is the process whereby universities advertise the courses that still have spaces available to prospective students. Spaces are available through Ucas for undergraduate applications and the process runs from early July until mid-October.
Clearing is a chance for students who did not meet the conditions of their offer or may have changed their mind about what or where they wish to study to find a university or course that is better suited to them.
How does clearing work?
Once clearing opens via Ucas, students can search for available places and select any they are interested in. It’s important to note that you only really need to search for places through clearing if you have missed your first and second choices on results day or if you still haven’t received any offers after 30 June.
The next step is to contact the universities directly. Their admission officers are ready to speak to students and discuss the entry requirements. If you like what is being offered, you can add that course to your application as your clearing choice.
The university will then be informed and can accept or reject your application. You can only apply to one clearing place at a time so ensure you choose the ones you most want first.
Some universities will use social media to announce available places and allow students to contact them directly. This is a great way to start a conversation with the university but remember to still call to confirm the details and declare your clearing choice on your Ucas application to ensure you secure the place. Social media is not a full guarantee.
How does clearing work on results day?
On A level results day students can log into their Ucas account early in the morning to see if they have been accepted to their chosen universities. If you have been and you're happy to accept your place, you don't need to do anything.
If you have missed your first choice but were offered a place at your insurance choice and you're happy to go there, again you don't need to do anything.
However, if you missed both of your choices, you will now have the opportunity to choose a course through clearing. Although you can't add a clearing choice until 1pm on results day, you can start looking through the options from the morning.
When does clearing open?
The dates for clearing varies each year, but in 2023 clearing opens on 5 July.
Universities will start to list their courses from July, but most courses will become available from results day in August.
When does clearing close?
Again the dates will vary each year, but this year clearing closes on 17 October. By this time you will need to have made you final choice on which university you want to attend.
This is when clearing closes for all universities and you will no longer be able to apply for your place at university for this year.
When to apply through clearing?
Although clearing opens in July, the best time to apply through clearing will be after receiving your A-level results in mid-August. After you receive your results you will know if you have met the requirements for your first and insurance choices. If you have and you are still happy with them, then you won't need to apply through clearing.
If you have met your choices but have changed your mind about attending those universities, you can self-release (more information on self-release below) and then go through clearing to find the right university for you.
If you didn’t meet the requirements for either of your choices, you will then be able to find another place through clearing.
If you are considering clearing, it’s sometimes a good idea to have a browse through clearing and see which courses are available before you receive your results.
What universities are available in clearing?
Almost all universities in the UK submit courses that can be applied for through clearing, however there are some exceptions.
The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge do not partake in clearing. Other universities that often don’t take part in clearing include UCL, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science. However this does vary from year to year so make sure you check the clearing courses thoroughly.
Which courses are available in clearing?
The majority of courses will be available through clearing, whether you are looking at a STEM subject or something in the arts and humanities.
However some courses that are often oversubscribed, such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, are often not available at all universities. But, again, it’s always worth checking the courses that most interest you to see if there are any clearing spots available.
Can anyone apply for clearing?
Clearing is available to undergraduate students who meet the following criteria:
- You applied to university after 30 June
- You did not receive any university offers
- You did not meet the conditions of your offers after results day (for example, you needed two A grades but received two Bs)
- You have paid the relevant Ucas application fee
- You have said no to a firm place at university by selecting the “decline my place” option
What happens when you go through clearing?
If you have made the decision to go through clearing, the first thing you’ll need to do is change your status on your Ucas profile.
Then take some time to go through the clearing courses shown on the Ucas website and note down the courses you are most interested in and have entry requirements you can meet with your grades. You can also search for courses on individual university websites if you have a specific institution in mind. Take your time researching the universities and their courses to ensure you choose universities you would be happy to attend.
Once you have a list, it’s time to call the universities. It is always best to do this yourself rather than asking someone else to do it.
Have a list of questions ready for each university as well as your personal statement and all the things you want them to know about your abilities and what you’ll bring to the university.
The university will then let you know over the phone if it intends to offer you a place or not, and this will also be updated in your Ucas track. You then have 24 hours to accept any offers you’ve been made so you can take a bit of time to decide which offer you want to go with.
Once you have accepted any offers, your Ucas track will update with your confirmed university choice.
Can international students use clearing?
Yes, international students can use clearing in the same way that a student applying from the UK would be able to.
If you have applied to a UK university through Ucas, as an international student, you will be able to use clearing using your original Ucas number.
The main thing to bear in mind when going through Ucas as an international student, is that you may need to secure your place slightly quicker than a domestic student because you may need to leave time to apply for visas or take English language tests.
What is self-release?
The majority of students who go through clearing will be those who didn’t meet the conditions for their first or insurance university choices. However, if you were accepted into either of your choices (or both) but have since changed your mind you are able to self-release from your offers and then enter clearing to find a new course that suits you.
It’s important to note that if you do decide to self-release, it’s very unlikely that your original university will keep your place while you search. So only do this if you are absolutely sure that the universities you hold offers for are no longer right for you.
The main difference between Ucas Extra and clearing is the timing. Ucas Extra opens up earlier in the application process and closes just before clearing opens. Clearing then opens at the start of July.
Ucas Extra is for students who have used up all five of their university choices and aren’t holding any university offers. In other words, if you weren’t accepted or chose to decline all your offers you can use Ucas Extra to apply to more universities for free.
Do you have to pay an additional fee to go through clearing?
For students who have paid for a multiple-choice application (£27), there is no additional charge. However, any applicants who paid for a single-choice application (£22.50) will be charged £4.50 to enter the clearing process.
What is Clearing Plus?
Clearing Plus is an added service that students can use. If you choose Clearing Plus, Ucas will analyse your original choices and your grades to match you with the right course. You will then see a button that says “see matches”, which will show you all the courses suggested for you. You can choose any you are interested in, and then the university will contact you directly. If you are not interested in any of the suggestions, you can choose to go through clearing in the normal way.
If you require any more assistance with clearing you can call the following helplines for more advice:
- The Ucas clearing hotline is open Monday to Friday between 08:30 and 18:00 (UK time). The number is 0371 468 0 468. It is important to have your Ucas Personal ID ready to verify your identity.
- For those with hearing difficulties: Text Relay service on 18001 followed by the relevant number (UK callers) or +44 151 494 1260 (text/phone) – you'll need to ask the operator to dial the relevant number (if you're calling from outside the UK)
- The SQA candidate advice line: 0345 279 1000
- Skills Development Scotland's results helpline: 0808 100 8000
- You can also contact Ucas via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
All fees and prices in this article were correct as of June 2023.