A Brief Guide to Clearing

Clearing is a way of matching universities needing students to students needing a university, and in 2017 it will open on Wednesday 5 July. If you didn’t receive an offer from any of the five universities you applied to, or find on results day that you didn’t get the grades you needed to reach your Firm or Insurance choices, UCAS Clearing is your second chance of getting a place at university.

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Results days

Clearing is also available for students who already have their results and are not holding an offer at a UK University – if you apply to university for 2017 entry after 30 June 2017 you are automatically entered into clearing.

For many students, Clearing only becomes available once their results have been released and it transpires that they haven’t met the entry criteria for their chosen courses. Results days in 2017 are as follows:

  • International Baccalaureate: Tuesday 5 July
  • BTEC and other vocational courses: During July – check with your school/college
  • Scottish Highers: Tuesday 8 August
  • A levels: Thursday 17 August

What to do

It is up to you to find a university that is prepared to accept you. The best way to do this is to check their website or ring a university and tell them what you want to do. Usually, if they have vacancies, they will take your details and either give you a decision straightaway or very soon afterwards.

Here are some important points to remember if you end up needing to use Clearing, or wish to shop around for another opportunity:

  • Prepare in advance – Even if you’re confident that you’ve got the results you need, do some contingency planning before results day. Make a list of possible courses and universities where you might be prepared to go in priority order. This will be easy to check against the Clearing listings when they are published.
  • Don’t wait until 17 August – Although A level results day is the 17 August, if you're studying another qualification, Clearing starts as soon as you have your results in July. Many international, mature and EU students may already have their results in July, so act quickly.
  • Be there – Don't go on holiday at this critical time.
  • Be positive – It can get some bad press, but Clearing is not bargain basement. Most of the universities in the Top 20 of our League Tables will have some courses accepting students in Clearing. 

There will be a few places not listed in the official vacancy listings because the universities know they can fill them with speculative callers and do not need the extra calls generated by the vacancy lists.

If there is somewhere you really want to go, it might just be worth ringing even if they are not in the lists. However, such vacancies will be taken within hours, at most within a day of A level results being published.

  • Regularly check UCAS Track – If you become eligible to use Clearing an 'Add Clearing choice' button will become available on your Track Choices screen. Alternatively, check directly with your firm and insurance choices as soon as possible.
  • Check the official Clearing listings – You’ll find these on the UCAS website, the Telegraph website or the websites of individual universities. You can also find out which subjects have courses available on our Clearing profiles. We recommend always using the official listings as they always offer the most comprehensive and up-to-date vacancies in your course.
  • Consider alternative courses – Maximise your choice by considering a joint course with another subject instead of a single subject course.
  • Start ringing possible universities straight away – Places at good universities can be filled very quickly, so be the early bird that catches the worm!
  • Always telephone yourself – Universities are less impressed by people ringing on your behalf and are likely to be unable to offer a place unless they are actually speaking to the candidate.
  • Keep going – Clearing can be stressful, but keep trying. If you’re not having much luck on the phone, try sending an email too.

Visiting the university

Many universities will run clearing open days to enable applicants (and their parents) to visit, view the facilities (particularly accommodation) and talk to staff and students.

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.

A university that has the interests of the applicant at heart will see the value in this, and provided that there is not too long a gap between receiving an offer and making the visit they will generally hold open the offer of a place.