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Making the final choice

Guide to UCAS Clearing

Our guide to UCAS Clearing explains what it is, how it works and how and when to apply. Learn how to use Clearing to your advantage.

Students walk and talk using mobile devices in university


  1. How does Clearing work?

  2. When does Clearing open?

  3. Self-release

  4. How to apply through Clearing

  5. When to apply through Clearing

  6. Clearing open days

How does Clearing work?

UCAS Clearing is a second chance at getting a place at university, by matching students that want a university place to universities with unfilled places. 

You can use Clearing if you:

  • Didn’t get into your firm (CF) or insurance (CI) choice universities
  • Didn’t get any offers when you first applied
  • Are applying after 30 June
  • Don’t want the places you've been offered and self-release into Clearing
  • Were unsure about university during the first round of applications and didn’t apply
  • Got better grades than predicted – you may be able to get a place on a different course at a university that asks for higher grades through UCAS Clearing and Adjustment

Clearing can also be useful if you've changed your mind about the course you originally applied for and want to go for a different one.


When does Clearing begin and close?

Clearing starts on 5 July and closes 19 October. Students who haven't met the entry requirements for their chosen courses or haven't got an offer from a UK university are automatically entered into Clearing. Late applicants can also apply in this way. You can't apply through Clearing until you have your exam results.


Clearing self-release allows any applicant who already holds a place at a university to release themselves into Clearing so they apply to a different institution. You can do this through UCAS Track. 

How to use UCAS Clearing self-release

Self-releasing into Clearing is a simple process, designed to make sure you clearly understand what it means to release yourself into Clearing:

  • Sign in to your Track account and click the ‘decline my place’ button on your profile page
  • You'll be taken to a page explaining what this entails and asked to complete a set of questions and confirm your decision
  • You'll then get an email confirming you’re in Clearing
  • You should immediately phone UCAS if you think you’ve made a mistake

Word of caution

You should think extremely carefully before releasing yourself into Clearing – your existing university place is unlikely to remain open if you change your mind. Changing universities at this stage means you’ll have to reapply for accommodation and update your student finance application.

How to apply through Clearing

It's up to you to find a university prepared to accept you. The best way is to check UCAS or the university website, ring them, and tell them what you want to do. If they have a vacancy, they'll usually take your details and either give you a decision straight away or soon afterwards.

Important things to remember if you need to use Clearing (or you want to shop around for another opportunity):

  • Prepare in advance – make a list of possible UCAS Clearing courses and universities you’re interested in and put in priority order to help when looking at the Clearing listings after they're published
  • Apply as soon as you have your results and make sure you're available on results day 
  • Don’t be put off by the bad press, but Clearing is now a buyer’s market – most universities in the top 20 of our league table will have some vacancies in Clearing
  • Regularly check UCAS Track – if you become eligible, an ‘add Clearing choice’ option will appear on your Track Choices screen
  • Check the official Clearing listings – you’ll find these on UCAS or university websites
  • Consider other courses – maximise your choice by considering a joint course with another subject instead of a single subject course
  • Start calling possible universities straight away as vacancies at higher ranked universities can be filled quickly
  • Have your UCAS Clearing number at hand for any phone calls 
  • Always phone the university yourself – you're unlikely to be offered a place if you can’t speak for yourself (unless you have a disability that prevents this, of course)
  • Keep going – if you’re not having much luck on the phone, try sending an email
  • Don’t forget you only have one Clearing choice at a time


If you need more help, there are hotlines you can call for advice about Clearing and your exam results. UCAS, the SQA, other exam boards and universities can also be contacted on Twitter and Facebook.

  • UCAS: 0371 468 0 468 (UK callers) or +44 330 3330 230 (if you're calling from outside the UK)
  • 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 – you can also email customer@sqa.org.uk
  • Skills Development Scotland's exam helpline: 0808 100 8000

You have time to be rational and look at all the options – it's not just a new university place you’re considering; there are knock-on issues, such as accommodation, student finance or securing a part-time job.

Some universities accept direct applications as well as via UCAS, particularly for two-year degrees, part-time courses or courses that start in July or January – exploit this opportunity!

James Seymour, Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at the University of Gloucestershire

When to apply through Clearing

Clearing is commonly used by students who didn’t get into their firm and insurance choice universities. However, many students use it strategically. 

You might also want to take a gap year or a mini-gap year, so you may not have to rush through Clearing. Some universities offer January entry points or courses starting the next year, letting you take stock, save money or secure accommodation.

Using Clearing strategically

You may be in a position to find a different university you'd rather go to and have time to avoid making a hasty decision.

If you're considering declining an offer, it’s worthwhile phoning the university to talk to them about your situation to see if they can help.

Bear in mind not all universities advertise places in Clearing, for example, Oxford, Cambridge and for courses with high entry requirements such as Dentistry. 

Clearing open days

Many universities run open days for Clearing applicants (and their parents and carers) to visit, view the facilities and talk to staff and students.

Even if there isn't an official opportunity to visit, you can still contact the university and try and see the place before making a firm commitment. As long as there’s not too long a gap between getting an offer and making the visit, a university will generally hold open the offer of a place.

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