Clearing – what is it and how does it work?

Clearing is a process that may confuse you. Let's try and fix that.

Basically, Clearing is how universities and colleges fill the places they have left on their courses, after initial offers are made and accepted. 

This means that if you didn’t get an offer or didn’t accept an offer, or you didn’t meet the requirements or you didn’t apply to go until after 30th June, you can use Clearing to find a course to study. 

The process is operated by UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) and you can find places still available for courses that interest you. You can then approach the University to see if they will offer you a place. 

You need to register with UCAS to be included in Clearing and their website has guides on how to apply, with all the relevant deadlines you need to submit by.

After you have registered, you then use the UCAS search tool to find relevant courses. If you can’t find a match for the course you want to do, consider taking a different course – you don’t have to stick to your original selection. Try some different combinations to see what’s available.

Then talk to the University or College directly. You will need to give them your UCAS Clearing number (on your UCAS account) and Personal ID so they can look at your application. Keep a record of who you spoke to and when, as you will need this later, as well as the course details.

You can approach more than one University/College about a place, and get an informal offer over the phone – that way, you’ve got a choice. Consider your options, go and view the campus (if you have time) and chat with a few students (maybe via social media) to help make your decision. When you have made that choice, then add it to your UCAS Clearing Choice – you can only add one at a time. You’ll need to add in the details of who informally offered you a place, and the exact course you’re applying for. Effectively, you are accepting an offer on a course, but the University or College also need to formally accept it. If they do not, you can add another course/place of study into your Clearing Choice (which is why it’s important to keep notes of all the discussions you have!).

Do also keep checking your first choice – places do become available as students reject offers, and so it may happen that a place becomes available on your original selection. Just don’t depend on that to happen! 

There is another option in the UCAS process, where you can sign-up for the Direct Contact Service. This means that Universities/Colleges can offer you a place if your information matches their course requirements. This could mean that you’re offered a place on a course that you hadn’t considered before, but that could be a good thing! It doesn’t stop you applying for courses as above, and you may be surprised at the courses available to you.

If you find yourself in the Clearing process – see it as a challenge. You may still go to the same University or College, just on a different course, or do the course but at a different location. Or do something different, that you hadn’t considered before.