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The Ultimate Guide to UCAS Clearing

UCAS Clearing is the process by which universities and colleges across the UK fill any remaining places they have on their courses. UCAS match prospective students looking to study with the courses and institutions that have vacancies available.

Clearing is fast becoming one of the most important facets of the university application process. Our UCAS Clearing guide contains everything you need to know about Clearing to help you understand the process and get familiar with everything you need to do before and during your university application.

To prepare further, why not register with us for email updates with Clearing tips and advice?

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Your complete guide to UCAS Clearing

Click on the questions below to read our answers to the most commonly asked questions about Clearing.

What is UCAS Clearing?

UCAS Clearing or ‘Clearing’ is the process by which universities and colleges fill any places they still have on their courses. For many students, it’s a great way to find a course, perhaps because they didn’t get the grades they were hoping for, because they’ve changed their plans or they have only recently decided to apply to university.

You can use UCAS Clearing to find a place on a course at a UK college or university if you don’t already have a place – regardless of whether you haven’t been accepted by your preferred university choices, or you haven’t begun your application. Clearing is really the last opportunity to apply for a place at university before the start of the academic year. Many prospective students look for places during Clearing – you can apply for any course which still has places available.

Why is it called ‘Clearing’?

The exact history of Clearing is not publicised by UCAS, but the process literally involves ‘Clearing’ empty places and processing those applications for students. The aim of Clearing is to fill empty spaces on courses across the UK and match them with students who do not have a place. Clearing takes place at UK colleges and universities each year.

When is Clearing?

Clearing usually begins in July ahead of prospective students receiving their results, and stays open as long as there are places – often up until October for some courses. On SQA (Scottish Qualification Awards) results day you can add your Clearing choices to UCAS Track from 10am (BST), and on A level results day you can add your Clearing choices to UCAS Track from 3pm (BST). You can also register with us for email updates​ and we will remind you of each stage.

How long does Clearing last?

Clearing usually runs from July until October each year, although it depends on how many places are available and whether colleges and universities with places are happy to accept students after the course induction period has begun. Therefore, UCAS Clearing opens in July across all universities and colleges, but the precise end date will vary depending on the specific institution. In our experience, some places are still available at some institutions during October, but it would be wise to ensure your application is submitted as soon as possible once you have received your results.

When can you apply for Clearing?

There is no specific deadline for Clearing because places are taken on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. Places often remain during Clearing up until October, but it depends on the popularity and total number of spaces available for each individual course. It’s important to make your enquiries with colleges and universities as soon as you can to have the best chance of securing a place at university on a course of your choosing.

When is the Clearing deadline?

There is no specific deadline for Clearing because places are taken on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis. Places often remain during Clearing up until October, but it depends on the popularity and total number of spaces available for each individual course. It’s important to make your enquiries with colleges and universities as soon as you can to have the best chance of securing a place at university on a course of your choosing.

What is all the hype about Clearing?

Clearing is often the final opportunity to follow your study plans and find a place on an undergraduate course at college or university. If you were late submitting your application to university through UCAS or perhaps did not achieve the grades you needed to receive a conditional offer on your preferred course, then UCAS Clearing is an opportunity to quickly adjust your plans and obtain a place. As there are a limited number of places available for prospective students during Clearing, there may be competition for places – this is especially the case at popular colleges and universities where the demand is high.

Is Clearing just for people with no offers?

UCAS Clearing is usually for prospective students who hold no offers. You are only eligible for Clearing if you do not currently hold an offer of a place at university. This may be because you did not receive any offers, or because you declined the offers you did receive. If you change your mind about your firm choice then you can speak to the college or university and see if they will allow you to change your mind. Only after they release your place will you be able to submit an application through UCAS Clearing.

You will need to be eligible to study for the courses you want to apply for and meet the entry requirements in order to obtain a place. You can also submit an application through Clearing if you have not previously applied through UCAS – perhaps because you’ve only just decided to go to university after the UCAS deadline. If you apply through UCAS from July you will automatically be entered into Clearing.

Aside from this, Clearing is also useful if you change your mind about the subject or course you’d like to study. Some students have a last-minute change in plans and decline any previous offers to apply for something new at a completely different university.

How do you go through Clearing?

If you applied to university through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the UK) and do not have any offers you will automatically be enrolled in Clearing. You will also be automatically entered into Clearing if you apply through UCAS after the June UCAS deadline.

Does Clearing only happen with University courses, what about colleges?

Clearing is not just for university places. During Clearing you can search for and apply for available places at university and also at further education (or ‘FE’) colleges. If you’re unsure whether a university or college has places available during Clearing, it’s worth visiting their website or contacting them to find out more – UCAS may also be able to provide support if you have questions about particular institutions.

Who participates in clearing (which Universities)?

Any university or college with spaces remaining on a course will be a part of UCAS Clearing. At the moment, ‘Conservatoires’ do not use Clearing to fill vacancies, you would need to contact them directly to talk about available places and applications.

How can I find clearing vacancies?

A full list of which courses and institutions have spaces can be found on the UCAS website, or if you know where you would like to study then the university website of your chosen institution will be likely to publish its own list of vacancies. If you have any specific questions regarding Clearing vacancies, it’s worth contacting UCAS or the university or college in question.

How to make the most out of clearing

You can make sure that you’re prepared for Clearing by collating some useful questions to help you narrow down which university and course is right for you. For example, you might want to ask a university if they have accommodation places remaining – just because there are course places remaining doesn’t necessarily mean that halls-of-residence or other accommodation options are still available. Looking for your own accommodation at the last minute might cause extra stress at the start of your journey into higher education.

Some universities may ask you to provide proof of your qualifications or exam results before a place can be offered, so it’s important to make sure that you’ve got this ready when you speak to colleges or universities about your application. It’s also important to think about university life too, including what clubs and societies are available at a particular university, how far you’ll be from home, whether you’ll be in a bustling city centre or the countryside, and what the travel connections are like.

Can I change my mind during clearing?

You don’t have to stick with the original course or universities that you chose when you first made your application. You are free to look at any of the places available at any university or college. Clearing can be really helpful for students who have changed their mind about what course they want to study, and where they want to study. You just need to make sure that you decline any offers you might have had before you can enquire about a new place at a different institution through Clearing.

Find out more about the undergraduate courses we offer with our course finder.

What courses are available during clearing?

All courses that still have places remaining are eligible for applications through UCAS Clearing. You can find out if a course has any spaces by contacting the university or college who are running the course directly or by looking on the UCAS website. The University of Gloucestershire usually runs a Clearing hotline number that you can phone to make an enquiry about availability, and we also have a large number of people available to answer any questions you might have on Live Chat, which is available through our website.

What part do UCAS play during Clearing?

UCAS handle all UK university applications for universities based in the United Kingdom. UCAS list all of the places available on courses on their website during Clearing. They will update the course availability information online continually during Clearing, so if you’re not sure what you want to study then the UCAS website will show you the subjects and universities which have spaces remaining on their courses. If you are in Clearing, UCAS will give you a ‘Clearing number’ which you can find online in their online system called ‘Track’. You should have a login to access your details and keep up with the progress of your applications.

Do I have anything to lose?

If you don’t hold an offer of a place at University then you have nothing to lose by applying to university through Clearing. If you wish to further your studies either at university or college then Clearing gives you the opportunity to find and secure a place. There is no additional cost to using Clearing unless you have not already applied or applied to only a single university and so paid the lower application fee. The fee charged is very small though.

Top tips for clearing

Make sure you’ve got your Clearing number handy before you contact a university – you can get this from ‘Track’ on the UCAS website.

Be clear about why you want to study a course at a particular university before you make the call as you might be asked why you’re interested. Make sure you’ve fully researched the course you’re interested in, and understand why you want to study at a particular university compared with another offering a similar course – be certain about how the same course differs across different universities. Also, be flexible and think about alternative courses that you might like to consider at the university you’re talking to.

Have a pen and paper ready in case you want to make notes during the call. If you’re using a web chat service you could also take screenshots to refer to later.

Create a shortlist of universities that you would like to speak to, you may even be able to register in advance​ for a phone call on the day you receive your results.

Make sure your phone is well charged as you don’t want to lose your place in a queue or have the call disconnected right before they make you an offer.

Try not to worry and take your time to think things through. Clearing can be an anxious time for prospective students with many options to consider in a short space of time, but it’s important to make sure that you think about everything in detail and do your research.

Clearing advice for parents and guardians

Applying to university can be a daunting time for students, and an equally daunting time for parents and guardians. Be prepared to make a trip out to visit a few universities to help with decision making – seeing the university and getting first-hand experience of the environment it offers will often help students to know where they want to study and whether it’s the right place for them. Try not to plan your family holiday during the Clearing period or near results day – being away could make it difficult to make and receive calls or emails.

You might also want to book onto Clearing open days which some universities offer, so it’s best to be available and on hand to support your child or young person during this process. Be aware that universities will not discuss your child’s application with you unless they have nominated you on their UCAS form, or have provided the college or university with permission to do so. Read more advice for parents around Clearing.

Where to get help during clearing

The University of Gloucestershire will be available to help you with any questions you might have about your application here or the courses we offer and guide you through the Clearing process. If you have any questions and would like to talk to someone, our Clearing team is available by phone or by using the live chat button on our website. You can also get help from a careers advisor at your current school or college or from the helpful team at UCAS.

Will I be treated differently if I get my place through clearing?

Not at all, Clearing is an established route to higher education used by thousands of students each year to get the right place on the right course. Increasing numbers of students are making their primary application during Clearing (after the UCAS deadline). Nobody will disrespect you or single you out for applying through Clearing and you’re likely to meet lots of students who took the same path, for all kinds of reasons. You’ll be treated exactly the same as students who gained their place without going through Clearing and will receive exactly the same standard of teaching and access to facilities and resources, etc.

Is there a stigma attached to getting a university place through clearing?

Attitudes towards Clearing have changed significantly over the past few years. Perhaps originally viewed as a ‘last resort’ for students who underperformed in A-levels/BTECs or other pre-university qualifications, or did not receive an offer from a university, Clearing has become recognised as a much more widely used route into university. Clearing is an established, legitimate and important route for universities and prospective students to access places on a wide range of courses at most higher education institutes in the country – thousands of students apply through UCAS Clearing each year, and this number continues to rise.

Where can I find a list of the universities and their clearing courses?

UCAS holds the only official list of all course places that are available through Clearing. If you know which universities you’re interested in then you’ll almost certainly be able to find detailed information about each of their Clearing courses on their website, or by contacting them directly. The University of Gloucestershire website contains a Clearing section that will be updated throughout the Clearing period, providing all the information you’ll need to secure your place.

Do the ‘Russell Group’ and ‘red brick’ Universities have clearing vacancies?

Yes. Any university that still has places available when Clearing starts will offer them through Clearing (even universities that are in the Russell Group). Cambridge University announced that it would provide places through UCAS Clearing for the first time in 2019. Availability will depend on the size of the course and the number of places already offered to students before exam results are released.

What should I do if the course I want isn’t listed for Clearing?

If the course you were interested in isn’t listed on UCAS as having places during Clearing then it is likely to be full. If you want to make sure, it’s worth contacting the university to double check whether there are places still available. You could consider studying a slightly different subject or a joint honours degree where there is a mix of subjects. Perhaps look at whether your subject is available with a different degree award (BA or BSc for example).

You could also consider a different university where you can study the subject you want; maybe your first choice isn’t available but you could have a great experience at another institution. It’s worth checking again though, places are declined and made available frequently after results are released so a place might become available.

Is there a separate fee for applying via Clearing?

If you originally applied for one course via UCAS for the reduced fee, you will need to pay a small extra fee to apply for another place through Clearing. You will also need to pay the UCAS fee if you are submitting your application for the first time through Clearing (after the June deadline). The Paying for your application page on the UCAS website contains more information about application fees and how to pay them.

What are the steps of Clearing?

Once you’ve received your exam results, you will follow these steps through the UCAS Clearing process:

Can you switch firm and insurance choices during Clearing?

No. Firm and insurance choices can’t be swapped. If you decline your firm choice, you can apply to your insurance choice through Clearing. Before doing this you should make sure the insurance course can offer places in Clearing. Make sure that you speak with both universities before accepting or rejecting either offer to avoid getting caught out and being left without a place at either.

Do course entry requirements change for Clearing?

You can’t assume that a course’s entry requirements will change or be lowered for Clearing, but some universities might alter their entry requirements for particular courses. You should check with the university or college running the course to find out whether they’ll be able to accept your application based on your qualifications – you will usually need to contact them directly by telephone, as this information will not always be available to them online.

Why is clearing important to me?

Choosing where to go to university for your degree studies is a big deal. It determines the award you’ll graduate with, the experiences you will have, the friends and connections you’ll make as well as where you will be living for the next three or more years of your life. If you haven’t already secured a place at university or if your exam grades don’t meet the entry requirements, Clearing is a really good opportunity to make exciting new plans. Clearing enables you to apply for any available places on courses at colleges and universities across the UK.

What steps do I need to take to prepare for clearing?

The best advice from students who have been through Clearing is to prepare in advance to save time on results day. Here are some useful steps to help you get ready for Clearing:

What is ‘adjustment’?

UCAS Adjustment is similar to UCAS Clearing in that it allows you to find an alternative course based on your exam results. Unlike Clearing, Adjustment allows applicants who have exceeded the conditions of their firm choice to find a different course based on their actual exam results. UCAS Adjustment is entirely optional and opens on A-Level results day each year – it usually runs until the end of August. It’s important to remember that if you’ve exceeded your predicted exam results and have more UCAS points than you need, you don’t have to find an alternative course. You can stick with the offer that your firm choice has made you. There’s much more to higher education and university study than the entry requirements of your course, so make sure you’ve considered all of your options in full before you decide to proceed with UCAS adjustment.

Can I get take part in clearing if I didn’t make any Uni applications?

Yes, you can take part in Clearing if you have not yet applied for university. There are an increasing number of students each year who apply to university for the first time during Clearing. This might be because they’ve changed their mind or received better results than expected, or it might be because they didn’t feel like they needed to apply before the UCAS deadline. If you submit your UCAS application after the 30 June deadline, you will automatically be entered into Clearing.

Who is eligible for UCAS Clearing?

Anyone is eligible to apply to university through UCAS Clearing, as long as they meet the entry requirements for their chosen course and submit their application before the Clearing window closes.

How does Clearing work?

Clearing is the process by which universities fill any remaining places they have on their courses. It’s the last opportunity for prospective students to apply to university during the academic year. If you’ve already applied to university through UCAS but did not receive any offers, you’ll be able to apply for other courses through UCAS Clearing once you’ve received your results. If you haven’t already applied to university then you can submit your application for the first time through UCAS Clearing – in fact, if you submit your application for the first time after June, then you’ll be automatically entered into Clearing by UCAS.

What time does UCAS Clearing open?

While Clearing will be given an official start date by UCAS each year, Clearing doesn’t officially open at a particular time. It’s usually the case that you’ll be able to submit a Clearing application from early in the morning. On A-Level results day most universities will be available earlier than usual if you wish to contact them to discuss any courses you might be interested and your application. It’s worth checking the website of the university in question to view their opening hours for the Clearing period. You can register with us for email notifications and we’ll send you reminders at each stage.

Is UCAS Clearing first come first serve?

UCAS Clearing does work on a first come first serve basis, which is why it can often be an anxious time for prospective students who are submitting an application. It’s important to make sure you use your time efficiently once you’ve received your exam results if you plan on submitting an application through UCAS Clearing – this will give you the best chance of obtaining a place on your chosen course. Research any courses you’re interested in before results day and prepare for each eventuality as this will allow you to move quickly as soon as you have received your results.

How long does UCAS Clearing take?

While Clearing runs from July to October each year, each individual application will take a different amount of time to complete depending on the circumstances. If you’ve already applied to university and submitted an application to UCAS earlier in the academic year, you’ll probably find that you need to commit less time to your application as you’ll have already completed most of the required information.

If you’re applying for the first time through UCAS Clearing, you’ll need to complete a full application and submit this to UCAS before you can apply for a course at a particular university. From there, it really depends on how long it takes you to find the right course for you – for some people this might be on the morning of A-Level results day, while for others it might be in September or October. Try not to worry too much about how long your application will take as you’ll get a clearer idea once you’ve submitted your initial application to UCAS, and enquired about any courses you’re interested in with the university in question.

What about accommodation in clearing?

If you’re looking to apply to the University of Gloucestershire through Clearing, there’s no need to worry about accommodation. Clearing is an established route into university, and there are always accommodation options available for applications received during this time. Make sure you speak to our accommodation team when making your Clearing application to discuss the various options that are available, which will usually include halls of residence, private houses and lodgings.

Are the fees and finance options the same for clearing courses?

Fees and finance options are usually the same for courses which accept applications during Clearing. If you’re applying for university for the first time through clearing then make sure you contact Student Finance as soon as possible to begin your student finance application. Any delay in making your student finance application may result in a delay to receiving any financial support. Other financial support including bursaries and scholarships may still be available and accepting applications during Clearing.

If you have any questions about fees, finance, bursaries, scholarships and financial support then get in touch with our admissions team who will be able to answer any questions you may have.

UCAS Clearing: What to say

If you’ve received your results and found the course of your dreams, it’s time to contact the university and ask any questions you might have, but what should you say? Clearing can be an anxious time for many students, so it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared for every step.

Before contacting the university make sure you’ve done your research on the course and the wider university including things like accommodation, student life, transport and location. When you call the university, express your interest in submitting an application through Clearing for the course that you’re interested in. The university will be more than happy to discuss your application with you and answer any questions that you might have.

While doing your research write any questions down that you have so that you have these to hand when you call – remember that there’s no such thing as a stupid question!

What is a UCAS Clearing number?

When you submit an application through UCAS Clearing, you will be given a ‘Clearing number’ by UCAS. Your Clearing number allows you to contact universities and make enquiries about courses, and submit an application once you’ve found a course you’re interested in.

Where can I find my UCAS Clearing number?

When you apply to university through Clearing you will be given a ‘Clearing number’ by UCAS. Once you have submitted your application UCAS will send you a welcome email which includes your Clearing number and details about how to access your application through ‘UCAS Track’ (the system that allows you to login and ‘Track’ the status of your UCAS application). Universities will ask for your Clearing number when you submit an application through Clearing, so it’s important that you have this handy before you make any enquiries.

How do you accept a UCAS Clearing offer?

If you’ve found a course you’re interested in and spoken to the university to discuss your application, you might have received a verbal or written offer of a place from them. In order to accept your offer you will need to log into ‘UCAS Track’ (the system that allows you to track your university application), and add the course in question as a ‘Clearing choice’. From there, the university will formally accept your application and UCAS will notify you of this within ‘UCAS Track’.

When does UCAS Clearing close?

Clearing usually closes in October each year, although the precise date varies across different universities. It all depends on how many vacancies a university has remaining across all of their courses, and at what stage they decide to stop accepting applications. For most universities in the UK, this is usually at some point in October, although it’s worth contacting the university you’re interested in to find out whether they’ll still accept your application. You can register with us to get email updates at each stage.

Is UCAS Clearing still open?

UCAS Clearing is open from July each year, but the exact closing date of Clearing varies by university as it depends on how many vacancies a particular university has remaining, and also whether they’re happy to continue accepting applications after enrolment (when courses have begun for the academic year). The best advice is to contact the university you’re interested in studying at to ask whether you can still submit an application.

My course is listed on clearing – should I be worried why it isn’t full?

It’s important not to read too much into which vacancies are or aren’t remaining on a particular course at any university. This is because every course is different and the entry requirements vary significantly – some courses have significantly more places than others, so will naturally fill up faster. Rather than focus too much on which vacancies are available, make sure you research the course to understand whether it’s the right course for you – it’s important to consider the course alongside all aspects of university life, such as accommodation, location and transport links.

While it’s important to fully research the courses you’re interested in, make sure you’re efficient and make contact with universities as soon as possible to ensure your chosen course still has vacancies.

Does UCAS Clearing work?

UCAS Clearing does work! Clearing is an increasingly popular route into university, and thousands of students submit an application through UCAS Clearing each year. During Clearing each university takes the opportunity to fill hundreds or even thousands of remaining spaces that they have across all of their courses. Clearing is your last opportunity to submit an application for university during the current academic year.

Can you apply for a University place through Clearing without UCAS?

UCAS Clearing is a service operated by UCAS, so it’s not possible to apply through Clearing without UCAS. Some universities may be willing to accept an application outside of UCAS, but this would not technically be through Clearing. The established application route during the Clearing period is through UCAS Clearing, although it’s worth contacting the university in question to ask any questions you might have about your application.

Myths around University Clearing

There’s lots of misconceptions surrounding university Clearing, most commonly people perceive that Clearing is a last resort for students who don’t achieve good grades in their A-Levels or BTECs, however Clearing is a very common route to secure the right university place for a growing number of undergraduates.

Many people are put off the idea of applying to university through Clearing, fearing that it is too confusing. There’s no reason to be put off if things don’t go to plan – Clearing offers a huge opportunity to pursue your chosen study path despite maybe missing an earlier application deadline or changing your mind about where you want to go to university and what course/subject you’d like to study. It’s definitely not the case that it’s too late in the process to change your mind, and it’s better to spend a few days considering your future than to begin your studies with the feeling you’re making a mistake. You’re in control because you can decide to contact as many universities about as many courses as you want.

People may tell you that Clearing is what universities do just to fill up the courses that no-one has applied for. But any courses that have availability will be made available during Clearing, and sometimes additional places are even created to cater for demand and to accept students who might demonstrate an excellent portfolio and passion for study.

Another myth is that Clearing has to be a rushed process, forcing you to make life-changing decisions in a hurry, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Even after you’ve been made an offer, you should take time to consider what’s right for you, perhaps attend an open day or visit the university if you haven’t been before to get a feel for whether it is the right place for you to study. Some offers may have a deadline for you to accept or decline so you should check this when you speak to the university. Offers need to be accepted on ‘UCAS Track’ which reopens in the afternoon on your results day. It pays to do some advance research while you’re waiting to hear your results to see what options might be available to you. During the morning of results day take time to speak to people and weigh up your choices, you don’t even have to secure an offer on results day. Depending on your preferred subject area and institution, there may be places available for a few days and even weeks.

Check out the Clearing​ section of our website for news and register for regular updates​ by email.