University clearing guide 2016

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By in Freshers. Updated January 2016.

Didn’t get the grades for your chosen uni? Clearing is your second bite at the cherry – and could leave you with a sweeter deal to boot.
UCAS advisor at a computer screenLast year a record 61,300 students found a place through Clearing, with an increasing number using the service to bag a better uni. Stick with us and we’ll show you how it works – and how to work it to your advantage!

What is ‘Clearing’?

vacancy signCredit: Lauren Mitchell – FlickrClearing is a UCAS service that matches students without a course with universities that have spaces to fill.

Clearing runs between July and September, but some universities wait until A-Level results day to start listing vacancies while others (Oxford and Cambridge, or those with very popular courses, such as Medicine) may not play ball at all.

Still, if you’re willing to be flexible, you’ll be able to shop around for a decent course. You’re better placed to make uni choices once you’ve got your results in-hand, and there’s no stigma to applying through Clearing: you won’t be treated differently to other students once you hit your course, so you’ve nothing to lose by having a go.

Who can apply through Clearing?

confusedYou’re eligible if your UCAS Track status says You are in Clearing or Clearing has started. If you’ve missed your grades but don’t see this message then give your universities a call – they may still be considering you.

Some universities may still offer you a place even if you miss your grades, so always ring up your choices to check first before you dive headfirst into Clearing.

You should be up for Clearing if any of these are true for you:

  • question_markYou declined all your offers or didn’t respond by the deadline
  • You didn’t get the grades needed for your offered places
  • You declined a changed course, a changed date of entry and/or a changed point of entry offer
  • UCAS received your application after 30th June. If you sent your application after this date, it won’t have been sent to any universities or colleges.


Grumpy cat - aced itIf you did better than expected, our advice about choosing and finding a better match still stands – the only difference is that you’ll use something called Adjustment between August 13-31st instead.

You sign-up for Adjustment through UCAS Track (either when your conditional offer becomes unconditional, or on results day), and get a five-day window to scope out better offers. You won’t lose your unconditional offer, but have a bit of wiggle room to see what else is out there.

There’s no separate vacancies list, so it’s up to you to sniff out the spaces and get in touch with the unis – read on for how to find and pitch for a place.

Finding and choosing courses

detectivefindsClearing may seem like a flash sale, but it’s still worth taking time to research which universities or courses to apply for. Talking through your options with your school or college’s adviser is no bad thing, either.

  • Check out course specifics: entry requirements, placements, the type of degree you’ll get, and any extra course costs or supplies you’ll need
  • Tip a nod to uni features: location, accommodation, teaching, facilities, social aspects – and how costs stack up against your money plan
  • Get a handle on the local area, too – we’ve got guides to some of the big university cities here.

Where to find vacancies

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 10.51.44Check out the UCAS course search or their Clearing Twitter feed.

The Telegraph newspaper publish a full list of places with phone numbers (handy), or check out their iPhone and Android apps.

Universities will also list any spaces going on their websites and in the local press.

Remember that the majority of vacancies won’t be listed until results day in August.

How to apply through Clearing or Adjustment

Rugby scrumCredit: Chris Brown – FlickrClearingThe post-results day scrum can be brutal: get prepped so you can grab what you need and get out.

Be prepared

  • If you haven’t already paid the full fee (i.e., only made a single course application), you’ll need to stump up £11 to use Clearing or Adjustment
  • Keep your UCAS ID/Clearing number to hand – grab them from your UCAS account
  • 0950b14eec50cb6979458319d03f6bd9Save any vacancy phone numbers for universities you’re interested in to your mobile
  • Be aware they’ll be incredibly busy on results day, so keep an eye on the uni’s Facebook/Twitter feeds for live updates
  • Treat it like a job application: expect to sell your best bits to universities still filling spaces (and be prepared for phone interviews)
  • Don’t think you’ve got to take the first place you’re offered. Three years (or more) is a long time to give to a course or city you feel no love for.

Step-by-step to applying

  1. Results day: Check your UCAS account to see if you made the grades for any conditional offers, and any status updates.
  2. If you didn’t make the grade: contact the uni first – they may still be able to offer you something.
  3. Take action if you’ve changed your mind: did better than expected? Consider using Adjustment – you won’t lose any unconditional offers you already have. Otherwise, if you have a place but still fancy having a go at Clearing, you’ll need to ask the uni to release your existing offer first.
  4. Choose your ideal unis/courses: Once you’ve identified subject areas which suit you, get searching for vacancies. Places may go quickly so if don’t hang around if you see something you like the look of – get in touch with the uni.
  5. Contact your new choices: Some universities will have help lines open from 8am on results day (heads-up: they may be jammed, so don’t give up if you don’t get through first time). 
  6. Stay alert: An additional Clearing service for 2016 will let institutions contact students directly to offer spare places – UCAS will let you know if you’re eligible. If you are, keep your phone with you!
  7. Pass on your deets: Universities will want your results and your Clearing number or ID. You might need to do a quick telephone interview, so be ready to talk about why you think this uni’s a good choice for you, what you can contribute and why you like the subject.
  8. Get your offer:If it all goes to plan, you should find yourself with a provisional offer. You then need to add the university’s details into your Clearing choices on your UCAS account. Wait for official confirmation of your new place by letter/online alert. If you’re going through Adjustment, don’t verbally accept an offer unless you’re sure you want the place – once you do, the uni will update your account online.
  9. Do your victory dance: Off to uni? Get the score on what’s to come: what to take to unisurviving freshers’ week and getting your head around uni life.

Tips on calling universities

shouting phone

  • This is your chance to shine: treat it like a job interview and prepare your best bits before you hit the phones (and keep the paperwork handy in case you need a prompt!)
  • Stay calm and smile: tutors want to fill their spare places. They’re looking for well-matched students – they’re not out to trip you up or catch you out
  • Know your stuff: Show that you’re interested in this particular uni (and haven’t just picked any old course with space!)
  • Sell yourself: Make a list of why you’re a good match for this course and your future ambitions. Talk up your best bits and try to sound positive.
  • Don’t give up: You might not get your first, second or even third choices, but stick with it if you don’t nail it on the first go.

Alternatives to Clearing

signpostGoing to uni isn’t a one-size-fits-all route – you’ve got options whatever you decide.

If you still want to go to uni

Missed your grades, but not keen on Clearing?

  1. Ring the university that declined your offer and ask if there’s any way that you could still attend- i.e., by accepting a foundation year or joint course instead. It’s rare to get in this way but could be worth a go.
  2. Ask for an A-Level remark. If you think you were unfairly graded then talk to your school or college about whether a remark is a good idea. Once again, though, this won’t guarantee you a place.

Alternatives to university

If you missed out on your top university and back-up choice then you might decide that university isn’t for you right now – and that’s OK, too. You’ve got tons of options – try one, try ’em all, or do something completely different. Your call.

  1. Get a head start by going straight into employment
  2. Re-take your A-Levels
  3. Have a gap year
  4. Start a business

Got questions, or want to share your insider tips and triumphs? Let us know below. Good luck!

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18 Responses to “University clearing guide 2016”

  1. jessica

    17. May, 2016

    Is there a stigma attached to going through clearing? As if you didn’t earn your place and that you are a failure because that’s what I’m worried about. I want to get into uni but fear I won’t meet the entry requirements.

    • Jake Butler

      17. May, 2016

      No stigma at all! You don’t have to tell anyone and once you’re at the uni they most likely won’t be aware.

  2. Ellie

    31. Aug, 2015

    Hi, what happens if I have accepted a university through clearing bur after visiting I am uncertain. Can I still withdraw even though I have confirmed going ?

    • Jake Butler

      09. Nov, 2015

      Yes you can still withdraw from attending.

  3. karen

    16. Aug, 2015

    I had an interview later that evening I received an email from the uni saying i had given a good interview but can’t be offered a place yet but have been put on a waiting list and will be notified in 48hrs they still have some more people to interview I don’t think this sound promising anyone been in the same situation

  4. ranjit

    15. Aug, 2015

    Hi my daughter was unsuccessful with her firm and insurance choice and is now going through clearing she has reluctantly accepted a place at a university due to fear of being left with no offers. But she is now having second thoughts about going. What are the implications of now declining the place. The place is at Coventry university in Coventry. Grateful for any advice.

    • Jake Butler

      16. Aug, 2015

      She should be fine to decline the place and look elsewhere, reapply next year or simply decide not to attend uni.

  5. chloe

    15. Jun, 2015

    Hi, I was wondering how to get into a university that I haven’t applied for and if it is even possible, do I go through clearing? do I need to reject an offer before ringing up the university, if I do get an offer?

  6. Mas

    03. Apr, 2015

    I was wondering if you get your insurance choice but choose to go to a different uni, can you still apply for clearing or do u have to reject the insurance choice?

    • Jake Butler

      07. Apr, 2015

      I believe you have to reject your insurance before applying to clearing.

  7. Pablo

    05. Feb, 2015


    I have applied to university this year upon completing my A-levels in 2014. I have received some offers but not my first choice. Can I still try to get in through clearing later this year?

    • Jake Butler

      05. Feb, 2015

      I think you will have to apply again this year to see if they will accept you. I would suggest calling them to see what they say.

  8. Sanjay

    26. Aug, 2014

    My son was offered place after giving his grades over phone and his UCAS id. Later when he acceped (with in the time limits)he found that he is rejected stating that he is not meeting the requirements. Any advise.

    • Jake Butler

      26. Aug, 2014

      Hi Sanjay, did the university give a reason for declining the offer? I would suggest contacting them ASAP letting them know about your situation in order to hopefully sort it all out.

      • Sanjay

        27. Aug, 2014

        Thanks Jake,
        They responded that my son does does meets their requirement after they received the file from UCAS. But did tell them the grades over the phone. Does universities have the access to the student file when UCAS id is told over the phone?

        • Jake Butler

          28. Aug, 2014

          Hi Sanjay, I think that the university should have access to the UCAS information but cannot be sure. If your son meets the requirements then he should have a place? Did the university not comment on this? The next step would obviously be to ring UCAS in order to sort out the situation.

  9. Nassikhanova Gulyaim

    16. Aug, 2014


    Me daughter has unconditional offer from University but she decided to reject and apply to another UNI through Clearing. What does she should do, how she can get release from the University? Thanks in advance.

    • Jake Butler

      17. Aug, 2014

      Hi, you can’t actually reject an unconditional offer, but you can ask them to release your daughter from the offer so that she can then go on to apply through clearing.

      The uni is not obliged to release the offer but they will most likely do so.


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