Clearing is designed for students who have accepted a conditional offer but did not gain the grades they required. Equally, those that did not receive any offers (or any they wanted to accept) and those that applied after June 30th, can go through clearing. It allows students without a place to be matched up with Universities that have spaces.

Previously, clearing was seen as something of a last resort but now that many elite Universities use it, it is seen in a more positive light. According to UCAS, 14,815 students were placed into Clearing in 2013 - an increase of approximately 20% compared with 2012 and 50% compared with 2010.

Glasses and a pen on applications forms on a table

Image Credit: flazingo/

How it works:

UCAS' clearing service (Track) opens at 8am on the morning of A-level results day. If a student is eligible for Clearing, their UCAS status will say 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'. If their status has not been updated, even if they missed their grades, their application may still be under consideration by their chosen universities. In this case, they should phone their  university to see what their current status is.

If a student’s status has switched to “clearing” they should start searching for which Universities have spaces. They can do this through UCAS’ Clearing vacancy search, which goes live at midnight on the day of A-level results. From this time, the Clearing List on the UCAS website is continually updated with the latest vacancies. Because of this, students should be sure to keep checking. They should also look on individual university websites.

Upon finding a course and university, applicants must phone them personally to discuss their options. This phone call is essentially a mini-interview so it is a good idea to prepare answers for questions like “why do you want to do this course?”. Students may be verbally offered a place, which will last for 24 hours, giving them time to consider their options. University hotlines open on the morning of A-Level results day and stay open for approximately 10 days.

Once a student has received a verbal offer, they can add it through the UCAS website from 5pm the same day. It is only possible to add one course, so they have to be 100% certain that it's the one they want to accept. After receiving an offer, it is sometimes possible to attend an open day, prior to accepting. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep the week after exam results free.


Be Prepared

  • Those that think they might need to use clearing should have researched other universities and courses they might be interested in so that they can check them on A-level results day
  • It is a good idea for them to also have a list of their academic and personal interests and achievements, with links to their chosen course, ready prior to calling universities
  • They should also have their GCSE and AS results to hand when calling up universities
  • Finally, don't book a holiday during A-level results week


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