What is University Clearing and How to Apply

22nd September 2021 Shannan Humphrey Study

Didn’t receive an offer from any of the universities you applied to? With so much competition for places, many students face this challenge. But don’t worry—university clearing offers another chance to secure a spot. Lots of students successfully find a place through clearing every year. Discover what clearing is and how to apply through university clearing below. 


What is clearing in the UK?

Clearing is a process by UCAS that allows universities to fill spaces on courses that haven’t been filled. This gives students without offers a chance to still pursue higher education. It’s also a great option if you change your mind about your choice of university or course. On exam results day, universities across the country post any remaining spaces on their courses.

The main benefit of clearing UCAS placements is that you’ll still be able to head off to university. It may not be your first choice, but it could work out better than the course you originally chose. After looking at the different course details, you might also find that you want to do something different. There is often a lot of choice available, giving you access to many different opportunities.

How does clearing work?

UCAS clearing works by matching those that want a university place to universities with un-filled places. You can use university clearing if you:

  • Didn’t get the required grades or UCAS points for your accepted offer
  • Don’t want the places you’ve been offered (you will need to use Self-Release to enter clear-ing)
  • Didn’t receive any offers when you first applied (or didn’t want to accept the offers you received)
  • Are applying after 30th June

Be aware that there may be an additional cost of £6 to apply to a course through clearing. This applies if you originally received the reduced £20 fee for applying to just one course. If you paid £26 to apply to multiple placements, you may not need to pay the fee.

When does Clearing start and end?’

Clearing runs from July to October each year. The exact dates vary every year, but for 2024, clearing is open from the 5th of July until the 21st of October.

If you are applying after the 30th of June, then you can only apply through clearing. On the other hand, if you don’t receive any offers from your chosen universities, or fail to meet the conditions of your offer, you will automatically be entered into clearing. You may also want to enter clearing if you received better exam results, or weren’t sure about the universities you accepted an offer from, you can do this by Self-Release. Whatever your reason for going through university clearing, you can’t apply until you have your exam results.

Is Clearing First Come First Serve?

University clearing does work on a first come first serve basis. It’s important to start the process as soon as possible, but also to use your time efficiently and not panic. The best thing to do is to be prepared and research some backup plans before results day so that you can start the process of clearing straight away if you need to.

Do Universities Accept Lower Grades Through Clearing?

University clearing can be quite competitive, so expect to still have to meet entry requirements to be successful. However, when you apply you will be talking to the admissions tutors directly, so it is possible to be accepted with lower grades, but don’t rely on this. The best way to be accepted with lower grades is if you can show your passion for the course and uni you are applying to through clearing. You may also be able to be accepted by UCAS points rather than grades, for example, if the entry requirements are AAB, and you have ABB the points may be enough to get you a place (especially if you have extra points gained elsewhere).

How to apply through clearing  

Whether you are automatically enrolled in university clearing or you choose to go through the process via Self-Release, as soon as you get your results, you need to start the process. Even if you are automatically enrolled in clearing, it is still up to you to find suitable vacancies. Here’s how to apply to universities through UCAS clearing:

woman taking notes at a computer

1. Search for vacancies

Head over to the UCAS search tool to see what vacancies are available. Look for places in your chosen subject and make a note of the places you are interested in. The placements should have contact details included for the university so don’t forget to jot those down too.

When you’re searching for vacancies, make sure you read through what the course entails. Do your own research into the university to see if it’s a good fit. Choosing the right uni is essential. You should never apply to a vacancy without first carrying out research to check it’s somewhere you’d like to go – remember you’ll be living and studying here for three years.

For some applicants, the search is even easier. If your applications have been unsuccessful or you are applying for the first time through clearing, you will have access to Clearing Plus. Clearing Plus matches you to available courses and unis. If you’re eligible, there will be a button on your application that says “see matches”; you can click on this to see your matches, there will be up to 50. You can select “interested” on these matches and someone from the university will give you a call to ask you about your interest in the course.

If you are eligible for Clearing Plus, you can still use the search function to find other courses.

2. Call each university

If you have used the search function rather than Clearing Pus, you must now begin calling the universities that made it onto your shortlist. Remember to have your clearing number ready. This will help them view your application, personal statement, and results. If a place is still available, the admissions staff member will likely ask you a few questions if you are eligible. This is to see if you are a good fit for the course.

It’s a good idea to prepare for the call. Have all of your information to hand, and research the types of things they are likely to ask you. Be aware that you may need to attend an interview before getting accepted.

It’s also advisable to talk to several unis about their available courses. Try to get informal offers over the phone from a few, then you can decide which one you want to accept. If you have the time, try to go and look at the uni if it’s one you haven’t visited before, though this might not always be possible. If there isn’t the time, most unis now have virtual tours or open days.

woman behid computer on phone taking notes

3. Add the course in Track

If you are accepted and have chosen the uni you want to go to, you need to head over to Track to add a clearing choice. If you are eligible for a course, “add clearing choice” will appear. Be aware – you can only add a Clearing choice with permission from the university, and you can only add one at a time. Once you’ve added your choice, you’ll need to contact the university to let them know you have accepted the offer. Ask them how they want you to accept the offer and follow their instructions. This may be by letter or email, and the university can then confirm your choice.

If for any reason the university doesn’t accept your choice, you can add another clearing choice, which is why it’s a good idea to get several informal offers over the phone.

Tips for Clearing

Clearing can be an exciting opportunity for students, offering them the chance to secure a place quickly and make new decisions about their education. However, some find it daunting so here are some tips to make it easier:

  • No matter how confident you are in your grades, plan for clearing. Make a list of possible clearing courses and universities before results day, so you have an idea of what you’re interested in if you don’t get the grades.
  • Apply as soon as you have your results and make sure you’re available on results day to talk to the unis.
  • Regularly check your UCAS Hub.
  • Start calling unis straight away, as clearing works on a first come first served (and have your UCAS Clearing number to hand).
  • Unless you have a disability that prevents you; always call the university yourself.
  • Don’t be put off by bad press, clearing isn’t a bad thing and doesn’t mean the unis are bad the top 20 unis tend to have clearing vacancies

Clearing is a great way to secure a place on your chosen course. There are a lot of reasons why universities may have excess vacancies available. Many students think it signals the university isn’t the best. However, it could just be that fewer students are interested in the courses posted. It’s possible you could snag an even better placement through clearing.

Once you have a place via clearing, you need to find accommodation. If you have a place at a London University, check out our student accommodation in London.

Shannan Humphrey

Shannan Humphrey

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