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Navigating UCAS Clearing: A Guide to Secure Your University Placement

31/07/202319 minute read
Navigating UCAS Clearing: A Guide to Secure Your University Placement

For many students going to UK universities, August 17 will prove to be a pivotal day - their A Level results will come out and that will determine where they will be going to university. The UCAS provides several types of offers as well as responses for students. If you are not able to get into your programme of choice, Clearing might be an option for you. Here we will take a closer look at what Clearing means, how to apply through it and what university courses are still available. 

What is UCAS Clearing?

UCAS Clearing is a process in the United Kingdom that allows students to find and apply for university courses that still have available vacancies after the main application cycle has ended. It is primarily used by students who have not received any offers, have declined all their offers, or did not meet the conditions of their firm and insurance choices. From 5 July – 17 October 2023, you can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places.

The main application cycle through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) typically runs from September to January each year. During this period, prospective students submit their applications to up to five universities or courses. Universities then respond with either conditional or unconditional offers.

However, if a student finds themselves without any offers or does not meet the requirements of their conditional offers, they can enter UCAS Clearing. Clearing officially opens in July and continues until September, covering the period after A-level results are published.

Key UCAS Dates for 2023
17 May 2022UCAS opensUCAS Undergraduate application opens for 2023 entry
6 September 2022Applications openApplicants can pay and send their applications to UCAS, and universities and colleges can start making decisions on applications.
15 October 2022Early Entry DeadlineEntry deadline for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and most dentistry, medicine or veterinary science applications.
25 January 2023Entry DeadlineThe entry deadline for all other undergraduate courses. Internal deadlines change based on different schools or colleges.
23 February 2023UCAS Extra opensUCAS Extra opens for students who have not gained an offer from any of their five chosen universities. This allows the students to add an extra choice one at a time until an offer has been made.
May 2023University choice deadlineThe deadline to confirm the first and insurance university from the offers that have been made. A later deadline may apply if you are still awaiting a decision from a university.
30 June 2023UCAS Extra closesFinal date to apply in Extra for 2022. After this date, all applications must be made through Clearing.
July 2023UCAS ClearingClearing opens - students can begin researching available universities and courses prior to knowing if an offer has been confirmed.
August 2023A Level resultsA Level results are released - although some universities may have confirmed or denied their place prior to this.
21 September 2023Final deadlineThe final deadline for applications to 2023 courses.
17 October 2023Clearing deadlineThe deadline for adding Clearing choices.

Note: Certain deadlines change based on specific colleges. Make sure to check your choice so you don’t miss any important dates!

How does UCAS Clearing work?

The Clearing process works as follows:

  • To begin the Clearing process, students must log in to UCAS Track, where they will find a "Clearing" option if they are eligible.
  • Students can then search for courses with available vacancies through the UCAS Clearing search tool. Universities and colleges regularly update their available spaces during this time.
  • Once a suitable course is found, the student needs to contact the university directly to express their interest. This typically involves a brief phone call to discuss their qualifications and interest in the course.
  • If the university accepts the student, they will provide an offer verbally or through UCAS Track. The student can then accept the offer, adding it as their Clearing choice.
  • Students can only add one Clearing choice at a time. If the offer is confirmed, the student will receive a Clearing Acceptance Letter through UCAS, finalizing their place on the chosen course.

UCAS Clearing is an opportunity for students to find an alternative university place and secure their higher education options, even if their original plans did not work out as expected. It can be a nerve-wracking process, but it offers a chance for applicants to find a suitable course and pursue their academic goals.

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Who can use Clearing?

You can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from another university or college, and the course still has places. 

You can use Clearing if:

  • you’re applying after 30 June
  • you didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
  • you didn’t meet the conditions of your firm and insurance offers
  • you've paid the multiple choice application fee of £27
  • you’ve declined your firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in your application
Universities with Available Courses in 2023
UniversityCourses AvailableSignificant Vacancies
University of Edinburgh14Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering
King's College London24Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science
University of Glasgow20Accountancy, Environmental Science
University of Warwick52Chemistry, Modern Languages
University of Birmingham240Aerospace Engineering, Business Management
University of Southampton100Nursing, Audiology
University of Sheffield198Data Science, Law
Lancaster University402Computer Science, Economics
Queen Mary University of London292Drama, Finance
University of Leeds180Automotive Engineering, Economics

Tips for a Successful UCAS Clearing Experience

Going through UCAS Clearing can be a stressful and time-sensitive process, but with the right approach, you can make it a successful experience. Here are some tips to help you navigate UCAS Clearing effectively and secure a university placement:

  • Act Quickly but Thoughtfully: Clearing vacancies can fill up fast, so it's essential to act promptly. However, don't rush into accepting an offer without considering it carefully. Make sure the course aligns with your interests and career goals.
  • Do Your Research: Before Clearing starts, research universities and courses that interest you. Having a list of potential options will help you make quick decisions during the Clearing process. Be open to exploring courses and universities you might not have considered initially. 
  • Prepare Necessary Information: Have your UCAS ID, exam results, and any relevant documents ready. You'll need this information when contacting universities during Clearing.
  • Contact Universities Proactively: Be proactive and contact universities directly to inquire about available spaces. Don't wait for them to contact you. Make phone calls and follow up with emails to express your interest.
  • Seek Support and Guidance: Talk to your teachers, careers advisors, or family members about your options. They can provide valuable insights and support during this process.
  • Attend University Open Days or Virtual Events: If possible, attend open days or virtual events offered by universities during Clearing. This can give you a better sense of the campus and the course structure.
  • Don't Panic if You Don't Get a Place Immediately: Clearing continues for a few days, and spaces can open up even after results day. Stay persistent and keep checking for new vacancies.
  • Consider Clearing Plus: If you don’t have any offers, a button will automatically pop up beneath your “My Matches” section. Through this, UCAS will use the information you’ve given from your application and match you to courses they think you’ll be interested in. They will also factor in what universities are looking for in a student. 
  • Be Prepared for Phone Interviews: Some universities may require a phone interview during Clearing. Prepare for these interviews and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the course.

Remember that Clearing is a chance for you to find the right university and course fit. With the right mindset and preparation, you can make the most of this opportunity and start your higher education journey successfully.

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Final Thoughts

Navigating UCAS Clearing can be a challenging and time-sensitive experience, but with the right approach and preparation, it can lead to successful outcomes. By staying calm, being proactive, and conducting thorough research, you can identify suitable courses that align with your interests and career goals. It's essential to remember that UCAS Clearing is not a reflection of your abilities or worth. Many successful and accomplished individuals have found their paths through Clearing, and it can open doors to exciting and unforeseen opportunities.

Overall, UCAS Clearing is a chance for resilience, adaptability, and growth. With determination and a positive mindset, you can turn this phase into a stepping stone towards a bright and promising future in higher education. Embrace the process, make the most of the available opportunities, and embark on a transformative academic journey.