Clearing can be a somewhat daunting process. University Clearing refers to a system used in the UK to fill remaining undergraduate places before the academic year begins.
To undergo Clearing means that you were not offered a place in your preferred course or university. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, though. Applying to university through Clearing can match you with a university you had not considered, leading you down a new and exciting path.
How does university Clearing work?
In the UK, university Clearing is undertaken via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). The UCAS website will list any undergraduate courses that still have vacancies before the beginning of the new academic year.
Clearing begins in July and runs through to September. During this time period, you can apply for a course via UCAS, provided you don’t already hold an offer from a university or college and that your chosen course still has places. There is a £20 fee to apply for a single course or a £25 fee for multiple courses.
Each year, approximately 60,000 students find their place in university via university Clearing, so there’s a high chance you’ll find a course to suit you.
How to Find University Clearing Offers
Once you have submitted your Clearing application, UCAS will match you to courses that you may be interested in. Using what is known about you through your application and what universities and colleges are looking for in a student, you will be matched to up to 50 university Clearing courses that are applicable to you. You can then express your interest, and your chosen university will be in contact with you if they have the vacancies and you meet their entry requirements.
Alternatively, you can use the search tool on the UCAS website from July to browse vacancies.
UK Clearing Requirements and Eligibility
University Clearing comes with a list of requirements and eligibility criteria you will need to meet.
You can use Clearing if you meet any of the below university Clearing entry requirements:
- You applied in the current application year
- You did not receive any offers on your preferred university applications
- You declined your offers
- You did not accept any of your offers by the due date
- You did not meet the conditions of your offers (e.g. you did not receive the correct grade during exams)
- You declined your firm place
- You applied for a course but were declined or unsuccessful, and you paid the full fee for application.
UK university Clearing is also open to international students, as long as you initially applied for university via UCAS.
To make the Clearing application process simple to understand, here is a step-by-step process on how to apply to university through Clearing.
Know your deadline
To be considered in Clearing, you need to have made an application with UCAS prior to that year’s deadline. For 2021 applications, the deadlines are:
- 15th January 2021 (most courses)
- 15th October 2020 (University of Oxford courses, University of Cambridge courses, and most medical, dental and veterinary courses).
Note that these deadlines are 6pm UK time – don’t leave your application too late by forgetting about the time difference!
Track your UCAS application
Tracking your UCAS application allows you to see whether you have entered Clearing. From there, you can determine whether you have been entered into the UK university Clearing process.
Get advice from your school
To start, it’s best to speak with an advisor at your school, college or careers office, and inform them that you wish to apply to university through the Clearing process. They will be able to talk to you about alternative courses.
If you would like to undertake the process independently, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service website has all the information you need.
Take an English skills test
To enrol in a UK university as an international student, including via Clearing, you’ll need to provide evidence of your English skills. It’s a good idea to get this out of the way early, so you’re not trying to prepare for your English exam while also going through the process of applying to universities.
PTE Academic is a UK government-approved English language test for all categories of UK visas. Learn more about the test here.
Seek out available courses
There are numerous ways to find university Clearing courses. Luckily for international students, most of these ways can be done online. The first is to use UCAS’s search tool, as UCAS has the official vacancy list for UK university Clearing.
When seeking out courses with vacancies for Clearing, you may need to expand your horizons a little further than you originally intended. This may mean considering different subjects, joint honours courses, or a combination of different subjects. It’s also worth taking into account that universities update their course information at different times – some courses may immediately be filled, while others may have vacancies later.
Talk to any universities or colleges you may be interested in
Before you add any Clearing choices in Track, try talking to the universities or colleges offering Clearing courses. You will need to give them your Clearing number and Personal ID so they can find your application. Ask if they would accept you, even if you applied to them earlier in the year.
It’s also worth trying to get informal offers over the phone from a number of universities, since you can decide which one you would like to accept. Just keep in mind that these offers are typically conditional, which means you’ll still need to meet the university’s criteria (e.g. final exam results) to enrol.
Once you have your course in mind, attend open days or ask if there are any virtual tours available.
Add your Clearing choice in Track
Once you have permission to do so from your university or college, add your Clearing choice and fill in the course details. You’ll need to do this by the date given to you by the university. By doing this, you signal that you are definitely accepting the course offer.
COVID-19 Note: The UK government has encouraged universities to stop making unconditional offers during Clearing, because they don’t want applicants to feel pressured and rush into decisions that aren’t truly right for them. If you receive an unconditional offer, be sure to consider whether it’s really the right course and institution for you before you accept it.
Looking for tips on applying to university through Clearing? Here are a few quick ones.
Do your research
Start your research on the UK’s universities before Clearing opens. There are lots of good ways to research universities online and find out more about the courses they have on offer.
Be flexible and realistic
If you have your heart set on a particular course but are not successful, remain optimistic and explore other options. You may come across an opportunity that is just as good – or even better – for you. Stay flexible and realistic when it comes to Clearing, as you may still find a course that you love elsewhere.
Be quick – but not too quick
Resist the urge to enrol impulsively, especially when it feels like opportunities are being snapped up all around you. Be thoughtful and patient when making this decision, as you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of success – and something that important deserves careful consideration!