Universities use Clearing as a means of filling any places remaining on their courses, so if you've not managed to find a suitable course yet for 2023/24, discover what you need to do to apply
What is Clearing?
Clearing is a UCAS service that allows universities to fill spaces on courses that aren't yet full, while students without offers are given a second chance to pursue their higher education aspirations.
In 2022, a total of 33,280 students managed to secure their university places through UCAS Clearing, up from 24,100 in 2021.
When does Clearing 2023 open?
The service is available from July to October each year, meaning that for 2023/24, if you already have your grades but aren't holding an offer from a university, you can use the Clearing service straight away from Wednesday 5 July 2023.
However, if you had conditional offers but your grades didn't go to plan, you can enter Clearing from A-level results day onwards (Clearing choices can be added from 3pm on the day).
Clearing vacancies are displayed in UCAS's search tool, with the majority added from results day. You can phone the university hotline numbers from Tuesday morning to late afternoon on this day. As opening times will vary, it's best to check with the individual university for details.
Applications will be accepted until Tuesday 17 October 2023, with this being the last date to add your choices, and for universities to make their final decisions.
Can I use UCAS Clearing?
This could be the ideal way to find a place on a new course if you:
- were late applying for university (after 30 June)
- haven't received any offers (or none you're willing to accept)
- didn't meet the conditions of your offers
- have paid the multiple-choice application fee of £27
- declined your firm place using UCAS Hub.
Even if you meet the grade requirements for your firm or insurance offer, you can now use the 'self-release' facility on UCAS Hub to release yourself from your university choice and find a course through Clearing instead. To proceed with this, you'll need to follow a series of on-screen prompts after pressing the 'Decline my place' button, to confirm that you fully understand the action you're taking.
If you only paid the reduced fee of £22.50 to choose one course in your initial UCAS application, you'll be charged an additional £4.50 so you're eligible to apply for multiple courses through Clearing.
How does Clearing work?
While some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, don't take part in Clearing, the UCAS Clearing website typically lists more than 30,000 course vacancies through its official search facility. The list is updated regularly up to mid-September.
However, it's up to you to identify courses of interest that still have spaces to fill. Contact the relevant universities directly to confirm whether they'll offer you a place.
You can even consider applying for courses in subjects you hadn't originally applied for, and to universities that may have previously rejected you earlier in the year. As you begin to search for new courses and think through your options, get help on how to choose the right degree and the best ways to compare UK universities.
Trained advisers are on hand, manning university hotlines to guide you through the process. You'll need to gain permission from a university before you can add the course to UCAS Hub. Keep a note of your UCAS personal ID, as you'll need this when calling universities.
Once you've received a verbal offer, it's been added to UCAS Hub and confirmed by the university, your place is guaranteed.
Read more about how Clearing works at UCAS - What is Clearing?
What is Clearing Plus?
As well as searching for suitable courses through the UCAS search facility, you can also take advantage of its Clearing Plus tool, which has been designed to match you with your ideal course using information from your application and what universities are looking for in candidates.
If you haven't got a place at university or have started a new application, you'll see a 'See matches' button in UCAS Hub. This takes you to your top 50 course matches. From the list, you can approach universities offering courses you're interested in. They may then contact you if they still have vacancies and you meet their entry requirements.
Read more about this service at UCAS - What is Clearing Plus?
Can you apply to a university in Clearing without using UCAS?
You can apply directly to a university and the process is called Record of Prior Acceptance (RPA). You'll still have to supply the university with your results, a personal statement and a reference and if the university offers this route and makes you an offer that you accept, you'll need to fill in an RPA form. The university will submit this to UCAS on your behalf (for use in data analysis).
Not all universities offer this route, so be sure to check with your chosen university.
If you accept an offer from a university via an RPA, you won't be able to apply for any other courses. Be absolutely sure about the course before you accept any offer.
How do I apply through Clearing?
Any places on courses that universities haven't managed to fill can be found via the UCAS search tool - where you can browse vacancies according to subject, location or university.
To apply, fill out your details as normal (including your university personal statement). Once submitted, you'll be invited to use the UCAS Hub service and be given a Clearing number - this will be displayed under your 'Application status'. From there, you'll need to follow the steps and look for a place.
You'll need to give the university your Clearing number and personal ID, so they can view your online application. Verbal offers are usually made over the phone, and you should only accept one.
Remember, you'll only be able to add one choice at a time. If the university doesn't confirm the offer, you can look again and add another.
How do I add Clearing choices?
If you've previously registered for UCAS Hub and your results have updated, you're ready to use Clearing when your status changes to either 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'.
From this point you can visit the 'Your choices' section and click 'Add Clearing choice'.
You'll then be able to enter the course details.
Only once you've been granted permission by your chosen university should you add a Clearing choice. The university will then confirm your place through UCAS.
How do I secure student finance after Clearing?
If you accept an offer through Clearing, you need to make sure you get your student loan.
The process for finance will be different - depending on whether you applied for university in the initial application phase, or whether you're using Clearing for your first application.
If you've already applied for funding but have changed your course or the university you're attending, you'll need to let Student Finance know. It's easy to update your details but you should do this as soon as possible, as it may affect the amount you receive.
Follow the steps below to update your Student Finance application:
- Log into your account at GOV.UK - Student finance login
- Go to 'Your Account'
- Select 'Change your Application'
- Then select 'University/College and Course'.
Meanwhile, if you've decided to go to university this year and you still haven't applied for finance, you'll need to apply now to give yourself the best chance of receiving your loan in time for the start of your course. You can register and apply online at GOV.UK.
While it's possible you won't get all of your funding in time for the start of your course, Student Finance will do their best to make sure you receive some support shortly after you register. If you face a delay in your funding, contact your university to let them know.
University Clearing tips
Malathi Kanapathy, head of prospect experience at Middlesex University London, gives her advice on how to navigate the university Clearing process:
- Don't panic if you don't get the grades you were expecting - you can shop around for suitable courses. You can also use UCAS Clearing Plus, which provides you with courses matching your profile.
- Use your time wisely before results day to research, browse websites, view virtual tours, check social media channels, and get a feel for the universities you'd consider.
- Assess your options and don't discount alternative courses and study levels. You'll find plenty of information on the course pages and university profiles to help you decide.
- Speak to admissions advisers through their special Clearing phonelines about the alternatives you're interested in. This is also a good opportunity to discuss availability on their student accommodation.
- Have all your important information ready, which you'll need when making calls (for instance, your UCAS number, Clearing number, A-level/GCSE grades) when talking to universities. Take notes of the points discussed with the adviser or course leader.
- Be ready to answer questions on your reasons for choosing a specific course (as well as your academic ability), as universities will want to know you're the right fit. You may even be asked to speak to a programme leader about the course, or be invited for a university interview.
- Be patient - with hundreds of applications to process, it can take up to a day for your chosen university to make a decision and respond. If you haven't heard back by the following day, give them a call to find out about your place. Even though you applied late, you'll still receive a welcome pack and your university will make sure you're all set for freshers' week.
- Confirm your place - don't forget to confirm your place through UCAS once you've been made an offer that you're happy with.
Find out more
- Consider the 10 things to do before starting university.
- Discover what to take to university.
- Read our 5 ways to manage student stress.