University clearing 2021: what is it, how to apply for courses, and where to find your UCAS clearing number

On exam results day, here’s what you need to know about Clearing - what is it, how it works and how to find a place at university.

A student is congratulated by friends as as she receives her exam results (Photo: Getty)

Many students across England and Wales get their exam results today (10 August) – but what do you do if you’ve not got the grades you needed or did better than expected?

Dylan Cozens is a regional student recruitment manager at Coventry University and took time out to answer questions on everything you need to know about Clearing.

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What exactly is Clearing?

“Clearing is how students can make late applications to universities. Initially, it was to help students who didn’t get the required grades to get into the university and course of their choice. Now, it’s another route into university and helps all sorts of prospective students to find their feet.

“Whether you’ve done better than expected and want to try a different course, changed your mind about your chosen course or are now deciding to go to university this year, Clearing gives you the freedom to change direction.”

How do I find a place through Clearing?

“Think about the course you want to study and where you’d like to study – research which universities appeal to you and have spaces on their courses. The UCAS website has a wealth of information about different courses for you to explore.

“Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, get in touch with our friendly Clearing team, who will discuss your options and let you know which courses are available. If we have spaces on your chosen course and you meet the requirements, we might be able to make you an offer or offer you an alternative course where you can progress on to your chosen course in the future. The team will also explain the next steps and how to accept your offer.”

What can I study?

“Universities have a wide range of degrees available through Clearing, but some of the more popular courses might be full. You might need to have studied specific subjects, have relevant experience in a particular area or pass an interview before getting accepted onto some degree programmes.”

Can I change my mind about which university I attend?

"If you have already made your decision in UCAS but are interested in joining a different university in September, don’t worry. You can ‘self-release’ into Clearing.

"Self-release gives you greater control over your UCAS application.

"Instead of contacting your chosen university or college and waiting to be released into Clearing, you are now able to do this yourself as long as your firm choice has updated your status to unconditional or unsuccessful. Self-release is available in UCAS Track to all placed applicants now.

"The process of self-release is simple, but several warnings are flagged up throughout the process to ensure you are fully aware of what you are doing, so you need to be sure that you no longer want to study at your firm choice. Here’s how to self-release: Step One, Sign into UCAS Track, then click ‘Decline my place’ on the homepage. For Step Two you will be prompted with a drop-down question before confirming. Once this has been completed you are now in Clearing.

"If you have made a mistake, you will be advised to phone the university or college that you have declined. Your place may have been offered to another student but there could be a similar course with places available."

I have gained better results than expected, can I use Clearing to change my university?

"Yes. If you do better in your exams than expected, you may want to think again about your study options. You can do this through a process called 'Adjustment'. The UCAS website has more information on the Adjustment process."

What is Clearing Plus?

"Clearing Plus is a feature in UCAS Track where you can see a list of courses that are ‘matched’ to you if you are an unplaced applicant, based on your grades and what universities are looking for.

"You can then click to say you're interested in a course, and the university will see your details and can contact you directly by phone or email if they can offer you a place. If you already have a confirmed place, you can release yourself into Clearing to use Clearing Plus – see ‘Changed your mind?’ above."

What are the key dates I need to know?

"Clearing opened for 2021 entry on July 5..

"The last date to add a Clearing choice in Track for 2021 entry is 19 October.”

Where can I find my UCAS clearing number?

If you’re eligible for Clearing, your Clearing number will be on the welcome page and ‘Your choices’ section of Track.

If Track doesn't say ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’ it might just be waiting for your results to update. Get in touch with the universities/colleges if it's taking a while – they might still be considering you, even if your results are a bit lower than required.

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