University clearing 2023: what is UCAS process to help students find uni courses - and useful contact numbers

Thousands of students find their university course through clearing each year

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With results day around the corner, A-level students will be waiting to find out their grades - and many will be hoping they’ve done enough to secure a place at university.

If you want to go to university but missed your grades for your chosen institutions, there are still plenty of options. Clearing is a popular choice amongst students, with thousands finding places through the process each year, according to UCAS.

Through the process, students who don’t have a place at a university can be matched to courses where there are vacancies. There are usually a wide variety of degree courses and institutions available on clearing, so there should be something or somewhere that takes your fancy.

However, students have been warned to be “quick off the mark” when it comes to clearing this year, due to higher competition for the top spots. So, to help you prepare, here’s everything you need to know about the UCAS clearing process - including how to apply.

Last year more than 47,000 students found their university place through Clearing (Pic: Getty Images)Last year more than 47,000 students found their university place through Clearing (Pic: Getty Images)
Last year more than 47,000 students found their university place through Clearing (Pic: Getty Images)

What is clearing?

Clearing is a process run by UCAS which helps students find prospective university courses. After results day, many universities will find they have vacancies on some of their courses - so clearing is used to find students who want to fill these spaces.

You may consider clearing for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • You didn’t get into the university you wanted and want to find an alternative option
  • You got better grades than you expected and want to try get into a university with tougher entry requirements
  • You changed your mind about what or where you want to study

You are also eligible to apply to study at university through clearing even if you did not receive any university offers during initial applications, which close in January.

Clearing is a popular option amongst students, with more than 47,000 finding their university course through clearing in 2021, according to UCAS. There are a range of universities available, with even high ranking institutions offering places, so it’s definitely an option worth considering.

When is clearing 2023?

Clearing kicks off in July, but students generally wait until A-level results day to look for courses. This year, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, A Level results day is on Thursday 17 August.

In Scotland, students received their Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers results on Tuesday 8 August, and so will already have been able to begin the process.

The deadline to apply for clearing is 17 October 2023.

Employees in the UCAS clearing house call centre answer telephone enquiries ahead of results day (Pic: Getty Images)Employees in the UCAS clearing house call centre answer telephone enquiries ahead of results day (Pic: Getty Images)
Employees in the UCAS clearing house call centre answer telephone enquiries ahead of results day (Pic: Getty Images)

How does clearing work?

After results day, UCAS have a list of university courses in clearing on their website. All you need to do is enter the course you are interested in and the year you want to study.

Once you have decided on a course, the next step is to call the university to make sure you meet the criteria and they still have space.

If they offer you a place and you accept it, you will need to add clearing to your application, by clicking on the “add clearing” button and then adding in the university course information. If the university does not confirm your place, you can keep trying and add another clearing option.

If you only applied for one university in your original UCAS application, you will have to pay a £4.50 fee for clearing.

Who is eligible for clearing?

Anyone who has made a UCAS application and hasn’t accepted an offer is eligible for clearing.

You are eligible for clearing if you:

  • applied before 30 June but didn’t receive any offers
  • applied to UCAS after 30 June
  • didn’t meet the conditions of your offers
  • have paid the application fee of £26.50
  • have declined your firm place
Students at the University of Birmingham pose for a group photograph after graduation (Pic: Getty Images)Students at the University of Birmingham pose for a group photograph after graduation (Pic: Getty Images)
Students at the University of Birmingham pose for a group photograph after graduation (Pic: Getty Images)

How can I find a university course?

You can find a university course on the UCAS clearing list website.

Clearing begins in July, but many students do not start to look for courses until after they have received their results. Popular courses fill up fast, so it’s important that if you find a course or university you want to apply for you don’t wait around.

Who can I contact if I need help?

There are a few places you can go to if you need help during clearing.

Here are some useful contact numbers:

UCAS: 0371 468 0 468

UCAS run a dedicated service for clearing to help students navigate the process. Whilst staff cannot advise on courses, they can assist with queries or any technical issues you are having with your application.

Alternatively, you can also contact UCAS on social media, via their Twitter account @ucas_online.

You can also call the ‘Exam Results Helpline’ on 0800 100 9000.

This helpline offers students advice on the next steps after they receive their A-level results. It opens from 8am on results day and is free to use.

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