What is UCAS Clearing?

By Karis Nash  · May 23rd 2022

If you just missed out on a university spot or have done a full 180 and are looking to change your course, then UCAS Clearing is for you.


No one can be certain on what will happen on A Level results day. Whether you just missed out on a spot on the university course you applied for or over exceeded your grade expectations, UCAS Clearing allows you to shop around for the ideal course.

clearing ucas

What is Clearing?

Once A level results day has taken place, many universities will have free spaces on their courses. The UCAS clearing system helps potential university students find a university course after they’ve received their results.

If you do not reach the required grades for the courses you have applied for, you will automatically be put into Clearing. Also, if you decide you’d like to change your course then you will be able to use clearing to do this. Previously, UCAS had an Adjustment system, however in 2021 it was announced that the service is closing and those who receive higher grades than expected and wanted to change course should use Clearing to do so.

Why choose Clearing?

You may decide to go through university Clearing for numerous reasons. Maybe you’ve already applied for university, however missed out on your firm and insurance choices, or you’ve only just thought about going to university in September. Whatever the reason, the UCAS Clearing system is a great way to grab a university spot.

Remember that you may not need Clearing if you miss your grades by a small margin. Universities you have already applied for may offer you a space on an alternative course. If an alternative course is offered, it will appear on UCAS track on A Level results day. If another option is not offered you could reach out to the university and ask if there is any space. This is why it is important to check your UCAS track as early as possible on results day. If there are any spaces left, you’ll want to be first in the door.

If you’ve exceeded your grade expectations and would like to now change your course or university, you can use Clearing. Up until this year, changing course/university as a result of better grades was done through UCAS Adjustment. However, last year UCAS announced that the service was closing and now students must go through Clearing if they wish to apply for a new course/university. Remember, if you want to change course but still go to the same university, the best thing to do is ask the university directly. If they agree you will be sent an updated offer for the new course.

Didn’t apply to university before the UCAS deadline? No worries, you can apply for university directly through the UCAS clearing system. However, bear in mind you can only apply for university through Clearing when you have received your A level results.

Throughout Clearing the most important thing to remember is not to panic. Instead, think of it as another opportunity to search around for the perfect course for you.

When does Clearing open and close?

Most students will access clearing after A levels results day. This year's results day will be on the 18th August. On the day you will be able to log onto UCAS track and see if Clearing is your next step.

Clearing technically starts from the 5th July. Those who wish to go to university but missed the original deadline are able to apply to universities through Clearing after they have received their results. The UCAS Clearing deadline is the 18th October.

How can I prepare for Clearing?

Unfortunately no one can be certain about how results day is going to go. You may achieve the grades you need, be offered a spot on an alternative course, or not be accepted into your chosen university. Because of the many possibilities it is important to be prepared for any outcome on results day.

If you do find yourself automatically placed into the Clearing system it's a good idea to get going with the process as soon as possible to ensure you get a spot on your desired course. Make sure you research other courses you are interested in that you haven’t applied for prior to results day. This way you won’t waste any time trying to decide on a new course.

Note down the course number, course title, the grade boundaries and the admissions number. It is also a good idea to make yourself aware of any clearing helplines or contacts for the universities you wish to apply to through Clearing.

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How to add a Clearing choice?

If you have previously applied for university however have not met the required grades for your chosen course(s) then you will automatically be put into Clearing. When you log in to your UCAS track account on A Level results day your status will change to either ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’.

To apply for any courses you will need to contact the university you're interested in directly. Any universities who have clearing spaces will be listed on the UCAS Clearing and can easily be filtered by course type, location and university. If you receive a verbal offer from the university you will need to add it to UCAS track. To do this, you need to navigate the ‘Your choices’ section on Track and click ‘Add Clearing choice’. Here simply fill in the new course details. Once the university has confirmed your place in Track the spot is yours.

Want to apply to university directly through Clearing? No worries, the process is simple. First you’ll need to use the UCAS search tool to find a course from the UCAS clearing list. To apply you will need to fill out your details and include your personal statement. Once submitted you will be invited to use the Track service and be given a personal Clearing number. Then simply follow the steps in Track to find a place.

You will need to give the university you apply for your Clearing number and personal ID so that they can view your application. Verbal offers are often given over the phone.

You are only able to add one UCAS clearing course choice at a time. If you do not get offered a place all you need to do is find another course and start the process again.

Throughout the entire process the most important thing to remember is not to panic. Instead, think of it as another opportunity to search around for the perfect course for you.

What is Clearing Plus?

Clearing Plus is a tool set up by UCAS to match you with the perfect course. Searching through the Clearing list for the right course to apply for can be tedious, but Clearing Plus can speed up the process.

UCAS takes what they know about you from your application, and what they know about the type of students universities are looking for to pair you with the ideal course. Universities will tell UCAS what courses they would like to make available through Clearing Plus and the entry requirements for them. If UCAS thinks you would be a good fit for a particular Clearing place, and you show interest in it, then the university can contact you. Don’t worry, you are still able to access the full Clearing list if you’re going through Clearing Plus.

Not everyone is eligible for Clearing Plus. If you’re unsuccessful with your original application or you are applying to university for the first time directly through Clearing, then you’ll see the ‘See matches’ button on your account.

Are there Clearing open days?

It’s always a good idea to start the Clearing process as early as possible. Understandably, you may want to visit the university before you decide to apply. Many universities do run clearing open days. These offer an opportunity to see the facilities and talk with staff.

If the university you’d like to apply for does not offer an open day you can contact them directly and ask whether you’d be able to visit before you make a firm decision. As long as there isn’t too much time between being offered a place through Clearing at that university and confirming it, the university should keep the offer in place.

If you do not reach the required grades for the courses you have applied for, you will automatically be put into Clearing

How do I get student finance after Clearing?

If you’ve been accepted through Clearing you will need to make sure you get your student loan. Depending on whether you have previously applied to university or have applied directly through Clearing, how you go about this will be different.

If you have previously applied but have now changed course or university you will need to let Student Finance know. Updating your details is simple and should be done sooner rather than later to ensure you receive the correct amount.

  • First go to GOV.UK - Student Finance and log into your account
  • Find ‘Your Account’
  • Select ‘Change Your Application’
  • Select ‘University/College and Course’

If you have not yet applied for Student Finance you must apply as soon as possible to ensure you will receive your loan in time for the course start. If you do apply closer to the Clearing deadline then don’t panic. You will just have to wait a little to receive your loan. It is worthwhile contacting your university if you will be receiving your funding a little late.

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