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UCAS Clearing: what it is and how it works

This guide will help you navigate Clearing 2024. It has everything from how it works, the key dates and where to get support, plus tips on how to make the most of Results Day.

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What is Clearing?

Clearing is a term you’ve probably heard of in relation to applying to university, but what does it mean? Most students apply to university through the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). Clearing, also known as UCAS Clearing, is the final part of the UCAS application cycle before the new academic year begins. It is how universities fill courses that have spaces by matching applicants without a university place with universities that have vacancies.

A common myth is that you only use Clearing if you haven’t got the grades you need. While this is a common reason to go through Clearing, many applicants use it to shop around for courses or to make a late application to university.

Clearing opens on Friday 5 July 2024 and runs until September. You can apply through Clearing if you’re not holding an offer because:

  • You want to study a different course to the one you applied for
  • You’ve only just decided to study at university
  • You didn’t meet the conditions of your offer
  • You didn’t receive any offers
  • You rejected your offer.

Whatever your reason for being in Clearing, the important thing is to prepare yourself for Results Day so you can act quickly and calmly. Results Day can bring a lot of positive or negative emotions, depending on your circumstances. For instance, not getting the results you were expecting may be really disappointing, while changing your mind about which university you want to go to or which course to study may be unnerving. Wherever you find yourself on Results Day, knowing you have an action plan opens plenty of options. This Clearing guide will help you choose the right one for you.

How does Clearing work?

Universities use Clearing to fill courses that have spaces and applicants use it to search for courses with vacancies. During Clearing, you can contact universities and higher education providers to see if they have any spaces on courses for the new academic year. It is open to anyone who has applied through UCAS but does not hold any offers. It’s a chance for applicants who didn’t meet the conditions of their offers to find a course. It also gives applicants who have changed their mind about the university or course they want to study to find a course.

Who can use Clearing?

Clearing is available to you if you aren’t holding any offers. If you’re already in the UCAS system, Clearing is available to you if your UCAS Hub says ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’.

Once Clearing opens on Friday 5 July, you can see which universities have vacancies on their courses on the UCAS website. It’s also a good idea to reach out to universities directly to find out which courses have spaces. You can apply to as many universities as you want and get as many offers as you want during Clearing. However, you can only accept one offer. For more details about the Clearing process and how to use it, see our step-by-step guide below.

Clearing 2024 key dates

Friday 5 July
UCAS Clearing opens

Saturday 6 July
International Baccalaureate results

Tuesday 6 August
SQA results

Thursday 15 August
A-level, T-level and BTEC results

Thursday 22 August
GCSE results

End of September
Clearing continues until our courses are full or the academic year begins.

Step-by-step guide on how to use Clearing

This guide explains the key parts of the Clearing process and what you need to do at each stage. It also includes details on what happens on Results Day.

1. How to apply through Clearing

If you already have your exam results, you can apply as soon as Clearing opens on Friday 5 July. If you haven’t received your exam results yet, you’ll have to wait until you have them before you apply through Clearing. For most students, Results Day is Thursday 15 August.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • If you have already applied to universities through UCAS
    Go to your UCAS Hub to see if Clearing is available to you. Once Clearing starts on Friday 5 July, your UCAS Hub will say ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’. This means that you can use UCAS Hub to look for courses that have spaces, receive informal Clearing offers from universities, and accept the offer you want.
  • If you haven’t applied to universities yet
    You need to fill in a Clearing application. To begin your application, sign up to UCAS Hub and follow the instructions. You can start using UCAS Hub as soon as UCAS has processed your application and you’ve received an email with instructions on how to access your UCAS account. You need to pay £27.50 for your UCAS application.

2. How to look for a university place through Clearing

From Friday 5 July 2024 onwards, universities list their Clearing vacancies on UCAS. You will be able to search for courses that have spaces using the UCAS search tool. Once you have found the course/courses you’re interested in, get in touch with the university/universities to see if you meet their entry requirements and whether there are still spaces available.

3. How to accept an offer through Clearing

Once you have all your Clearing offers from universities (typically given over the phone) and have decided which one you want to go for, you need to formally accept the offer. This means that you are definitely accepting the offer from the university, so take your time before making your decision and make sure you’re absolutely sure before going ahead. When you’re ready, accept the offer by visiting your UCAS Hub and adding the course as a Clearing choice. Only add a Clearing choice if the university has given you permission to do so.

4. How to add a Clearing choice

Sign into the UCAS Hub and go to the ‘Your choices’ section of your application. Click ‘Add Clearing choice’ and fill in the course details by the date the university gave you on the phone. For example, to accept an offer from the University of Greenwich, enter the UCAS course code and our institution code, G70. Once you’ve added your Clearing choice, the university will then confirm your place within 24 to 72 hours.

5. What ‘self-release’ means and how to use it

If you have a confirmed place at a university and have changed your mind, you need to self-release into Clearing before you can apply to another institution. When you self-release, you’re declining your confirmed place. You will not be able to reverse the decision, so be absolutely sure it’s what you want to do before you go ahead. Also ensure that the university you have spoken to is definitely offering you a place through Clearing.

To self-release into Clearing, log into UCAS Hub. Then click on ‘Decline my place’. This will take you to a page explaining the process and you will be asked to confirm that you want to self-release into Clearing. Once you have done this, your status on UCAS will show that you are in Clearing and you will be able to add a course as a Clearing choice and formally accept an offer from a university.

6. How to prepare before Results Day

As Results Day approaches, it can be an anxious time, especially if you’re relying on certain grades to get into your chosen university. Whether your exam results are better than you expected or not what you’d hoped for, we can help you through it. One way to minimise the stress on the day is to do the groundwork. Here are some things you can do in advance to help you handle Clearing on the big day.

  • Have a plan B ready
    Research universities and courses you’d consider if you don’t meet the conditions of your conditional offer before Results Day. There may be Clearing vacancies on similar courses that you aren’t aware of, so it’s worth widening your search. This means you will be well-informed on the day and therefore better able to make the right decision for you.
  • Follow universities on social media
    Most universities have Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and X accounts. Follow them to get updates on course vacancies, Clearing Open Days and much more.
  • Get in touch with universities
    Email or call the universities you’re interested in and see if they have any events that you can attend either in person or online. The University of Greenwich runs a number of Clearing events, starting on Tuesday 11 June and continuing until September.
  • Make notes
    Keep track of your university research, contact details and Clearing hotlines in a notepad or on your laptop/tablet so you can refer to them on Results Day.
  • Sign up to Priority Clearing
    Many universities offer services to beat the rush on Results Day. If you sign up to the University of Greenwich Priority Clearing service, you get access to our Priority Clearing hotline. This allows you to jump the queue on the day.

7. What happens on Results Day

Students receive their A-level, T-level and BTEC results on Thursday 15 August. Places on courses become available because applicants don’t get the grades they need or they decide to swap to another course. It is normal to feel disappointed if you don’t get the results you wanted, but there will be options for you, so try not to be too disheartened. And remember, you’re not alone – thousands of students go through Clearing.

As Results Day is very busy, it’s a good idea to plan in advance to make the most of the opportunities and help ease any stress.

As soon as your results are released, your UCAS Hub will update. This is what it will show:

  • Unconditional – Your university place has been confirmed. This may be your firm offer, insurance offer or both.
  • Unsuccessful – You have not been accepted by the university where you had a conditional offer. You’re now eligible to enter Clearing.
  • Unconditional Changed Course (UCC) – You don’t have the grades for your offer, but the university has offered a similar course which you do have the grades for.

Results Day timeline

8am Exam boards release A-level, T-level and BTEC results. UCAS receives the results directly and your UCAS Hub will update at around 8am

8am University Clearing lines open

1pm Applicants can add their Clearing choice on their UCAS Hub

8. Top tips on how to make the most of Results Day

A good place to start is to check out ‘How to prepare for Results Day’ to see what you can do beforehand. Here’s what you can do in the final lead-up and on the actual day to benefit the most from Clearing.

Look after yourself

Find things to take your mind off your exam results in the days leading up to the day by doing things you like. This can be spending time with loved ones, exercising or enjoying your favourite hobbies. Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before to make sure you’re fully rested.

Be ready to go at 8am when Clearing lines open

Check your internet connection, make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone (and charger), and have the following information to hand:

  • Your UCAS number and details of your conditional offers
    University Clearing telephone numbers
  • UCAS Clearing telephone number
  • Your A-level, T-level and BTEC results
  • Your GCSE results
  • A notepad and pen
  • Notes from the research you have done beforehand
  • A list of questions to ask course tutors
  • Your personal statement.

Limit your social media use

It can be helpful to reach out to friends at this time but try to avoid comparing your results. Remember that everyone’s journey is different and it’s best for your wellbeing to focus on your own plans.

Take your time

Most universities will give you a few days to accept or reject an offer so don’t rush your decision. Ask universities how long you have to accept their offer, ask about the course and see if there are any Clearing Open Days you can attend in the coming days.

Get support and help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Speak to your loved ones and reach out to the universities and support services.

UCAS Clearing FAQs

What can I study through Clearing?

Most courses are available through Clearing, as long as there are places available. You can see which courses have availability using the UCAS search tool.

I’m an international student. Can I apply through Clearing?

If you’ve applied to a UK university through UCAS, you can apply through Clearing. If you haven’t applied yet, you can make a Clearing application. For details on how to do this, see above: 'How to apply through Clearing'.

I have qualifications from outside the UK. Can I still apply for Clearing?

Yes, you can. Check the university websites and the relevant course pages for details of the qualifications that are accepted. At the University of Greenwich, you can see the academic entry requirements for different countries in our Greenwich in your country section.

What can I do if I get better grades than I expected?

If you’ve got higher grades than you were expecting, you can explore your options while holding onto your firm choice. If you are offered a space on a course in Clearing, you’ll need to ‘self-release’ in order to accept the offer. See above: ‘What “self-release" means and how to use it’.

Can I apply through Clearing if I’ve already accepted an offer?

Yes, you can. You’ll need to ‘self-release’ into Clearing to be able to do this. See above: ‘What “self-release” means and how to use it’.

Can I go to a Clearing Open Day?

Many universities run Open Days specifically for students going through Clearing. You can visit the campus, see the facilities, and speak to staff and students. Ask universities for details about their Clearing Open Days when you call them. Keep an eye on our website to see when our Clearing Open Days are.

Can I find student accommodation through Clearing?

You may be able to get a place in university accommodation if you apply through Clearing. Speak to the university to learn more about how to apply for accommodation and whether there’s availability.

Can I apply for student finance during Clearing?

Yes. Student loans are available for eligible students applying through Clearing. You should apply as soon as possible to ensure your first payment arrives on time. Learn more about students finance on our fees and funding page and on the UCAS website.

What happens if I have applied for student finance for a different university and/or course?

If you have already applied for a student loan and have changed university and/or course, you need to notify your loan provider (Student Finance England or similar).

Alternative routes to university

If you haven’t decided about going to university or your plans have changed, here are some options.

Degree apprenticeships

When you study for a degree apprenticeship you split your time between university and work. You gain valuable practical experience with the added bonus that you earn while you learn. The University of Greenwich offers a number of degree apprenticeships.

Foundation degrees

Foundation degrees combine academic and workplace skills and prepare you for the final part of an undergraduate degree. They focus on a particular profession and are shorter than a degree – usually two years full-time or longer for part-time students. The University of Greenwich works with a number of partner colleges that offer a wide range of foundation degrees.

Helplines and support

Most students experience some anxiety as Results Day approaches. For practical Clearing support, try these two helplines. It’s also important for you to feel supported, so turn to a trusted friend or family member or reach out to one of the support services below.

UCAS helpline

Get answers to your queries on the technicalities of Clearing or any issues using UCAS Hub.
0371 468 0468

Exam Results Helpline

Speak to a knowledgeable adviser on the free telephone exam results helpline. Lines are open from 8am on Results Day.
0800 100 900

Support services

Get mental health and wellbeing support through one of the services below.