A guide to Ucas Clearing: how to find your university place
Everything you need to find a course through Ucas Clearing, including what to do on the day, how to call universities and more.
- What is Clearing?
- Why might you use Clearing?
- Can you use Clearing?
- When is Clearing?
- Before results day: how to prepare for Clearing
- Where to go for help with Clearing
- On results day: the Clearing process
- How many universities can I apply to?
- Do universities accept lower grades through Clearing?
- You've got your place, what next?
What if I get better grades than predicted?
What is Clearing?
The Ucas Clearing process helps uni applicants to find and apply for course places once exam results have been published.
So, if you don't get the grades you need for the course you're applying to, Clearing gives you the chance to grab a spot on another one at either the same or a different university.
You can also apply for a university place directly through Clearing, even if you haven't already made an application this year.
Why might you use Clearing?
There's a wide range of universities with places available in Clearing. Plenty of highly ranked universities have Clearing places: to give you an idea, here's a list of the 15 highest-ranking universities in Clearing this year.
Clearing is ultimately about choosing where you‘ll spend the next few years of your life, so spend some time researching your choices before picking up the phone to call a university.
See what other students are saying about their experiences of Clearing on the Clearing, Applications and Ucas forum on our sister site The Student Room.
Can you use Clearing?
The most common reason for using Clearing is if your grades don't meet the entry requirements for your firm and insurance choice offers.
There are other reasons, too:
you change your mind about your firm and insurance choices, and wish to apply to a different course or university
you applied before 30 June but don’t have any offers
- you only applied after 30 June – you’ll be automatically entered into Clearing once you apply
Even if you don't get the grades you need, you might not need Clearing. Sometimes you'll still be accepted if you just miss out on your offer, like if you got BBC instead of the required BBB.
Remember, if you're unhappy with an A-level exam grade you've received, you could resit the exam next year – get the lowdown on A-level retakes with this article on The Student Room.
When is Clearing 2023?
Clearing begins in early July each year. Once Clearing opens, you're able to search through available courses. But the majority of applications that are made through Clearing happen after exam results are published.
This year, A-level results day is on Thursday 17 August 2023 and the deadline for Clearing is 17 October 2023.
Keep in mind that any spots available on popular courses at the highest-ranked universities will be filled quickly within a day or two – so don’t wait around!
Before results day: how to prepare for Clearing
Check out our full guide to getting ready for results day and Clearing. If you do need to enter Clearing, getting a head start will help as you’ll need to move quickly to snap up a spot on the courses.
If you don't feel confident that you'll get the grades you need, it can't hurt to start preparing a back-up plan. See which other universities offer the same – or similar – courses, search for similar courses that have slightly lower grade requirements than you've been predicted, or try those which didn't quite make your top five Ucas choices earlier in the year.
- From 5 July, Ucas will list Clearing vacancies that can be found using its search tool so this is worth checking out when doing your research. Universities will be updating these regularly until mid-September.
Make sure you’ve got all important info and documents which you will need to make calls (e.g. Ucas number, Clearing number, A-level/GCSE grades), close by and laid out clearly. Plus, have a pen ready to take notes.
Practise what you’ll say in a mini-interview if you have one over the phone. Our guide to answering questions on a Clearing call can give you an idea of how to make the right impression.
- It's also worth revisiting your personal statement, as universities you apply to in Clearing will have access to this and might ask about what you've written here.
Doing as much of this as you can beforehand will give you more time to research alternative courses properly so that on results day, you can focus your attention on those you'd be happy going to.
Where to go for help with Clearing
There are a couple of key ones to note:
- Ucas: 0371 468 0 468
At this time of year, Ucas goes into overdrive. Staff will not advise on course choices, but are great at sorting out queries on the technicalities of Clearing or if you're having any issues using Hub.
- Exam Results Helpline (ERH): 0808 100 8000
This free telephone exam results helpline is neutral, knowledgeable and non-judgmental. Lines open from 8am on results day.
Head to the Ucas Twitter page (@Ucas_Online) to find the latest official updates and read the rants, raves and success stories of other students in the same boat as you – all delivered in bite-sized chunks. Similarly, you can post on the Ucas Facebook page or message privately.
What's Clearing like? Uni student Ashleigh shares her experience in this video.
On results day: the Clearing processUnderstandably, Clearing can be quite hectic. Here's a preview of what to expect on results day and what to do:
- Check your Ucas Hub as early as possible in the morning to see the status of your applications. If you’re eligible for Clearing, it will say so and you’ll be provided with a Clearing number (which you'll have to give to universities you call).
- You’ll be able to see on Ucas Hub if you’ve got into your chosen universities or not, but it won't show your grades - you’ll need to pick them up yourself.
- If you're eligible for Clearing, you can start phoning universities through their special Clearing phone lines to speak to one of their advisers – or someone from that course’s department – about the course you’re interested in.
- You can also use Ucas’s Clearing Plus tool, which will provide you with courses matching your profile on your Hub. You can access this by logging into Ucas Hub and clicking the ‘see matches’ button on your application.
- Some universities may just ask for your grades and make a decision based on these; others may ask a few questions about why you’re interested in that particular course, a bit like a mini-interview. Read our full guide to calling universities in Clearing, including what to do before, during and afterwards.
- This is also an opportunity to ask any questions that you have, for example you'll probably want to check what their accommodation policy is for Clearing applicants.
- If you’re in Clearing after deciding not to accept your firm place university you’ll need to self-release using the ‘decline your place’ button in your Hub. Don’t do this until you’ve been offered an alternative place through Clearing, or if you’re switching courses at the same university either as it will also cancel any accommodation or scholarship arrangements you’ve made.
How many universities can I apply to?
You can approach as many unis as you like and receive multiple offers over the phone, but you can only add one Clearing choice on your Hub.
That means you don't need to stop once you have your first offer. You can keep ringing other universities you're interested in and try to get offers from those too, then decide which to take up later.
But don't add a Clearing choice on your Hub before a university makes you an offer by phone or email. If you eventually get rejected, you won't be able to apply anywhere else until they confirm the rejection with Ucas.
Do universities accept lower grades through Clearing?Some will, but many won't. It depends on the subjects they are offering, how many places are still available, or whether there are minimum subject requirements for a specific course.
Since places are so competitive, assume that you still need to meet the entry requirements given on the university website and prospectus. The only way you'll know for sure is by asking them.
They may be willing to accept you with lower grades if you're enthusiastic about the course, or if you have relevant work experience - so make sure you really try to sell yourself when talking to the admissions tutor.
You've got your place, what next?
Once you’ve found a place through Clearing, the next challenge is sorting your university accommodation. While universities do their best to house all first year students in university halls, there are other options if you don't get a place.
Check out our guides on private halls, rentals and living at home to help you make a choice you'll be happy with. Oh, and don't forget to update your student finance when everything's sorted.
- Read more: finding accommodation in Clearing