UCAS LISTINGS: Clear your way to the offer of a lifetime

Admissions tutor Bob Langridge, of Oxford Brookes, explains why second-best may turn out to be the best choice of all; Langridge: "At the end of the day it's your life and your decision"

If you've lost your university place, remember that Clearing exists for people like you. At best, it is a pain; at worst, you are shell-shocked; but now is the time to get on with the rest of your life. Whatever your results, you can ensure you are one of the many people who, two or three years on, say how pleased they are they did not go to their first choice of university.

If you are convinced you know what you want to study and it is a popular subject, move as quickly as you can. Identify your next-best universities and get on the phone.

But if you really are not sure what you want to do next, do not commit yourself to any old course just to get a university place. This is a chance to re-evaluate what you really want to do.

Listen to the opinions of people who know you and take professional advice from your careers office; but remember, at the end of the day it is your life and your decision.

If you have set your heart on a particular university, by all means see what courses still have vacancies there. But, no matter how wonderful the place might be, you still have to take the subject.

Universities have places at this time of year for a variety of reasons. It is not a sign of poor quality: for example, in Brookes' school of planning there are two new courses which have spaces because they have only just been validated and are not widely publicised. Yet the school scored top marks - 24 out of 24 - in the official assessment of teaching quality. Some institutions and some courses are more popular than others - the sciences and engineering, in particular, experience a national shortage of applicants.

Remember it is much better to make phone calls yourself.

Have all the papers to hand - your reference, UCAS application number, Clearing entry form and, perhaps, a brief reminder of key points you want to make to the tutor. If you do have to ask a parent to ring up, make sure there is a good reason why. One parent told Brookes last year: "I'm calling on my son's behalf because the lazy so-and-so's still in bed." It did not impress us.

If you are seriously interested in a university you have not seen, try to visit it. Consider whether it offers most of the other things you are looking for - facilities, location, social life.

It is important to get your reference right and to have it prepared beforehand. This is one of the key pieces of information admissions tutors will look for.

My pet hate is the "has a bubbly personality" comment - does it mean she is an avid socialite or has a stomach disorder?

If you are only just deciding to go to university and are not yet in the UCAS system, all is not lost. Ring the Clearing hotlines run by universities.

One final tip: if you lose your Clearing form, the replacement will not arrive overnight - and the old excuses are no more effective at university than at school.

How to use these listings

THIS IS the first in a daily series of the most up-to-date listing available of full-time and sandwich course vacancies remaining in UK universities and colleges. The institutions are all members of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

The lists are compiled by UCAS from information supplied by the universities and colleges. It is one of only two official lists of vacancies published. In addition, vacancies at universities and colleges will be available on the website together with further advice relating to the Clearing procedure. A vacancy service is also available on BBC2 Ceefax pages 700-799.

Detailed Clearing instructions are sent automatically by UCAS to eligible applicants: those who have applied after June 30 1998, those without offers from their original choices and those who have not been offered a place after receipt of their results.

Vacancies are listed under subject headings: these frequently do not correspond exactly with course titles. A course may appear more than once if it contains a major element of all subjects under which it appears.

It is therefore essential that applicants check details in the UCAS Handbook 1998 or on the website, .

Courses are referred to by their four-character course code. Course codes starting with a letter are degree or Dip HE courses; those starting with a number are HND courses. A letter following the course code represents the campus code. The numbers in brackets indicate the minimum A-level point score requirement for entry. Calculate your points as follows (counting the maximum of three A-levels):

A-levels: Grade A, 10 points; B, eight points; C, six points; D, four points; E, two points.

AS-levels: grade A, five points; B, four points; C, three points; D, two points; E, one point.

If no points score is indicated, applicants are advised to contact institutions directly regarding minimum entrance requirements. Applicants with other qualifications must check with the university or college concerned.

Contact details for all UCAS institutions can be found on BBC2 Ceefax pages 798-799.

New applicants need to complete a UCAS application form.

This can be obtained from their school or college, local careers office or UCAS itself (01242 223707).

If you have any difficulty with your Clearing application, contact UCAS on 01242 227788.

Applicants must be in possession of their Clearing entry form before they can obtain a place on any of these courses.

Clearing applicants are asked to note University of Southampton, New College, formerly known as LSU College of Higher Education (UCAS code L86), has a number of vacancies on its courses.

The courses will be found in the UCAS listing under the institution code for the University of Southampton (S27). The courses can be identified by the presence of the campus code "N" after the course code.

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