Bringing clarity to Clearing

Impartial advice is what counts for students who don’t make the grade, and help is just a call away, explains Stephen Hoare

The publication of a student's exam subject grades in mid-August is the culmination of two years of sixth-form study and weeks of anxious waiting over the summer. A student's grades or point score will either confirm a place at their first or second (insurance) choice of undergraduate degree and university or herald the start of Clearing.

Clearing is managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), which handles university applications across Britain. It is the conclusion of a process that began in January when students had to submit a single application, via the Ucas website, listing their five choices of degree and institution in order of preference. Students can apply through Ucas right up to the end of June.

8 very rich and famous people with crummy A-levels – or none at all

Applications process

During the applications process, universities will have contacted candidates via Ucas, arranged interviews and made offers via an online platform called Track. Using a unique username and password, students are able to see the status of their application and when a firm offer is made by a student's first choice of university, this then cancels out all other applications with the exception of their insurance choice – a second offer normally made on the basis of a slightly lower grade requirement. A preferred offer could be two As and a B. An insurance offer may be two Bs and a C.

During Clearing it is very important to check on your status on Track, and to keep Ucas updated with any new offers of places from universities you approach. Most universities refer to grades in terms of the A-level marks A, B, or C.

But students can apply to university with a mix of A-level and vocational qualifications, or even entirely different exams such as the SQA Highers for Scotland or the International Baccalaureate. The Ucas website carries a table giving the different exam grade equivalents in terms of a point score or tariff.

Clearing, open from August through to the end of September, is a time when students who have not managed to achieve the grades they needed to be accepted by their first choice or their insurance can contact universities directly by phone to discuss available options, and find a degree they are happy with. Information on available degree courses can be found on the Ucas website and a list of Clearing vacancies is posted and updated continuously.

Crunch time

During Clearing, university admissions departments and student services helplines are fully manned with staff able to offer advice and discuss options, including making a provisional offer if the student finds the right course. "Our lines are open from 8am to 7pm on results day, so phone us," says Kathryn Rees, operations manager at the University of South Wales.

University admissions tutors will have already seen student grades, which are released to them on the Sunday evening prior to the results being sent out to students on the following Thursday. University admissions departments will have a clear idea of how many Clearing places they will have to offer. In the run-up to results day, universities will be checking student grades and confirming their offers. The conversion of a conditional offer to a firm offer is flagged up on the student's page in Track.

On results day, universities know that what counts for students and parents is clear, impartial advice. "We understand this is a stressful time. Students have been building up to it for a long time and if they haven't got the results they expected, it can seem like their world has come to an end," says Rees. "All of our helpline staff are trained admissions officers. They can make a verbal offer if a student has the right qualifications and an email goes out straight away. We have to do checks on their qualifications, but once this is confirmed, the offer then becomes firm."

Although there's plenty of information about Clearing available on the web, people can't always find what they need. Helpline staff are trained to listen patiently and offer impartial advice. "We're a small university and we take the time to talk to students and parents. We're not here to grab everyone who waves a chequebook at us," says Julian Lovelock, pro-vice-chancellor of Buckingham University.

To help make that important decision, students need advice and support from parents. School is also a valuable resource and an early port of call as many open their doors and post A-level results up on a noticeboard, with staff on hand to help students talk through their options.

Mitigating circumstances

University admissions officers are sympathetic to mitigating circumstances. If a student has not already done so, lose no time in alerting your first choice to anything that may have affected your exam performance, such as a bereavement or a serious illness in the family. "People go through all sorts of situations. We consider mitigating circumstances and exam results together and we look for any explanation to be corroborated by the school," says Simon Willis, the director of student recruitment at the University of York.

Students fare best at Clearing if they are well-prepared and many university admissions tutors advise candidates to have a 'plan B' in place for if their grades are lower than expected. Students should discuss with their parents and advisers what next steps are needed if their anticipated grades fail to materialise. What are the alternatives?

Above all, Clearing is a time to reflect on whether a similar degree course will do just as well, whether to wait a year and retake exams or whether to give up on the idea of university altogether and aim for a career that offers training on the job. Other study options proving more popular than ever are evening or part-time study, both of which are available at Clearing.

The Open University participates in Clearing, although not actively. OU offers students the choice of either studying for a three-year undergraduate degree full-time, for which student loans apply, or getting a job and studying part-time over a longer period. London's Birkbeck College offers three-year degrees taught in the evening for undergraduates who want to combine full-time employment with study. "This year there is an unprecedented range of degrees offered during Clearing, and Birkbeck will also be hosting a Clearing open day on Saturday 17 August to support students before courses begin," says Birkbeck communications officer Guy Collender.

Clearing is no mark of failure: Ucas matches students to the best available and most appropriate places. Most students end up studying for a degree they enjoy just as much, if not more.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Computer Futures has been est...

Early Years Foundation Stage Primary Teacher in Lytham St.Annes

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Early Years and Foundation Stag...

KS1 Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: KS1 Primary Teacher Jobs in Bla...

Supply Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

£80 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Supply Primary Teacher Jobs in ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born