Clearing: find a course you click with

Clearing is fast, efficient and online – so finding the right institution is easier than ever, says James Morrison

If there’s one thing that keeps Steven Holdcroft smiling as he hunkers down for his umpteenth Clearing marathon it’s the knowledge that, sooner or later, he’ll have made someone’s day.

His 16 years in university admissions have accustomed him to every type of reaction from students frantically casting around for a place after failing to make the grade for their chosen course. But by far the most rewarding are when their cries of despair turn to delight.

“Every year we get students on the line who have missed their grades, but who we can accept anyway or offer an alternative,” says Holdcroft, head of information, recruitment, and admissions at the University of Kent (Medway). The university takes 15 per cent of its students through Clearing. “When someone is in tears but you calm them down and sort something out, it’s really satisfying.”

Emotions can run high

Clearing fortnight is always an emotional rollercoaster. There are, after all, few sleepless nights to rank alongside the one before you get your hands on that ominous bit of paper showing your A-level results. But if you find yourself facing a column of grades lower than you’d expected, all is not lost: of the 413,000 university applicants given firm places last summer, nearly one in 10 (39,000) secured them through Clearing.

Find your course online

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, finding a last-minute place has never been easier. Whereas applicants would once have spent days trying to secure a berth at university – waiting for individual prospectuses to reach them in the post, then painstakingly wading through in search of viable substitute courses – the internet has revolutionised this process.

Today everything can be sorted out within hours: a visit to the Ucas online Track service will confirm whether you have scraped in, or have indeed lost your place, while the Clearing website offers a handy A-Z of courses looking to fill vacancies.

A few mouse-clicks later you could be reading through a term-by-term breakdown of a degree that, though not your original choice, makes an inspiring fall-back option.

But be warned: all this user-friendly advice comes at a price. With such detailed information available at the tap of a key, applicants now have little excuse to complain if a course is not right for them once they’ve enrolled. By the time you dial an institution’s Clearing hotline and ask to be put through to the relevant faculty, you’ll need to be crystal clear about what questions to ask – and once you accept a place you must be certain it’s right for you.

“Students need to take responsibility,” says Martha Hebblethwaite, student recruitment manager at St George’s, University of London. “Clearing’s a bit like shopping, but students should consider who they phone, and research courses properly before calling. They may be relieved to be offered anything, but they must make sure it’s the right place and course for them.”

Don't panic!

Olivia Ramsbottom, student recruitment manager at the University of Derby, which has a video on its website in which students accepted via Clearing recount their experiences, also says it is vital to stay calm. “Breathe, check your options, and don’t panic,” she says. “Don’t just start ringing people: look at websites first. You must have some idea of where you want to go geographically, and what you want to do. In most areas there will be really valid courses, even if they’re not ones that immediately spring to mind. Maybe you’re set on doing media studies, but what about multimedia, film, or photography?”

Of course, before you reach this stage you’ll need to have summoned the courage to pick up the phone. A common complaint of universities is that many calls they receive are from anxious parents ringing on behalf of their even more worried children. So frustrated have universities become with this trend that some, like St George’s, now refuse to speak to anyone other than the students themselves, on data protection grounds.

This, and a desire to tackle another perennial complaint – that students are often away on holiday, and unavailable to contact Clearing, when their results arrive – has moved Ucas to introduce a new system this year, allowing applicants to use named intermediaries to negotiate their places for them. More than two-thirds have taken advantage this year – the vast majority nominating their parents.

Although you need to be focused and precise in your dealings with Clearing, you’re unlikely to find yourself forced into a decision by most institutions. While universities may be eager to recruit students for under-subscribed degrees, faculties entering Clearing know it’s not in their interest to take late applicants unless convinced they will stay the course.

Jason Morrison, 22, one of a team of trained student advocates who manned the phones for Thames Valley University last year, and an interviewee on The Clearing Show, a chat show designed to dispel nerves about the process that can be downloaded from its website, says: “I think it helps involving students in answering the Clearing lines, because we’re not fulltime university staff, so we’re not blinkered by financial issues, or having to find people to fill specific courses. I don’t want to get a student into a course for the sake of it.”

  • The official Ucas listings will be published in The Independent newspaper and online onThursday.
  • To check if your university place has been confirmed or declined, visit Track on before deciding to enter Clearing.
  • For general information on Clearing, visit
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing