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The UCAS Clearing Process Explained

24th June 24

When A-Level results come through, you’re either going to meet the requirements for your preferred university course or not. For those that do, it’s a great day full of celebrations. But if you haven’t quite met the mark, or you’re a long way off it, you will no doubt be feeling concerned as to what your options are.

If you’ve just had your results back and they weren’t what you’d hoped for, don’t panic. While initially getting your results may feel like your dreams of university have passed you by, the reality is far from it. Many students find themselves in this position every year and they still go on to study a degree.

There are other options at this stage that you can take to enrol on your ideal university degree, find a suitable alternative or do something completely different if you’ve decided not to pursue your original choice.

This is done either by going through UCAS Clearing, by completing studies that enable you to get the results you need or by taking an alternative route to Clearing to get your degree. We’ll walk you through all your options below.

What is UCAS Clearing?

You’ve probably heard of UCAS Clearing by this point. But as courses in Clearing can be accessed in numerous ways, it’s not always immediately obvious what the process is and how it works.

Simply put, UCAS Clearing is a way for universities to fill spaces that are still available on their courses.

Ideally, universities want all their courses to have the maximum number of students enrolled. Understandably, they earn more money from the course fees. But there is also no point in letting spaces go to waste when more would-be university learners could study their ideal course and achieve their learning goals.

Once the initial round of students who have been offered a place on the course have been accepted, universities advertise the remaining spaces on UCAS Clearing. Then, anyone who is yet to secure a place on a course can apply.

That means not meeting the requirements of your course isn’t the end of university for you. As likely, somewhere, a university offering your course or a similar one will have a space to fill.

How Does UCAS Clearing Work?

There are a few ways to go about getting a place on a university course that would go into UCAS Clearing if your results aren’t what you hoped:

Call Your First Choice University

It may seem like your university dreams are over when you don’t meet the requirements of your ideal course on paper. The truth though, is often very far from it. Calling your first choice university can be a quick and simple way of securing a place that would be advertised via UCAS Clearing.

A conversation with them to discuss your situation, express your enthusiasm for the subject and explain why you deserve a place can go a long way. Many students secure a spot this way, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and have a chat.

Look At Your UCAS Points Over Your Grades

Sometimes, grades aren’t the only things universities consider. Many look at UCAS points too. So, if you’re looking to bump up your offering, qualifications like general studies, for example, can boost the number of UCAS points you have.

Therefore, it’s well worth researching what other universities consider for meeting their entry requirements ahead of time. That way, you know exactly who to contact when UCAS Clearing becomes available.

Apply Directly Through UCAS Clearing

Another option that can help you view the entire number of alternate courses available is by applying directly, online, through UCAS Clearing. You need to complete a UCAS application to use the UCAS Clearing system, and this can be done online through UCAS Apply.

After you’ve submitted your application, UCAS will provide you with your UCAS Clearing number and details of how to log into the account where you track your progress.

You can then view the courses available in UCAS Clearing and it’s worth noting that these can change as places fill up or become available on each course. Bearing in mind that students who have been offered a place on the courses can also change their minds and go elsewhere. So, it’s well worth checking regularly as a course that is full now may not be later down the line.

If your course isn’t available, you may want to consider a different subject or a joint honours course that teaches your subject in combination with another.

When you see one that you like and you want to add it as a preferred choice, you’ll need to contact the university providing the course ahead of doing so. This is because they need to talk with you to find out more about you, your situation and why you deserve a spot on their course before they give you permission to add it to your UCAS Clearing choice list.

Please bear in mind that you can only add one UCAS Clearing option at a time. So, you’ll either need to wait for a decision from your current choice or ask them to release you if you see another course you prefer. Which would make you free to add a more suitable course into the system.

Who Can Apply for UCAS Clearing?

Anyone who has made a UCAS Undergraduate application but doesn’t hold an offer from a university can use UCAS Clearing. This can be people in various situations, examples of which are:

  • You applied to university late – after the 30th of June
  • You’ve not received any offers from universities
  • A conditional offer was given, but you did not get the grades required
  • You decided against an offer you were given and you’re now looking for a new course

What Dates Does UCAS Clearing Become Available?

UCAS Clearing becomes available from early July to mid-October each year. For the exact dates, please see the UCAS website.

What is UCAS Clearing Plus?

UCAS Clearing Plus is a new addition to the UCAS Clearing system in which UCAS actively helps you find the course and university most suited to you.

With so many courses to choose from, UCAS Clearing Plus aims to sift through the options for you. It takes details about you – like the original courses you applied for, your qualifications and grades - and compares them against the desired qualities that universities are looking for in students.

If UCAS Clearing Plus finds what they believe to be a good match, they’ll submit your details. If you show an interest in any of the courses, the institution can contact you directly.

Is UCAS Clearing the Right Choice for Me?

UCAS Clearing is a great way to find alternative universities offering your course or similar courses to the one you wanted to study. This makes it a great option for you if you’ve not got your heart set on a particular university or city. And if you’re flexible in the way you would study the subject.

For instance, if you’re looking to study psychology but don’t meet the grades for your chosen university, another could have a space on a joint honour’s degree. These are courses that explore two or multiple subjects within one degree. In this instance, you could study psychology and sociology, psychology and anthropology or criminological and forensic psychology among others.

However, if you know you want to study your course in a certain way, at a certain university, UCAS Clearing may not be right for you. Not everyone is happy to settle for a substitute, especially if the options available are far from what you wanted. And the great thing is, you don’t have to.

What Are the Alternate Options to UCAS Clearing?

If UCAS Clearing or UCAS Clearing Plus aren’t options you’d like to pursue, there are other ways you can meet the requirements of your ideal university course. The main thing you need to remember at this point is you really don’t need to panic.

The degree you study and the university you go to can put you on a path that sets the course of your life. So, it’s very important you’re happy with where you end up. Secondary options through UCAS Clearing can work out very well. However, if the alternative options would see you studying something you hadn’t previously considered, or living somewhere that is much further than your ideal location, don’t feel that you have to accept them.

There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to do what you need to meet the entry requirements of your first choice. learndirect, provide several courses that can help get you ready to start the degree you wanted, at the original university you had in mind.

Resit Your A-Levels

You can always resit your A Levels at college. Students who retake their A-Level exams typically go up 1 grade on average, so it’s well worth resitting your exams!

Alternatively, you can also take online A-Level courses that can be completed faster than their offline counterparts and include resit options.

Online A-Levels

Accepted by all universities, these traditional courses can help you get into some of the most competitive universities and undergraduate degree programmes.

learndirect offer:

For a full list of all the A-Levels we offer, please see the A-Levels course page.

Online Access to Higher Education Diplomas

Accepted by most universities, Access to HE Diplomas are available to learners in the UK. They provide such vocation-specific knowledge and skills that they can go in place of up to three individual A-Levels.

Upon successful completion of your Access to HE Diploma, you can pursue many degrees related to the area of study. Please note, it is up to you to check that your Access to HE Diploma is accepted at your desired university.

learndirect offer:

For a full list of all the Access to HE Diplomas we offer, please see the Access to HE Diplomas course page.

Online Degree Pathways

If you’d like to go straight to university without having to worry about the UCAS Clearing process, you can get secured admission to your first choice degree subject through a learndirect online degree pathway.

Our online degree pathways are a fast track to a bachelor's degree. They are equivalent to the first two years of a traditional degree programme, and once you complete your pathway, you will be able to transfer to one of our nominated universities to finish your degree. This can be done in as little as 9 months, thanks to the flexibility of our online learning format.

This route is a popular option for learners who don’t want to settle for a second choice subject through UCAS Clearing that isn’t quite right.

We offer online degree pathways in some of the most in-demand subjects. Our pathways are also a faster and more flexible way to earn a bachelor's degree. Find out more about them here.

What Are the Benefits Of Studying For My Qualifications With learndirect?

By choosing to resit your A-Levels, study an Access to HE Diploma, of complete an online degree pathway with us, you benefit from:

Flexible Learning

Online materials remove the need for teachers, so set classes and timetables aren’t required. This gives you the freedom to complete the work any time of day or night.

More Affordable Education

The costs of studying are cut considerably with distance learning. Besides your computer or laptop, there’s no need for physical resources. You don’t have to pay to travel to class or live nearby campus, and the course provider doesn’t have as many overheads as a physical school, college, or university, so your course fees are much lower.

More Choice

As courses are cheaper to run online, there are typically far more available than you’d find in a physical school, college, or university.

Dedicated Tutor Support

You’re assigned a dedicated qualified tutor who is an expert in your chosen subject. They will provide support and guidance should you need it, as well as constructive feedback to help you progress.

Quicker Completion Time

You are free to work your way through the course materials as quickly as you like. Which means you have the ability to complete your course much faster than the allotted timeframe.

The only thing you’ll have to bear in mind is any exam dates associated with your course. While many of these are delivered online, they may only be provided at certain points within the year.

How Can I Pay for My Course?

Just as our online courses provide you with flexibility in your studies, our payment options give you more choices as to how you manage your course fees.

You can either pay in full, which is the quickest method of payment providing complete peace of mind. Or you can spread the cost of your education over instalments. This is our most popular payment option which provides a simple way to spread the cost of your online course over a manageable timeframe.

You can find out more on our payment methods page.

Go To University with Confidence

You don’t have to rush such an important decision and you have time to consider other options that will help you reach your goal.

If you’re looking to progress to university but UCAS Clearing isn’t the option for you, learndirect can help. We are the leading UK distance learning provider. With multiple qualifications that facilitate your move to degree-level study.

Find out more about the courses available to you by viewing our A-Levels, Access to HE Diplomas, and Online Degree Pathways on our website. Otherwise, you can discuss our course options and the degrees they lead to by chatting with our Course Executives online, or by calling 01202 006 464.

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