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Guide to UCAS Clearing 2023

We explain what UCAS Clearing is, how it works and everything you need to know to find your ideal course.

Resalat Rasheed
by Resalat Rasheed
Last Updated:
10 Aug 2023

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What's Clearing?

Why would you use Clearing?

When does Clearing open?

How do you qualify for UCAS Clearing?

How does UCAS Clearing work?

Can you apply to university in Clearing without using UCAS?

Is UCAS Clearing first come first serve?

How many universities can you apply to through UCAS Clearing?

What's UCAS self-release?

What's UCAS Clearing Plus?

How do you cope with the stress of Clearing?

What are your options other than Clearing?

What's Clearing?

UCAS Clearing is another chance for you to find a place at uni. Universities publish a list of courses that still have places available.

Clearing is an increasingly popular way for students to find their perfect place at university. In 2022:

  • almost 67,000 students used Clearing
  • around 20,000 students who had an offer released themselves into Clearing

Why would you use Clearing?

There are lots of reasons you might want to use Clearing. You may have missed your predicted grades and not have a confirmed university place, or you may have been offered a confirmed place at your insurance choice uni that you don't want to accept.

You might also have changed your mind completely about the university or course you want to study, or you might even have done better than you expected and want to apply to a university with higher entry requirements.

The final main reason to use Clearing is because you didn't apply to university during the main application cycle. So even if you haven't sent an application before, you can create a UCAS account and apply to Clearing courses.

When does Clearing open?

Clearing is open from 5 July to 17 October 2023. You can’t enter Clearing until you have your grades.

Exploring your course options? Check out some of the most popular subjects undergraduate students are searching for:

How do you qualify for UCAS Clearing?

You can use Clearing if you fall into any of these categories:

  • You didn’t get the grades you needed for your firm or insurance choices
  • You got better grades than you expected and want to apply to a different uni
  • You’ve changed your mind about your choice of university or course
  • You’ve applied through UCAS but aren’t holding any offers
  • You didn’t apply before 30 June but want to go to uni this year

Can mature students apply through Clearing?

Absolutely. There's no age limit to applying to university. As a mature student you're in a prime position. You can start searching and applying directly to universities when Clearing opens on 5 July rather than having to wait for results day in August.

Can BTEC students apply through Clearing?

Yes they can. Clearing is open to any student who wants to apply to a university, regardless of what qualifications they're currently studying.

Can international students apply through Clearing?

Yes, thousands of international students use Clearing every year. If you’re an international student, have already made an application this year through UCAS and fall into one of the applicant categories listed above, you can use Clearing.

You should aim to go through Clearing as soon as you have your grades, so you have time to obtain the necessary visa to be eligible to study in the UK.

How does UCAS Clearing work?

There are four easy steps to Clearing:

Step 1: Search and compare courses

You should begin doing your research even before results day. Register with Whatuni to search, save and compare courses all in one place.

Our Clearing tool lets you enter your predicted grades to see your chance of acceptance. You can also filter courses based on course type, location and subject.

Step 2: Contact the universities you’ve shortlisted

Start calling the unis on your shortlist once you get your results. Make sure you have your UCAS ID, Clearing number, personal statement, results and any questions on hand before calling.

Step 3: Get confirmation of your place

Sign in to your UCAS Hub account when you have a verbal offer and add the Clearing course. The university will then confirm the offer and your account will say ‘Clearing accepted’. If you’ve applied directly with the university, you’ll need to complete a Record of Prior Acceptance form and the university will then send you a letter formally confirming your place.

Step 4: Celebrate and prepare

Once you get confirmation, update your student finance details and organise your student accommodation (either through the university or a private provider). Then relax and start looking forward to your new adventure.

Can you apply to a university in Clearing without using UCAS?

You can apply directly to a university. You’ll still have to supply the university with your results, a personal statement and a reference. The process is called Record of Prior Acceptance (RPA) and 41,000 students took this route into university in 2020. If the university offers this route and makes you an offer that you accept, you’ll need to fill in a Record of Prior Acceptance form. The university will submit this to UCAS on your behalf (for use in data analysis).

Not all universities offer this route. Check with your chosen university before you decide to take this route.

If you accept an offer from a university via a Record of Prior Acceptance, you won't be able to apply for any other courses. Be absolutely sure about the course before you accept any offer.

Is UCAS Clearing first come first serve?

Yes, which is why it's important to research before results day so you can be ready to get calling on the day! Courses in Clearing have a limited number of places available, and once the courses are filled up they'll be removed from Clearing. We try to keep our Clearing courses as up-to-date as possible, and remove them as soon as we know they're full to help you with your search.

Ready to start looking? Find Clearing courses in popular subjects like Economics, Law and Psychology over on our Clearing course search!

How many universities can you apply to through UCAS Clearing?

You can apply to multiple universities through UCAS Clearing, but you can only add one course at a time to your UCAS Hub. If you've received an informal offer over the phone or via email, you can add it to your UCAS Hub immediately if you're happy with the course, or you can continue ringing universities to see if you can get a better offer.

Be careful when you're doing this, because the informal offer you've been given will have an acceptance deadline that you don't want to miss! When you have an informal offer for a course you're sure you want to accept, you can accept the offer by adding the course on your UCAS Hub.

Don't add a course to your UCAS Hub before you've received an informal offer, as you won't be able to add any other courses while you're waiting for the university's response. This means you may miss the deadline to add any courses you have received an informal offer for if the university rejects you, which could leave you without a place.

What's UCAS self-release?

If you’re holding a firm offer from a university but want to apply to a different course or uni, you can self-release from the offer to enter Clearing. Before doing this, you must be absolutely sure you have a verbal offer from another uni and want to enter Clearing. Log into your UCAS Hub account and click ‘decline my place’ next to the course you want to release from.

What's UCAS Clearing Plus?

Clearing Plus is designed to support you in reviewing your university choices. It matches you to alternative courses you might like and puts you in direct contact with universities. The service is for students going through Clearing.

How do you cope with the stress of Clearing?

Be prepared for any eventuality. Make a plan in case you don't get the grades you need for your firm or insurance choices. Research Clearing courses, shortlist in order of priority and be ready to call the universities if you need to.

If you're stressed, talk to your teachers, tutors or family members. They're there to help and can support you through your Clearing journey.

You can access lots of mental health resources from Student Minds. Specialising in student wellbeing, they've created Student Space to help young people manage stress, anxiety and find support.

What are your options other than Clearing?

If you have your heart set on a specific course but didn’t get the grades you needed, then there's the option of taking a gap year, resitting your exams in 2024 and applying to start that same course in 2024.

During a gap year, many students choose to either travel abroad or gain work experience. If you're considering a gap year, thoroughly research your options before making any decision.


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