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Parents’ guide to UCAS Clearing 2023

The university Clearing system may seem daunting at first, but we’re here to help you and your child by breaking it down into these easy steps.

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
24 Mar 2023

Need help with Clearing?


Each year Clearing helps thousands of prospective university students find and secure a place at university – whether it’s students who don’t get the grades they need for their chosen universities, or those who change their minds about what and where they want to study. In fact, over 70,000 students went through the Clearing process in 2020.

This parents' guide contains everything you need to know about what Clearing is and how it works, so that you can be fully prepared to help your child successfully navigate the process should they find they need to after getting their results.

What is Clearing?

Clearing is a part of the university application process that allows students who are not currently holding any offers to obtain a place on a university course that still has spaces available.

Clearing opens on 5th July 2023 however your child won’t be able to apply for any courses until they receive their official grades on results day. We encourage your child, once they receive these results, to call the universities they are interested in applying to - including their firm choice university even if they did miss out, as the cap on student numbers has been removed and they may have higher grades than what they initially received.

Clearing closes on 17th October 2023, so there is plenty of time to help your child to find a suitable place. Clearing is busiest on and around A-level results day - 17th August - as that’s the most widely taken qualification in the UK.

When will my child know if they have received their grades?

Students will be emailed by UCAS to let them know that their application has been updated. This usually happens in the morning of A-level results day. Often, UCAS updates before schools are open, so your child will likely know whether their uni place is confirmed before they pick up their results from their school.

If your child is happy with the university place that they've already confirmed, they won't need to do anything.

How will my child know if they are in Clearing?

If your child did not receive the grades they needed to meet their Conditional, Firm or Insurance university offers, the status of their offers in their UCAS Hub account will change to say ‘Unsuccessful’ and their Hub account status will change to say: ‘You are in Clearing’. A unique Clearing ID number will also show on their account.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just students who miss their grades that can use Clearing. In fact, students in any of the situations below can search Clearing for a suitable university course:

  • They’ve changed their mind about what/where they want to study (either before or after they’ve got their results).
  • They’re making a late application to university after 30th June 2023 (perhaps they had originally planned to go straight into the workplace, but then decide they want to go to university instead).
  • They applied to university before 30th June but didn’t get offers (Conditional or Unconditional) from any of their choices.

What is Adjustment?

Adjustment was for students whose results exceeded the requirements of their conditional university offer and who changed their mind about what or where they want to study.

From 2022, Adjustment no longer exists, and students who exceed their requirements will have to use Clearing to 'trade up'. 

Self-release into UCAS Clearing

Self-release is an option for students who have applied to university via UCAS and have changed their mind about their choice of course BEFORE they have received their results. They can decline the offers they have been made and release themselves into Clearing to find a new place.

It’s available to students via their UCAS Hub account from 5th July 2023 until they receive their results (at which point they would need to go through Clearing if they change their mind).

How Clearing works

The first step your child needs to take if they find themselves going through Clearing is to search for alternative courses to apply for. The good news is that this step can be done in advance of your child getting their results.

How can my child find courses in Clearing?

If your child has their heart set on a particular university, their website will be a good place to start searching. To get a broader overview of what’s available, your child can conduct their Clearing research on Whatuni. There we have five personas reflecting different circumstances in which you would enter Clearing. Your child can use this tool to search the hundreds of courses available at universities across the UK.

To see which courses your child could be eligible for with their grades (predicted or real), you can enter their grades into the search filter. You can then further filter the results by your child’s preferences (location, study mode, study level) to get a personalised list of results.

By clicking on the name of each course, you can see all the information your child needs to decide if the course is right for them, including entry requirements, course rankings, and module information. You can also see the likelihood of acceptance to a course too. Whatuni also has in-depth provider profiles (complete with university start dates and COVID-19 updates) and over 200,000 insightful student reviews to help your child decide if a particular institution is the right fit.

It’s worth noting that some students get their results earlier than others and will be able to apply for courses before their peers. This means some courses with places available in early July might be full up by mid-August.

Another thing to note is that many universities will make more Clearing places available in August - particularly with the removal of the temporary student cap. To help your child get the right information, the lists of places available on Whatuni are updated daily with both deletions and additions to the course list, so your child should check back regularly to see what’s still available.

TOP TIP! Remember that in Clearing, a student doesn’t necessarily have to apply for the same subject they applied to in-year. If they want to switch from french to history, for example, they can do so. And don’t assume that they can’t apply to a university that’s rejected to them. If your child has their heart set on a university, they can apply for a different course they are offering (providing they are 100% sure they’d be happy studying that course).

How does my child apply for their preferred Clearing course?

Once your child finds a course they are interested in, they will need to call the university directly to see if they will be willing to accept them. Clearing hotline numbers will be advertised on each university’s website and you can also find them on the Clearing search results pages on Whatuni.

If your child is applying via UCAS, they’ll need to provide their UCAS Clearing number and Personal ID number (both found on their UCAS Hub profile) so the university can view their application online. If they are making an application for the first time (and don’t have a UCAS account) they will need to ask if the university offers the ‘Record of Prior Acceptance’ route.

It’s a good idea for your child to jot down a couple of bullet points stating why they want to apply for the course and why they’d be a good fit, as it’s likely they’ll be asked those questions on the phone. They should also have a pen and paper to hand to write down any important information.

Note: The admissions officer must make an informal offer over the phone and invite the student to add them as a Clearing choice in UCAS (they will usually give your child a time limit for doing this, before they put the place back on the market) – your child cannot add the course as a Clearing choice on their UCAS Hub account without being asked to.

What happens after they've got an offer?

Your child shouldn’t rush into accepting the first offer they get in Clearing. While things move quickly and your child can’t hang around for too long, it is worth your child calling around a couple of universities and getting a few verbal offers. They can then take some time to decide which course is right for them. They might be invited to some Clearing-specific open day events, which they can attend, to help them make their mind up.

Once they have decided on a course, they will need to log onto UCAS Hub (after 3pm on results day), click ‘Add Clearing Choice’ and fill in the course details (or fill out a ‘Record of Prior Acceptance’ form, if they applied this way). This counts as a firm acceptance of an offer on the student’s part, so once the university also confirms, they have a guaranteed place.  

What about student finance?

If your child has already applied for student finance, they simply need to log in to their student finance account and update the details of the university/college and course. If your child has yet to make an application for student finance, they should make an application as soon as they can. They can apply for finance through their relevant student finance office in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

What about student accommodation?

Most universities retain places in halls for students coming in through Clearing. The university will send your child details of what accommodation is available and how they can apply. Remember that university halls are not the only option for your child and again they shouldn’t rush into booking somewhere without considering their options. They could find a place in privately owned halls through providers such as Unite or IQ Student Accommodation, or in a private flat.


- How to Support Your Child Through A-Level Results Day

- How to Help Your Child Pick the Right University Course

Need help with Clearing?

Visit the Clearing Hub to see available courses and get advice.
GO TO CLEARING Clearing squad

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