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University Clearing – plain-sailing or purgatory?

It’s anticipated that new uni admissions rules will change the face of Clearing – but A-level students who don’t quite get the grades they need will today enter the Clearing maze to bag an alternative place.

Each year up to 10% of students go through Clearing – the point in the UCAS cycle where available spaces on courses are re-advertised by universities – to get a place on an undergrad course.

But this year it’ll be operating in a rather different landscape than usual…

Near misses and tuition fee worries

Firstly, changes in the way funding is now allocated could mean that students who miss out on the top grades will have a harder time getting a place through Clearing. Plus, this is the first raft of students facing up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees, which could stifle the appetite for investing time and money in applying for a Clearing place.

The practicalities of Clearing, however, remain pretty much the same: panic, calm yourself down, research and find a suitable course on UCAS, then get straight on the phone to the uni to secure your place.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that. Ahead of the launch of our new Which? University website, we’ve asked thousands of students to share their views on all aspects of uni life, and there are some refreshingly straightforward tales of getting a place via Clearing.

University Clearing sagas

A first-year computer science student at the University of Cardiff told us:

‘[It was] very easy. I just bought a newspaper on results day that had listings of remaining places in university courses, phoned three and the third had a positive response.’

A contemporary theatre student at University College Falmouth agreed:

‘Applying through clearing was incredibly easy. The people at admissions were very helpful and very easy to get in touch with; they were prompt at replying to any emails or queries I sent them.’

Sadly, it isn’t plain-sailing for everyone. A first-year sports science student now at Cardiff Metropolitan University said:

‘If I’m completely honest clearing was like going through hell. I was devastated and panicked about not having gained either of the places I had applied for’.

Another student, now at Heriot-Watt University studying maths, described how they spent their Results day:

‘The whole day was very stressful, lots of phoning around and waiting in queues, I was 94th in line on one line. By the end of the day I was in tears and completely exhausted.’

All’s well that ends well

Despite the stress and panic, we were heartened to hear that some students, now settled into life at their Clearing choice, are feeling more philosophical about the experience in hindsight.

A history student at the University of East London said:

‘I’ve found it doesn’t really matter too much where you go as you’ll still have a great time if you throw yourself in to uni life. I never considered studying in London, but now I’m here I never want to leave!’

A second-year Classics student told us.

‘If I hadn’t gone through clearing, then I wouldn’t be at Royal Holloway, and subsequently wouldn’t be on a year abroad in Australia! It may seem like the worst possible thing at the time, but hopefully it’ll all work out.’

We’d love to hear success stories – and the struggles – from this year’s Clearing students (and their friends and family, who we know can play a very hands-on role in the process!). Did Clearing work out for you?