How to get a last-minute university place on A-level results day

A-level results day is a moment of joy and triumph for many, as students prepare for life at the university of their choice.

But for others, it can be a highly stressful time if their results don’t go to plan and they narrowly miss their required grades.

While many students still secure places at their insurance choices, there are some who miss the mark altogether and need to enter Ucas’ Clearing process to find an alternative institution. 

Similarly, students who perform better than their predicted grades are also able to use the system to find an alternative university. 

Here, we detail everything you need to know about the Clearing process and how to gain a place at university no matter the outcome.

What is clearing?

Clearing is the system of matching up students with spaces on university or college courses. You can enter Clearing to find a course if you have not met the grades outlined in your offers. 

You can also use the system if you are considering changing to a different course because your grades are better than predicted, after declining your original place. 

More than 50,000 students find places through Clearing every year, according to Ucas.

When does Ucas open? 

What time does Ucas open? 

Ucas Hub will start updating from 8am on results day on Thursday, August 17. 

It will only show students whether they have been accepted by their firm or insurance choice universities, and not their specific grades.

Students can receive the breakdown of all their exam results by attending their school or college, or having them emailed or sent in the post. They can also arrange for a relative or friend to pick up their results.

When does Clearing open? 

Clearing is open from July 5 until October 17, but some courses will close before this deadline, depending on their popularity.

Which universities are accessible through Clearing?

The vast majority of universities in the UK have courses available through Clearing, including some of the top institutions in the country. 

The Russell Group represents 24 world-class, research-intensive universities – and 17 of them had at least one course available through Clearing in 2022.

Some universities announce whether they have places available when Clearing opens, while others wait until results day.

Are any universities unavailable?

Oxford and Cambridge do not offer places through Clearing.

Are only a limited number of subjects available?

No. It used to be unheard of for oversubscribed courses like medicine to be on offer through Clearing, but this has changed.

1,015 applicants were accepted onto Medicine and Dentistry courses in 2019 through clearing – so all the more reason to keep a close eye on vacancies as you may get lucky.

St George’s, University of London, have offered medicine places through Clearing for the past six years.

Can you re-apply to a university that rejected you?

Clearing allows you to apply to any university with vacancies, even if they rejected you the first time round. 

If you spot a course you like and meet the entry requirements, call the admissions team and talk to them about your opportunities.

What is Clearing Plus? 

Clearing Plus was introduced in 2020 to offer help to anyone who is unplaced or is applying for the first time through Clearing.

If you’re in Clearing, look for a button in Track marked ‘View Matches’ to see courses which Ucas considers would be good for you, taking into account your original choices and your qualifications and grades.

If you see a course you like, you can hit ‘Interested’ so that university or college can contact you – you can do this for up to five choices at a time.

But remember, courses in Clearing fill up quickly, and you may not always receive a call, so also look for courses in Clearing using the search tool. 

Saying you’re interested in a course through Clearing Plus does not guarantee an offer.

How do you make a decision through Clearing?

In clearing, you will need to call universities or colleges to try to gain a place, before adding them as a choice in your application. 

You will need: 

  • your Personal ID number
  • your Clearing number
  • your grades/UCAS tariff points
  • information about why you want a place
  • the university name
  • phone number
  • course code and title

Find a quiet space to make the call, and be positive and polite while speaking to the university or college representative. 

Take your time to make an informed decision, and remember to take advice from family members, friends and teachers. 

Only add a Clearing choice once you have permission from the university or college. You can only add one choice at a time, and any confirmation will come through on Ucas Track and by email.

This article is kept updated with the latest information.

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