Clearing can be confusing, especially for international students who might not be used to the UK’s university application system. But once you understand how it works, you can use it to secure a place at a UK university you’d like to go to. Read our guide to Clearing to understand: Who is it for? How does it work? - and everything else you need to know about the process.
Clearing is a chance for students to get a place on an undergraduate course at a UK university if they did not succeed with their original application, decide against offers they got, or apply late in the year.
Basically, it’s a way of filling course places that haven’t already been taken; and every year, thousands of students snag university places in this way. 🧑🎓
Clearing opens in July and is available for undergraduate courses, but not postgraduate degrees. (In other words, it is not relevant for you if you want to apply for a Master’s programme.) Most students will start to go through Clearing on or just after A Level results day in the UK, which is on 10 August 2021. In practical terms, this means checking the UCAS database and/or calling up universities to see what places are available to try and secure a spot on a course. Places will fill up quickly, so you might want to note this day in your diary and call up universities then.
The Clearing process is a system set up by UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), which handles student applications for UK universities at the undergraduate level. Applying to a Bachelor’s course in the United Kingdom essentially means going through UCAS, regardless if you are a local or an international student.
In 2020, UCAS created an additional feature called “Clearing Plus”. This is basically a tool designed to make the process a bit easier for you. Without Clearing Plus, you will have to actively search through courses by yourself. With it, UCAS will suggest courses you might like and which might be a good fit for you.
You can express interest in a course online through Clearing Plus, the university is notified and if they have spaces they will contact you. However, UCAS recommends that you use this tool alongside manually searching for courses and contacting universities yourself. Because if a course is popular, or filling up quickly, the university might not reach out to you.
Through Clearing, international students can apply to undergraduate courses at universities in the UK just like local students can. In fact, many secure places in this way every year. You just need to apply through UCAS and have to have paid the fee of £26. (Note: there is also an alternative way, in which you can apply to a university directly, bypassing UCAS - more on this below.)
Along with other students, international students can apply to university through Clearing even if they have not previously applied before 30 June, but you’ll still need to complete a UCAS application form if you want to apply through the main Clearing system.
Going through Clearing can be daunting, so here are some tips to make the process easier and to secure a course that suits you best:
Run alongside Clearing, Adjustment is an optional route available for any student whose results are better than expected and who therefore might want to find a new university or course.
Importantly, if you go through Adjustment, you won’t lose a place if you’ve already secured it - you can hold on to it while you try to find something else. But it’s only open for a limited amount of time from A Level results day in the UK. In 2021 it will run from 10 August to 18 August.
|5 July 2021||Clearing opens:
Many people believe Clearing opens on the day that British students receive their school grades (“A Level results day”), but it actually opens well before that. First course vacancies are already published in July. However, the vast majority of places will become available through Clearing on or after A Level results day.
|10 August 2021||A Level results day:
This is when students who are finishing school in the UK nervously await their final school grades. It’s also the day that Clearing vacancies will be updated. So if you don’t get the results you expected, don’t panic. Now might be the time to go through Clearing.
|10 August 2021||Adjustment opens:
Adjustment usually opens on the same day that GCE A Level results are announced. If actual grades are better than expected, students now have a short period of time to apply to courses they did not originally expect to qualify for.
|18 August 2021||Adjustment closes|
|19 October 2021||Clearing closes for 2021 entry:
This is the deadline for applying to courses and universities through Clearing. However, places will fill up quickly and generally well before the closing date - so don’t wait this long! If you leave it too close to this deadline many course places may have already been taken.
Clearing is open to international students the same way that British students can use it. So it’s an option for you if you want to apply to an undergraduate programme at a UK university late in the year - if your previous applications were unsuccessful, if you are unhappy with the offers you did receive, or because you haven’t applied to any university yet.
Either way, you will need to register with UCAS and submit your applications 📨 through their Clearing system. International students will have to pay the £26 application fee, the same as other students.
There is an option to apply in a different way, by sending an application directly to a university during this period (more below), but it’s more common to go through the main Clearing process.
International students will need the same documents they would need if they were applying to a course or university without going through Clearing. It’s best to check the requirements of the university or course you are interested in. In addition to your academic grades, it could be
A quick note to students from the European Union (EU): After Brexit, you are now classified as “International students” and are no longer eligible for “Home” fee status, nor study loans only available to British students. Instead, you will have to pay international student fees; whether or not you apply through Clearing has no impact on that. You will also need to apply for a student visa.
When you’re applying to an undergraduate university in the UK, the “normal” and most common way is to apply through UCAS. This is the same for Clearing.
However, it is possible to apply to some UK universities directly during the time that Clearing is open, bypassing UCAS. This is known as the Record of Prior Acceptance (RPA) path. If you are then accepted onto a course, the university will let UCAS know on your behalf.
This could be a good option for students who have not already applied to university through UCAS and don’t want to go through the UCAS system.
However, compared to UCAS, it might not be ideal to apply this way. Many universities won’t accept applications sent directly and will ask that you go through UCAS instead. Plus you could be limiting your options, as you can only apply to one university if you go through RPA, whereas you can apply to more if you go through Clearing. But it could be an option if you have one particular university in mind and they accept applications in this way.
Applicants to postgraduate courses in the UK also generally don’t go through UCAS, and Clearing only works for undergraduate courses. In other words, if you are looking for a Master’s degree, Clearing is not relevant to you. Instead, you can apply to postgraduate courses directly through the university. Their application systems can vary, but you will find detailed instructions on the university websites.
Usually, around three quarters of all British universities fill course vacancies through Clearing every year. In 2020, around 70,000 students found their programme this way: That’s 10% of all newly enrolled students!
In the past, there may have been a myth that Clearing was a way to fill less desirable places. However, that’s definitely not the case. Lots of universities fill spaces using Clearing every year, including thousands of sought-after spots at at Russell Group members and other top-ranked universities in the UK. Many students even say they ended up at a university better suited to them, after going through Clearing or Adjustment.
However, not every university will have places available in Clearing. It’s not known exactly which universities and courses will have places until it opens in July. That’s why you should keep an eye out and make sure not to miss any opportunities.
You found a place through Clearing and accepted an offer? Congratulations! 🎉 Now you have to be fast:
If you can’t find a university course that you want, or that you are able to get a place on, then don’t panic. All is not lost. It’s always possible to reapply to university in the UK the following year, perhaps after gaining new experience to strengthen your application.
However, if you don’t want to wait until next year, then there are lots of universities across Europe with courses you could still apply to. Application deadlines vary from country to country. Here are the deadlines for applications in some popular study destinations in Europe:
Note that often those late deadlines only apply when no visa is necessary; usually if you are a citizen of the EU or EEA. You may also want to look at private universities or business schools in continental Europe: Private institutions are often more flexible with application and start dates, and sometimes have rolling admissions dates. For instance, you might be able to start your studies at the start of the next calendar year, allowing for more preparation time.
For more details and a full list of application deadlines in various countries, you can take a look at our guide to university application deadlines in Europe.3171 Bachelors in the United Kingdom