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Disappointing A-level grades? Bag a university place through Clearing

7th August 2018

Author: Christine Phillips

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If you’re worried that you haven’t got the grades you need to go to your chosen university, don’t panic, help is at hand through Clearing, which matches unfilled university places with students.  Here’s how to get the best out of it.

 Before results day…

  • Make a list of all possible universities and courses in order of preference so you can swiftly put a plan into action if you haven’t got the grades you need. Think about the places you want to study and the courses you want to consider. Research the course requirements and points needed.
  • Think about alternative courses to give you even more choice, such as a joint course with another subject instead of a single subject course. Roderick Smith, Director of Admissions at Birmingham University tells us, “75 per cent of graduate-level jobs will take you with any degree, so unless you are desperate to do a particular subject and can’t get in it is worth looking at other options.”
  • Use the official listings on the UCAS website. You can find listings and details of the courses still available and more will become available on results day itself when Clearing officially opens.


On results day…

Be there

Don’t be on holiday! If you go into Clearing you need to find somewhere quiet as soon as possible where you can go online and make phone calls to secure yourself a place.

You can use Clearing if your UCAS Track status says ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’. If your status has not been updated your application could still be under consideration by your university, even if you didn’t get your grades. Ring them to check before taking any action.

“Remember that Clearing is not a bad thing; it can have an incredibly positive outcome and open up a world of possibilities! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There are thousands of vacancies out there waiting for you.”
Russell Roberts, Head of Academic Services, University of Derby

Make the calls

Cross reference the official Clearing listings (as above) with your prepared list to find all available courses online. Ring the individual universities yourself as they may want to conduct a mini-interview.

  • Have all your info to hand; A-Level and GCSE grades, Clearing number and Personal ID number, plus your UCAS form to refer to your personal statement.
  • Your call will be answered by a member of the Clearing helpline team who will put you through to the course administrator if you meet their requirements.
  • Remember to sell yourself – make sure you are knowledgeable about the course and enthusiastic about why you want to do it.


Don’t make a panic decision

Verbal offers are open for 24 hours, so you have time to consider your choice. Nicola Murray-Fagan, Head of UK Student Recruitment at Bournemouth University advises, “Going to university is a big step. You will be spending at least three years studying for your degree, so make sure that the university and the course you have chosen are right for you.”


If you can’t get through keep trying and send an email. Clearing on results day gets very busy. Roderick Smith at Birmingham University explains, “Most universities will open phone lines for clearing from 8am. The peak time is between 10am and midday for us. We have around 200 lines with 70 people answering calls. If the line is engaged keep trying.”

Consider going back to the universities you may have turned down before

Jo Ladwa, Head of Planning and Admissions at Keele University says, “Don’t worry if you have applied to a university previously but declined the offer, generally, universities aren’t interested in past offers and you will not be at a disadvantage.”

Try a direct approach

Some universities don’t advertise available places so if there is somewhere you really want to go and they’re not on the official clearing lists, it’s still worth calling but do this as soon as results are published.

What next?

“Once you have accepted an offer through UCAS, then the university will help you with what to do next, ” explains Nicola Murray-Fagan from Bournemouth University, ” They will give you all the information you need about your course, accommodation and the support available.”

Good luck and stay calm – you are not alone! Which? University reports that just under 60,000 students successfully found university places through Clearing in 2017.

See more on A-level results

Worrying about your A-level results? See how thinking through your options, from a gap year to alternatives to university, can help put your mind at rest.