Clearing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

With A and AS Level results out today and with this being the most controversial year for exam results ever, we take a look at the UK's UCAS Clearing system, which allows students who didn't receive the university offers they hoped for, to 'shop-around' for other courses...
Clearing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
By C Hoppe
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A Level students around the world will receive their long awaited results today.

However, these wont be 'rosy' for everyone. Some students will, of course, not have achieved the results they anticipated or been offered the university places they planned through UCAS, the UK university placement system.  Given the many changes to the grading system which have resulted from the covid19 instigated exam cancellations, many more students that usual are predicted to be in this position.

However, all is not lost...

UK university 'Clearing' begins in July and runs until September, however, August is the month when the vast majority of university places are allocated.

As the process prepares to swing into action for 2020, takes a look back through the UK's press to find out the best and worst aspects of the Clearing system.

While The Daily Telegraph takes a positive stance on the process claiming, "there is no stigma to getting into university through Clearing: it’ll make no difference to how you’re treated on your course later on."

The Guardian notes,"Clearing is a vital part of the student recruitment cycle. It gives prospective students a chance to revisit application choices in light of their A-level results, or because they have changed their mind about the course they wish to study."

While students will need to work quickly to make best use of the system it is essential they spend time researching the institution and specific course before accepting any offer.

Both publications strongly emphasise that all students using the system must also understand its limitations. The most popular courses still only consider students who have already applied, been interviewed and 'jumped through the required hoops' prior to Clearing, so they shouldn't expect to land a coveted place in med-school through the process.

The Telegraph's, seven major 'pros' of the Clearing system are:

1. After students get their results, they know which courses they're eligible for, and focusing on these should mean there's less of a gamble.

2.  Clearing means students can 'shop around' for the course best suited to their budget.

3. Thousands of students didn't get the grades they expected and therefore they are now not eligible for the course they had hoped to take. These courses are now open!

4. While the big names (Oxford, Cambridge and many of the Russell Group) don't 'play ball' many do, now is the time to see if it's possible to 'trade-up' and get a better course.

5. Its time to be discerning: at this point the university needs 'bums-on-seats' and students can decide on which place to accept depending on the things that are important to them (student/teacher ratio, resources etc).

6. While students are limited to five choices on their UCAS form, Clearing doesn't apply any limitations and therefore students can apply for as many courses as they like.

7. Clearing is the best time for students to change their mind. If their original course choice doesn't seem so relevant now, they can shop around and/or 'tweak' their choices.

However, the Clearing process is not 'all rosy'

The Daily Mail takes a more negative angle on the system, claiming their journalists have discovered many of the Russell Group of universities are actually denying UK students places in a bid to increase their income by hold top spots for international students.

Alan Smithers, an education expert at the University of Buckingham, said, "fundamentally, universities are businesses and they have to balance the books.’ 

Whether this remains the case for the 2020/21 academic year remains to be seen.  The covid19 pandemic is predicted to have a significant negative impact upon international student numbers.  

Smithers went on to note, "For non-EU students, universities are able to set their own fees and they can set them to cover the entire cost, perhaps with a bit of a profit margin. That money is important."


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