A Levels: Clearing for UK & International Students

We take a look at the UK's UCAS Clearing system, which allows students who have not received the university offers they hoped for, to 'shop-around' for other courses...
A Levels: Clearing for UK & International Students
By Carli Allan
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If you didn't get the grades you need for your original university course, and you still want to go to university in the UK, then don't worry. You can still find a university place through Clearing.

UCAS Clearing is for anyone who didn't meet the conditions of their university offer; did better than they expected and wants to see if they can find a 'better' course; didn't receive any offers; or anyone that did not apply to a UK university before the June 30 deadline.

Over 60,000 applicants obtained places through Clearing last year. These include places at top universities and on sought after courses, for a whole number of reasons - not least because of students failing to get their grades, or last minute switches from students who perhaps did better than expected.


You can apply for a course using Clearing from July 5 until October 17, 2023 – if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places. However, the majority of Clearing places won't become available until after A Level results are published on Thursday, August 17.


When we asked UCAS for the simplest way to find your Clearing place, their education experts said:

“Clearing offers choice and flexibility for any student, whether they’ve received their predicted, better, or lower grade - especially for anyone wanting to keep their options open, or change course or institution. They can also use UCAS’ Clearing Plus tool that matches them to a personalised list of available courses.

“Clearing Plus is only available if you’re unsuccessful with your application or are applying for the first time for a place in Clearing. You’ll be able to ‘view your matches’ in your UCAS Hub.

“We can help you secure a place in three simple steps:

  1. From July 5, check our listings of available courses. Almost every university participates in Clearing. There are still thousands of courses to choose from.
  2. Contact your new choices directly. Get in touch with the university or college directly to see if they will accept you for the course you’re interested in.
  3. Add your Clearing choice in your application. Once you have an offer, add it in your application so the university or college can officially accept you. Congratulations, you’re in!"

Need some inspiration? If you’ve already applied and find yourself in Clearing, you can sign in to your application to see courses you’ve been matched to and might like. 

Is Clearing for international students?

The answer is yes. International students can use Clearing in the same way as a UK student. The Clearing process works in the same way as it does for UK students, but there are some differences around the documents required.

Most international students will need to apply for a student visa., which normally takes three weeks to process. Students who aren't native English speakers may also need to complete an English language assessment.

Some international students will receive their exam results earlier than most UK students, such as IB students who collect their results on July 6. This can mean they have more time to navigate their way through Clearing compared to those doing A Levels. However, the majority of Clearing places won't become available until after A Level results are published on Thursday, August 17. 

Top tips for Clearing

  1. Always keep calm and upbeat. Wherever you are right now, is the start of something new, and something exciting - even if, in this minute, it is not where you thought you would be. Life takes many unexpected turns, which often work out for the better.
  2. Do the contingency planning before results day. List possible courses and universities you’re interested in and put in priority order. This will help when looking at the 1000s of Clearing listings after they are published.
  3. Be positive. You have power. Universities need to fill their places as much as you want to fill one of them.
  4. If you are not in it, you can't win it. It may sound obvious but now would not be the best time to be on holiday.
  5. Keep checking UCAS Track - if you become eligible to use Clearing, an ‘Add Clearing choice’ option will appear on your Track Choices screen.
  6. The more flexible about where you study, and what you study you are, the more options you will be open to you.
  7. Call universities. Nothing shows commitment more. Universities want to hear your voice. They are unlikely to be able to offer a place unless they are speaking to you directly. (Some vacancies may never make it to the listings they go so quickly. Make sure they go to you! Treat all calls like they could be an interview: The university might do a quick run-through of your grades, or you could have a full-on Q and A. Do your research and be ready to impress.) 

    To be prepared for the call:

    • Have a pen and paper to hand. You will need to write things down.
    • Have a phone charger - this is not the time to have a battery malfunction. 
    • Know your GCSE results – they might come up.
    • Know your UCAS Clearing number. Tutors will want to view your original application.
    • Know the course code, name and details of the course content you’re enquiring about.
    • Read your personal statement and know the key points you want to make: Why that specific course? Why should you get the place? As importantly, think of questions to ask the university to show genuine interest... 
    • Have an answer as to why you think you didn’t achieve your grades. Think about any positives from your results - where did you get your grades? Where did you exceed them?
  8. Check the UCAS as well as university sites for vacancies in the subjects you want to study. Not all universities advertise places on clearing. Last year, eight of the 24-strong ‘elite’ Russell Group universities did NOT use the system. Many of the most popular and competitive degrees – medicine, dentistry and veterinary science also don't feature. These courses are usually oversubscribed already, with a waiting list, but there is never harm in trying.
  9. You can call every university on your shortlist and verbally accept more than one offer, but you will only be able to have one Clearing choice at any time. Before making that final decision, can you get to the university look around? Many universities will run open days to enable Clearing applicants (and their parents) to visit, view the facilities (particularly accommodation), and talk to staff and students.
  10. Never ever stop trying.

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