The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Are international students eligible for Clearing?


Worried that you didn’t quite get the required grades for the course you have applied to? If you’ve applied to a university in the UK, you may be in luck! You can still find a spot at a respectable institution to study a course you’re interested in.


What is Clearing?

Clearing is a university application system for those who just miss out on an undergraduate place at the UK universities they have marked as their firm or insurance choice. Clearing takes place between July and September. These courses have to be filled, or else universities have to pay a fee for having classes which are too small; so universities are just as keen to fill these spots, as students are to find a place. Keep this in mind if you’re disappointed that you didn’t quite get the grades you were hoping for to get into that dream university, or if you feel like you’re settling. In fact, last year, a little over 10% of all UK university places were a result of Clearing!


Why should I go through Clearing?

Some may be so disappointed that they missed out on a course they had their heart set on, that they simply decide not to bother applying until next year (if at all). This is a terrible way of thinking, especially if studying abroad has been the only thing you’ve been able to talk about for the past year. In your head, you may already be in a new country.

And if you don’t go through Clearing, do you have a back-up plan? You’re still young, and it would be a terrible waste of a year to do something you’re not interested in, simply to fill the time. If you can quickly find employment or a placement linked to a field you’re interested in studying, this can really bolster a future application; however this can be unlikely in such a short space of time.

Plus, you never know how the universe works! It may be that going through Clearing is the best thing you’ll have ever done. Perhaps you dismissed another course or university too quickly previously? Or one slipped past you which is actually a perfect fit?


Are international students eligible for Clearing?

Yes they are, provided they applied through UCAS originally. You should always check with the university directly regarding the correct procedure. 

Most Clearing applicants go through this process because their firm and insurance choices rejected them. If you applied to a course before the 30th June, but were not made any offers, you will be automatically entered into Clearing too. Similarly, if you got the grades required for your firm and insurance offers but have decided you no longer wish to go to those universities, you can enter Clearing.

However, you must also have paid the full £22 application fee to be entered into Clearing.


How do I prepare for Clearing?

The hectic nature of Clearing means that you have to act somewhat quickly to find a new course. Usually this will be within a few days of receiving your results (maybe even less, so make a note of these dates and keep them free in your schedule). This is a very short time to consider such a life-changing decision (especially if you spent several months deciding on your initial firm/insurance choices). If you have a feeling that you will be entering Clearing before you receive your grades, you can do a few things to make the process a little less stressful:

  • Think back to your initial research of universities and courses. Hopefully you’ll have kept some of the materials and documents, such as prospectuses. What universities or courses were you interested in, but for whatever reason you decided not to apply to? Do they look appealing now?
  • If you’re focused on a particular region or area of the country, look at universities which are close by. For instance, many universities are located in London, or nearby. While the course and your actual education should always be the most important aspect of your decision to study abroad, location is also an important factor (though not necessarily immigration); so if you’ve fallen in love with a town like Brighton through what you’ve already read about it, there’s still a chance you can study in the area.
  • Look at university websites to find out a bit more about their courses (alternatively you can read them on our site in just one place). Read the course description carefully to ensure that it is similar to what you were originally hoping to study, or that you know what the course entails. This includes looking at the modules, as well as the grade requirements which will vary slightly (don’t assume they will be lower just because you’re going through Clearing).


How do I apply?

If you receive your results and find that you did not get the grades required for your offer, you should check UCAS Track as soon as possible to confirm that you are eligible to enter. If you are, then you will find your Clearing number; this is used by those universities you apply to, to find out more about you and make a decision quickly.

Once you have this, it is up to you to contact universities directly to find out about available places on their courses. You’ll find phone numbers for all universities for Clearing on the UCAS website, though there are often specific phone numbers for international students currently in other countries. Universities should also have a section on their website for Clearing, with all the courses they have available listed there.

When you see a course you’re interested in, phone the university to be put through to someone who can speak to you about applying. You’ll need to have your Clearing number, UCAS number and grades at hand when you speak to them as the Clearing teams will be extremely busy, especially on Results Day in the UK. Some calls can be really quick provided you have all the information at hand (sometimes just a matter of minutes). Some universities will also allow international students to enquire about a course/s through their website, with a specific email address designated for Clearing. Again, you will need the same information at hand as stated above.

When speaking to a university about a course, you’ll have to make an impression quickly beyond simply your grades. Consider making a few quick notes as to why you wish to study this course and how you are qualified to do so; while this won’t be a fully-fledged phone interview, you should still treat the call with importance.

You can approach as many universities as you wish about Clearing courses. When you have been made an offer by a university, you will have a short time to accept this (usually they will give you one or two days to accept). An offer constitutes one that has been made over the phone (or via email) by someone with the authority to make such an offer (perhaps make a note of their name too). You can accept an offer by adding a Clearing choice on UCAS Track (only after the 15th August).

Take note, that you only add one Clearing choice at a time, so you must wait to find out if your application has been accepted or not, before attempting again. It may take a few days for the university to respond, so think carefully about your decision when adding a Clearing choice. If it has been accepted, it will say ‘Clearing Accepted’ on UCAS Track, and you will be informed of the next steps.


When does Clearing finish?

Clearing usually ends at the end of September though check the exact date each year.


What is Adjustment?

Adjustment is in some ways the opposite of Clearing. Here, it is where you actually receive better grades than expected. As a result, you can then try to “move up” and apply to a course with higher requirements and which may be more prestigious.


What if I need extra help?

Universities and UCAS will have special teams on board just for Clearing to process phone calls and enquiries. They appreciate just how important this day is, so they will be prepared. If you’re left waiting on the phone, do not panic; you will be dealt with soon. Just ensure that you have the information stated above at hand so you can make their job easier.

You can also consult UCAS for more information about Clearing and your options. You can also tweet or post on the UCAS Facebook wall to ask a quick question or be pointed in the right direction.


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About Author


Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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