When and How Does the Clearing Process in the UK Start?

The Clearing process is a crucial aspect of the UK university admissions system, providing an opportunity for students who have not secured a place at a university to find available courses. Managed by UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), Clearing helps match applicants to university vacancies after the main application deadlines have passed.

When Does Clearing Start?

Clearing begins in early July and continues until mid-October each year. However, the peak period for Clearing is from the middle of August, following the release of A-level results, until late August.

  1. Early July: Clearing officially opens. At this stage, universities start listing their available courses on the UCAS website. Students who already have their exam results and do not hold any offers can start using Clearing from this point.
  2. Mid-August: The busiest time for Clearing occurs on A-level results day. This is when the majority of students find out if they have met the conditions of their offers. Those who have not secured a place or are looking for alternative options will enter the Clearing process.
  3. Mid-October: Clearing officially closes. Universities finalize their admissions for the academic year, and the process ends.

How Does the Clearing Process Work?

The Clearing process involves several steps, starting from identifying available courses to securing a place at a university. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how Clearing works:

  1. Eligibility Check: Students can use Clearing if:
    • They are applying after 30 June.
    • They did not receive any offers (or none they wanted to accept).
    • They did not meet the conditions of their offers.
    • They declined their firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in their application.
  2. Search for Available Courses:
    • UCAS Search Tool: Students use the UCAS search tool to find courses that have vacancies. This tool is updated regularly with the latest information on course availability.
    • University Websites: Checking individual university websites can provide additional details about available courses and entry requirements.
  3. Contacting Universities:
    • Prepare Information: Before contacting universities, students should have their UCAS ID, exam results, and details of the courses they are interested in.
    • Make Calls: Students need to contact universities directly to discuss available places. This usually involves speaking to admissions officers and explaining why they are a good fit for the course.
    • Informal Offers: Universities may make informal offers over the phone. If a university offers a place, they will provide a verbal offer, and the student can decide whether to accept it.
  4. Adding a Clearing Choice:
    • Decision Making: Once a student receives a verbal offer they want to accept, they add the course as a Clearing choice on their UCAS application.
    • Confirmation: The university then confirms the place through UCAS, and the student receives an official offer on their application portal.
  5. Acceptance and Final Steps:
    • Accepting the Offer: If the university confirms the offer, the student must accept it through the UCAS portal.
    • Accommodation and Finance: After securing a place, students should arrange accommodation and finalize their student finance.

Tips for Navigating the Clearing Process

  • Stay Calm and Organized: The Clearing process can be stressful, but staying calm and organized will help manage it effectively.
  • Research Thoroughly: Research potential courses and universities in advance, so you’re prepared when Clearing opens.
  • Be Proactive: Act quickly once Clearing begins, as places can fill up rapidly.
  • Seek Advice: Talk to teachers, career advisors, or university admissions officers for guidance and support.


Clearing is a valuable pathway for students who need a second chance to secure a place at a university. Understanding when Clearing starts and how it works can significantly enhance a student’s ability to navigate the process successfully. By being well-prepared and proactive, students can take advantage of the opportunities Clearing offers and find a suitable course and university.