Ben HaywardAugust 11th

Record numbers of A-level students are expected to get university places through the clearing process this year.

The head of the admissions service has predicted that roughly 80,000 students will take up places through clearing as universities scramble to fill courses, reports the Independent.

With less than a week to go until A-level results day, three in four of the country’s leading institutions have vacancies on their undergraduate programmes.


Ahead of A-level results day this coming Thursday (August 15th) a total of 30,000 courses still have spaces available, with three quarters of the UK’s leading institutions still wanting to fill undergraduate vacancies.

In 2018, 66,770 students found places at British universities through the clearing process, however Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said the figure could well reach 80,000 this time round, describing admissions as a ‘buyer’s market’.

Ms Marchant told The Independent: “It’s a different market than it was perhaps 10 years ago, even five years ago, and I think that students are much more understanding of the fact that they have choices to make.

“Certainly we at Ucas are promoting that, so some of our messaging around clearing has been, rather than the sort of slightly negative panic, that this is plan A for a lot of students.”


Competition for the recruitment of students (and their £9,250 per year tuition fees) has become more fierce as there are currently fewer 18-year-olds in the population, meaning students who have either missed out on predicted grades - or exceeded expectations - having a variety of options available to them compared to past years.

Acting head of admissions at Sheffield University, Tony Flaherty, said there has been a shift in behaviour and attitudes around clearing as ‘savvy offer-holders’ now use the process as an opportunity to ‘shop around’ for their preferred course and institution. 

While there is over-capacity inn the system at the moment, Richard Harvey, academic director of admissions at the University of East Anglia, said universities are listing more courses on clearing as they don’t want to close off programmes which could be needed in a few years time when the population of 18-year-olds swells again. 

“Most universities would rather lower their grades and fill the places rather than admit lack of demand,” Professor Harvey added.


Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the think tank Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said: “Competition for students remains intense due to the low number of 18-year-olds in the population, which hits particularly hard as it has been a continued trend over a number of years now.

“This is also combined with the uncertain environment that universities find themselves in, with unknowns about the impact of Brexit and the potential lowering of tuition fees meaning all types of university are utilising all aspects of the admissions process to expand their student numbers.”

She added: “It really is a buyer’s market for students at the moment and I think students are getting wise to the fact they can use clearing to their advantage.”

Worried about the clearing process? You can check out TOTUM's helpful guide to clearing for all the tips and tricks you need to know on the big day!

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