Clearing 2021 - How Does It Work?

Clearing 2021 - How Does Clearing Work?

Clearing is the system operated each year by UCAS to assist those students who don't quite get their predicted grades. Clearing 2021 will be an important option for students who don’t quite have the results they need to gain them access to their chosen university and course. Clearing is also useful if you want to change your mind or direction later in the year and allows a certain amount of flexibility with your application.

Clearing matches university places available from mid-August with students whose A level results didn’t manage to get them a place at their original choice of institution.

Going through clearing – what does it mean?

It’s a good idea to learn about clearing well before results day, just in case. If you don’t end up getting the results you want, you are well prepared. If your results are fine, it’s information that will never be wasted as you will be able to help out any mates who are panicking about their uni places.

Every year there are thousands of students who are in this position but be reassured that large numbers of places are still available through clearing. Just because you need to go through this process does not mean that you won’t end up at university a few weeks later.

Clearing 2021 – starting points

Step 1: Check your offer from your original choice

OK, your results are not as good as you hoped and they are lower than your uni offer. The first step is to check your UCAS Track information and your emails. Many universities will not reject you for definite – and they may still offer you a place. Confirm that first before you start going into clearing.

Step 2: Find out if you are eligible for clearing

If you haven’t got confirmation from your chosen uni, you need to find out if you can apply elsewhere through clearing. The easiest way to do this is again to log into UCAS Track. If a clearing number appears against your profile in UCAS Track, then you are eligible to apply to another university through the clearing route.

Step 3: Note your clearing number

It is worth making a note of that number for future reference as you will need it when you come to accept offers during the clearing period itself.

The process of clearing

You need to now spend some time looking at the available course and university options and do some research into the programme details, the institution itself and the potential outcomes from taking the degree. This is not the time to panic but you need to get on with this research so that you can make a decision. You may have spent a long time making your mind up in conjunction with parents, careers advisers and teachers to reach a decision on your first choice of course, but during clearing, the longer you take to make a decision, the less choice you will have unfortunately.

When you have found a new first choice course you need to make contact with that university directly as quickly as possible. Most universities will have a special telephone number set up for dealing with calls during clearing, so you will need to find this by searching their web pages.

Make the call outlining your reasons for being interested in the programme of choice, giving some information about yourself, your background and possible career aspirations and sound positive! The person at the other end of the phone often has the power to make you an offer of a place at university on the spot!

Detailed guide to clearing 2021

  • Complete the three steps in starting points (above): check your original choices to make sure you don’t have an offer; check your eligibility for clearing; note your clearing number.
  • Get advice: You can only apply to one institution at a time, so be sure you choose one that's really right for you. Talk through your options with your teachers, or call the Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000.
  • Choose your course: You can search through the 33,000 available Clearing courses online at, or in national newspapers. Clearing apps are also available for iPhone and Android. 
  • Get talking: Once you've decided on a course, you'll need to apply by phone directly to the university's admissions office. Have your results, your UCAS ID and Clearing Number handy. Above all, make sure you phone in person: the admissions tutor will be tutoring you, not your mum! Once you've been accepted, ask for an hour or so to think it over, then ring back to confirm.
  • Apply online: After you've verbally accepted an offer you'll need to formally apply online. Log on to UCAS Track (, click the "Add Clearing Choice" button and enter the course details.
  • Wait for confirmation: The University or college you've applied to should see your application straight away. If they accept you, you'll see a confirmation in the 'Choices' section of UCAS Track, which they'll follow up with a confirmation letter. If your application isn't accepted, the "Add Clearing choice" link in Track will reappear and you'll need to apply for another course.
  • Tips for clearing 2021: We have also created our very own tips for clearing 2021.

Clearing 2020: what are the crucial dates

  • 30 June 2020: This is the deadline for applications - any applications received after this date will be entered directly into clearing 2019.
  • 5 July 2020: The deadline for applications via UCAS Extra
  • 13 July 2020: The final date for your first and second choice universities to make decisions. If no decision is made, UCAS will automatically decline your application on behalf of the universities.
  • 20 July 2020: The deadline for responses from your chosen universities. You must accept or decline the offers to the universities by this date or UCAS will automatically decline them for you.
  • 4 August 2020: SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) releases results of Scottish Highers and, Scottish Clearing 2019 opens.
  • 13 August 2020: A-level results day. Clearing 2020 opens.  
  • 20 September 2020: Deadline for courses starting in 2020.   
  • 28 October 2020: Clearing 2020 closes down - after this date universities will not be able to accept applications from Clearing 2020.