Education news

Thousands of university clearing places expected to be available

A clearing call centre on A-level results day. Picture by Danny Lawson/PA Wire

SCHOOL-leavers searching for a last-minute degree place on A-level day are likely to find a buyers' market with tens of thousands of courses still available, figures indicate.

Sixth-formers in the north will learn their grades this week.

Ahead of results day, an analysis shows that almost every university, including three quarters of the UK's most selective institutions, are listing undergraduate courses in `clearing' on the Ucas website.

The clearing system is the annual process that matches students without places to courses that have vacancies.

Law, languages, engineering, astrophysics, maths and English are among the subjects with availability, amid intense competition between universities to attract candidates.

The research by Press Association shows that 132 out of 148 universities are advertising at least one course on the Ucas clearing website.

In total, there are 26,587 courses listed that potentially have availability. There are hundreds on offer at both Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University.

Among the 24 Russell Group institutions - the universities that are widely considered among the best in Britain and Northern Ireland - three in four have at least one course advertised.

There has been a fall in the numbers of would-be students applying to university for this autumn, with 636,960 submitting applications by the end of June - down 2 per cent on 2017.

Application numbers from UK students are down 3 per cent on last year, with England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all seeing falls.

Dr Christina Edgar, director of student recruitment and admissions at the University of Sheffield, said there was a demographic dip in 18-year-olds this year, leading to fewer students applying to university.

"It's really a great year for student choice," she said.

"Clearing has become a great chance for savvy students to shop around, look at different courses, revisit original Ucas choices and even 'trade up' to a better-ranked university if they've done well in their exams.

"It's important students don't feel pressured to hurriedly accept an offer as part of clearing though. Choosing where to study is a big decision and needs to be an informed one."

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said clearing was increasingly popular.

"More than 10 per cent of university places are now secured through clearing and there will be thousands of places available again this year," he said.

"Universities recognise the high quality of applicants now in clearing. Most universities will make places available. It's open to everyone and most subjects are available, including some highly competitive courses."

A Russell Group spokeswoman said clearing could be an opportunity to help students who had missed out on their first and second choice.

"Students' results aren't always what they expect and it's good to have a bit of flexibility in the system," she said.

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