Clearing FAQs

My exam results have arrived and I haven’t done quite as well as I expected – what do I do now?

Q. What is Clearing?

Clearing is the time of year when universities around the country try to match students to remaining vacancies on courses. It’s aimed at individuals who perhaps did not apply to university the first time around, or who received offers from universities but did not meet the conditions of their offer. Interest in clearing can be very high, and competition fierce for the remaining vacancies, but universities are here to guide you through the process.

Q. What if I don’t get the results I expected?

The main thing is not to worry. If you don’t get on to the course you applied for contact other universities/colleges to see if they have any vacancies.

Q. How do I find out about vacancies?

Course vacancies will be published in the national media. You can also look on university websites, such as the University of Plymouth and the UCAS website or get information direct from the universities.

Q. Where can I find out how to contact the universities?

Most universities with vacancies will have a telephone helpline in operation from the day A level results come out – the number will be on the university’s website. The University of Plymouth's call centre can be contacted on 0333 241 6929. You can also look for the number in newspapers, or in information held by your school or college.

Q. What happens when I telephone the universities?

You will talk to a central operator, who will ask about your results, including what GCSE results you have. They will also take your personal details, such as date of birth, your UCAS ID number and talk to you about the course, to help ensure it’s the right one for you.
If there are vacancies on the course that interests you and you meet the entry requirements, you will be encouraged to make an application online, in the same way that you made your original application to UCAS. You must use UCAS TRACK, so make sure you have all your details to hand to log in. Please be aware that you can only apply to one course at a time so make sure you have spoken to the university beforehand and you meet their entry requirements and like the look of the course and campus.

Q. There are no places left on the courses I want – am I never going to get anywhere?

Sit down with your tutors and/or parents and think about what other things you could do – think about studying a different subject, taking a gap year or perhaps consider re-sitting your exams? Another option is considering our foundation courses, designed to help you find the best possible direction for your studies. You will still be on a full degree pathway leading to the programme of your choice but this extra year helps bring you up to speed and ensures you are fully prepared for your course. It’s a grounding that will give you both flexibility and focus and many of our best students have taken this route. You may wish to consider a course from our partner college network.

Q. Should I take the first offer that I receive?

Only if it’s what you really want – bear in mind that you will spend three or four years studying that subject and living at that university. It can be tempting to rush out and grab the first vacancy, but you might regret it later on. It would also be foolish to take up an offer if you think it automatically allows you to transfer to another course once you’ve started.

Q. How do I decide if I want a place on the course I’ve been offered?

Don’t be rushed into making a hasty decision. Many universities run open days through Clearing so that you can have a look around, talk to staff and see if you like the place. Ask yourself whether you will enjoy the course and whether it will help you in your chosen career (if you know what that is). Going to the open day is especially important if it is a university that you’ve never visited before. 

Q. What about finding somewhere to live?

Once you’ve accepted a place, the university will do everything they can to help you find accommodation. Our Student Accommodation team will be on hand to answer any questions you have. The accommodation team will also be present on the Clearing open day to go through your accommodation options. 

Q. Will I be treated differently if I come through Clearing?

No. Many students in the past have gained places through Clearing and go on to successfully complete their chosen course. As far as lecturers are concerned you are just one of the students – they will not know that you have come through Clearing.


  • Spend some time thinking about what you’re going to do – don’t rush into something you’re unsure about 
  • Try to visit the university you are considering, if you haven’t already seen it 
  • Stay calm and listen carefully to advice 

Q. What is adjustment?

The adjustment period allows applicants who have met and exceeded the terms of their conditional firm offer and have been accepted on that course, to be eligible to enter an ‘adjustment period’ allowing them to find a course at a different institution whilst still holding their confirmed place. 

The process is available from A level results day until 31 August. Your individual Adjustment period starts on A level results day or when your conditional firm (CF) choice changes to unconditional firm (UF), whichever is later. From this time you have a maximum of five calendar days (five 24 hour periods, including Saturdays and Sundays) to register and secure an alternative course, if you decide this is what you want to do. 

Applicants are advised to contact the institution they wish to adjust into to ensure there are vacancies on the course of their choice. Applicants should then refer to UCAS Track should they wish to make an adjustment to their choice. If you do not take up an adjustment place at an alternative university you will automatically revert to your original university place.

Q. I’d like to adjust my offer and choice to the University of Plymouth, what should I do now? 

  • Check course vacancies to see if you meet or exceed the entry requirements and that there is a vacancy on your chosen course 
  • Contact the Clearing call centre to register your interest in the course. Tel: 0333 241 6929 
  • If you meet the conditions of the course and there are vacancies, you must visit UCAS Track to register your intention to adjust 
  • UCAS will send you confirmation details of your change of course. 

You should then: 

Q. What happens if I don’t have a course space or I don’t meet the criteria for Adjustment?

If you don’t meet the criteria for adjusting, you can:

  • Remain with your UF institution 
  • Contact another institution to see if they have a course place available to you 
  • Decline your first choice university and request to be released into Clearing. 
Please check our course vacancies list carefully for available course choices open to you.
If there are no course places available you can:
  • Remain with your UF institution 
  • Decline your first choice university and request to be released into Clearing. 
Please check our course vacancies list carefully for available course choices open to you.

Q. I’d like to find another course somewhere else. What should I do now? 

Consider carefully if you really want to make this change: 

  • Have you already visited the institution? 
  • Have you already made accommodation arrangements? 
  • There is a tight timescale in which to make your decision 
  • There are no guarantees that an institution will have course vacancies. 

If you wish to proceed: 

  • Register on UCAS TRACK to use adjustment 
  • Contact another institution for an alternative course choice 
  • If another institution is satisfied that you are eligible for adjustment, and a course space exists, they may offer you a place 

Email the following details to

  • Your name 
  • Your UCAS ID number or University of Plymouth student reference number 
  • University of Plymouth course 
  • Contact number
  • Mark your email as urgent and subject 'withdrawal' 

You must return to UCAS TRACK to accept your new offer. UCAS will send you confirmation details of your change of course. 

How to survive Clearing

I ended up doing a course that was completely different to what I expected, but it turned out even better than I had originally hoped.

Watch our Clearing video where current student Jenita and graduate Lindsey share their top tips on how to survive Clearing.

Your guide to help you through the Clearing process