Use space to open navigation items
University students

Top trends in Clearing for 2020 and beyond

In 2019, 67 students were granted a place at the University of Cambridge via Clearing – the first time the institution had engaged in the process in its 811-year history. Times are changing.

Even before Covid-19 emerged, we were seeing profound changes in student behaviour and the tactics employed by universities to help them remain competitive – particularly during Clearing. The pandemic has thrown a bucket-load of fuel onto a rapidly growing fire and there are going to be some explosive implications.

First lets look at some trends in Clearing.

Trends in Clearing

Clearing has become an increasingly significant milestone in the Higher Education calendar over the last decade or so. It’s a battleground that sees some universities recruit 30% of their entire intake for the year.

In 2019, 66,410 students were placed via Clearing, representing 13.4% of the entire UK student intake that year. Those figures have been steadily rising for some time: Between 2014-2019 we’ve seen just a 1.4% increase in overall students numbers entering Higher Education but we’ve seen a 10.8% increase in the number of students placed via Clearing.

Simply put: Clearing is rising in popularity at a disproportionately fast rate and those institutions that are unable to capitalise will likely struggle.

So we know that Clearing is on the up, but why?

The first thing is to acknowledge that the concept of Clearing has traditionally come with a stigma attached to it – the idea that Clearing was something for students that had underperformed in their exams and needed a bailout.

While Clearing does still serve this purpose, it’s increasingly being viewed as a preferential choice by students that don’t want to tie themselves down to two choices eighteen months before they enrol and long before they know what grades they’re going to achieve.

Andrew Carr, Admissions Managers at Bishop Grosseteste University said:

“Clearing used to be like a car boot sale, where you can get some good stuff but not always the best quality stuff. Now it’s like the Boxing Day sales – you can get exactly what you would have got a few weeks earlier.”

Tied to this is the fact that students hold more power in their engagements with a university than ever before. 2020 has the lowest number of 18 year olds in the UK population for nearly 40 years and with student number caps lifted in 2015, institutions are free to recruit as many students as they want. Demand (number of students) is down and supply (number of places available) is up.

Students as a commodity are more valuable to universities than ever before owing to their scarcity – and students know it. Some of the most prudent are using this to their advantage to release themselves into a market where institutions will bend over backwards to try and recruit them. That might mean getting into a more prestigious university despite not meeting entry requirements.

What’s the monetary value of Clearing to universities?

Some assumptions:

  • The average student in the UK pays £9,188 per year in tuition fees
  • The average length of a degree is three years
  • Therefore the average amount paid in tuition fees by a student over their tenure at university is £27, 564 (3 x £9,188)

If we take £27,564 and multiply it by the number of students placed via Clearing, which is 66,410, we arrive at £1.83bn. This is the amount of tuition fees paid by students that have entered into Higher Education via Clearing.

If we then divide £1.83bn by the number of UK universities that offer places via clearing (which is 106), we arrive at £17,269,106. This is the amount of money that Clearing is worth to each university that offers it in the UK, on average.

It should therefore come as no surprise that institutions are doing everything and anything they can to appeal to students during Clearing. Brand new laptops, gym memberships and free flights are just some of the ‘incentives’ offered by universities in recent years. In addition, there was an eye-watering 2175% increase in unconditional offers made to students between 2013-2018.

So we know that Clearing has been gaining in popularity over the years and we have an inkling as to why. We also know that recruiting effectively during Clearing is increasingly integral to a university’s bottom line.

But what does this mean with the added pressure and disruption caused by Covid-19? For further insight, read more about the impact and the effect of Covid-19 on Higher Ed.

Toby Margetts

Written by

Toby Margetts
‎Digital Strategy Lead – Squiz
2 June 2020

Learn more about Clearing

The impact of Covid-19 on Higher Ed in the UK

Clearing has been gaining in popularity over the years and we have an inkling as to w...

How can Higher Ed thrive post COVID-19?

The million dollar question. What does your institution need to do to ensure it’s pre...

Clearing During Covid-19

The rise of Covid-19 has added immense pressure to what was already going to be the b...

Back to the top of this page