Universities are braced for the biggest clearing day ever as A-level students unwrap their results across the country.
The number of students going through clearing has been climbing steadily in recent years and is expected to hit another record high on Thursday after an annual increase in the number of university applications, analysis by the Fashion Retail Academy shows.
The number of people applying direct to clearing within 24 hours of A-level results being released has more than doubled in the past five years, rising from 1,940 in 2014 to 4,210 in 20181.
The day after A-level results were released last year, 15,160 people had been accepted through clearing, a rise of 2.4% from 2017. This was made up of 10,950 people given places after applying through the main UCAS scheme and 4,210 people who applied directly through clearing after the main application deadline date1.
With universities becoming more attuned to clearing and more students using the process, top universities have taken to actively advertising courses that students can apply for through clearing.
UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant has suggested as many as 80,000 students may take up university places through clearing.
This year, the total number of university applications has risen 0.2%, from 636,960 in 2018 to 638,030, according to UCAS2.
The overall increase, however, masks a slowdown in applications from pupils living in the UK, falling 1.1% this year. This trend has been seen longest in England, where applications from pupils have dropped for four consecutive years, slipping 0.6% or 2,670 this year.
Northern Ireland has seen the biggest fall in applications, dropping 4.1% in 2019, Scotland has seen 3.3% fewer applications and Wales has seen a 1.6% drop.
Interest from non-EU students has bolstered the overall application figures, with a 7.9% increase, rising from 75,380 to 81,340 this year.
Lee Lucas, principal and CEO of the Fashion Retail Academy, one of the UK’s leading fashion schools, comments:
“Clearing has become an increasingly important part of the application process, with many students choosing to defer their application until they have their results in hand.
“The fall in the number of UK students applying for places earlier this year could signal that last-minute applications through clearing will rocket.
“Clearing is no longer perceived as a path for rejected students who did not get the results they wanted. Instead, it is a route for those who want to be proactive but took a bit longer to weigh up their decision or had second thoughts about their chosen subject or vocation.
“Career-focused training is increasingly popular, and many students settle on this as the best fit for them having undertaken work experience over the long summer between their exams and results day.”