Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Ucas Considers Major Change S to Clearing

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Ucas Considers Major Change S to Clearing

Article excerpt

Panel suggests giving students more options once they have got their results. Chris Havergal writes

Major changes to how clearing operates are being considered by Ucas, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Among the changes recommended by a panel of admissions experts is that applicants who are already holding offers should be allowed to release themselves into clearing if they have done better than expected, or decide that they want to go elsewhere.

This would represent a significant shift from the current system where students who achieve their predicted grades can enter clearing only with the permission of the university that they are holding an offer from. Students also currently have the option of using Ucas' adjustment system that allows applicants to "trade up" if they do better than forecast. However, this was used by only 1,100 students last year.

The clearing working group, convened by the Academic Registrars Council, has also recommended that applicants should be able to reactivate offers that they had previously declined once they have got their exam results.

The proposals could make it harder for universities to predict and prepare for the shape of their annual undergraduate intake.

But the working group believes that clearing needs to change to reflect how it is no longer a last-chance saloon for students who do not achieve their predicted grades.

Many of the UK's top universities, including most of the Russell Group, now offer places through clearing.

And a record number of students, 49,100, were placed last year via clearing after failing to win a place in Ucas' main admissions scheme, while a further 15,200 students were enrolled after applying directly to clearing, up 10.2 per cent. This means that about one in eight students who were placed in 2015 came via clearing.

Exercising choice

Another of the working group's recommendations is that clearing should be given a new name, as many in the sector believe that it does not reflect how the system has evolved and has negative connotations. But it is not clear what the new name could be.

The panel says that students who have selected an unconditional offer as their firm choice should be able to look at other options via clearing if they are unhappy with their decision, and that the current practice of telephone offers should be replaced with formal offers being made via the online Ucas Track system. …

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