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New national survey reveals student perceptions of Clearing process

15th August 2017

As students around the country prepare to receive their exam results this week, a new national survey has revealed almost half (47%) of current A Level and BTEC students still don’t understand the Clearing process.

A similar amount (44%) admitted they didn’t understand the role of Adjustment – the process by which students can change course or university if they get better results than predicated.

This is despite only 45% of students questioned expecting to get the same grades as when they applied for university.  

The research, carried out in the run-up to A Level results day on behalf of Northumbria University, Newcastle, looked at students’ perceptions of the options available to them after receiving their exam results.

The study showed that the majority of students said they would stay with their existing university offer if they got better results, however this number was lower than last year, indicating that more students are now considering changing course or university once they receive their results.

The survey also gave an insight into students’ hopes and aspirations for the future, with the top three being, to have a happy and healthy life, being successful in their career and being financially well off.

Students rated graduate job prospects, teaching standards and a university’s facilities as the major deciding factors when choosing a course. Meanwhile cost, proximity to the university and quality were the top three considerations when choosing student accommodation.

The survey also showed some interesting regional differences:

Cost was far more important for students in East Anglia, with 44% citing this as the most important factor when choosing a university, compared to 25% nationally.

For students in the East Midlands the facilities on offer at a university were a bigger consideration than elsewhere, with 41% saying this was an important factor when entering the Clearing process, compared to 22% of students nationally.

Students from London are more confident that they will achieve the grades they need to get on to their preferred course, with 44% stating they expected to do better in their exams than when they first applied to university, compared with 29% nationally.

In the North East students are far more worried they will not get the grades they need, with 81% listing this as their main concern now their exams are over, compared to 53% nationally.

The availability of accommodation was less important to students from the North West, with just 13% stating this was a factor they would consider when entering the Clearing process compared to 27% nationally.

In Northern Ireland 100% of students questioned said they would still accept their existing offer even if they got better grades than expected, compared to 68% nationally.

Students in Scotland are more confident in achieving the grades they need, with just 24% saying it is a concern to them compared to 53% nationally.

In the South East only 15% of students were expecting to do better in their exams compared to when the originally applied to university, compared to 29% nationally.

Students in the South West would be less upset if they didn’t get into their original choice university or course, with just 18% saying they would be ‘devastated’ compared to 43% nationally.

In the West Midlands students are less worried about leaving home to go to university, with just 13% stating this was a concern compared to 23% nationally.

Graduate job prospects are the most important factor for students from Yorkshire, with 76% saying this was one of their main considerations when choosing a course compared to 52% nationally.

Northumbria University’s survey highlights the importance of students having a full understanding of the options available to them as results day edges closer.

Helen Bower, Assistant Marketing Director (Undergraduate) at Northumbria University, Newcastle, said: “The Clearing process has changed significantly in recent years and the option to ‘trade up’ using Adjustment now gives students the opportunity to reconsider their original choice if they have done better than expected in their exams.

“We recognise there is a lot for students to take in during their final year at school or college and that A Level results day can be very stressful. The key is not to panic. It’s important that whatever they decide, it’s the right option for them.

“Many students have deliberated long and hard about which university they feel is the right one for them. However, the Clearing process gives young people more flexibility and potentially opens new doors.”

Business Management BSc student, Imogen Smith Evans, secured her place at Northumbria University using Adjustment after receiving her A Level results.

The 22-year-old said: “I didn’t have the predicted grades required to get on to the Business Management course I wanted at Northumbria when I initially applied. But I got my head down, worked really hard and when I received my A Level results I discovered I’d achieved the two B’s and a C that I needed.

“I contacted Northumbria’s Clearing and confirmation hotline immediately to discuss Business course availability and was given a brief interview and invited to attend the university to meet with the module leader. I accepted her invite and on visiting Newcastle Business School at Northumbria was offered a place on the Business Management course.

“Adjustment was a really easy process and because I had been told about it by my teachers before I received my results, I was able to prepare. That meant I felt confident on the day that, should I achieve the grades required, I still stood a good chance of getting into Northumbria.”

When students were asked how they found out about their chosen university, the UCAS website was the most popular source of information, with 43% questioned saying they used the site to research their options. Information from their school or college and league tables were the second and third most popular choices. For more information about UCAS, please visit

The Northumbria University Clearing survey involved a nationally representative sample of A level and A level equivalent students and was carried out in July 2017 by Northumberland-based research service provider, Public Knowledge.

Northumbria University, Newcastle, has a limited number of places available for high quality students through Clearing this summer. For more information, visit or call the Clearing Hotline on 0800 085 1085.

A guide to Clearing

Top tips to remember when it comes to Clearing

  1. Check UCAS and university web pages to see what courses are available through Clearing and adjustment. At Northumbria we’ll be updating our website with live information throughout the day at

  2. Have your UCAS personal ID number to hand, plus all of your qualifications to give the university all of the information they will need. If you know the name of the course you’re interested in, have the title and UCAS code to hand too.

  3. Consider all your options. Choosing the right university is a big decision and it’s important to think carefully before you commit. Don’t feel pressured to go for any option – it’s your choice.

  4. Always speak to the university yourself. They will have questions for you, and vice versa, and you’ll also be able to speak with subject tutors who will want to talk to you, not a parent. Northumbria University’s Clearing hotline opens at 7am and there will be a range of experts who can talk you through options. There is also lots of information about Clearing on the university’s website at

  5. Make a note of your work and life experiences. These could prove very useful when you’re talking to the university if you can demonstrate additional skills that others may not have.

  6. You may be asked to come in for an interview or to share your portfolio of work. If so, you’ll need to note down the date, time and location of your interview, as well as who you’ll be meeting, or any instructions you are given about sending us your portfolio.
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