Clearing and adjustment, the processes used by UCAS to enable unplaced students and those who exceed their expectations to apply for courses with vacancies directly to the university, were invented when applicants had to painfully apply to each institution individually.
If those who devised these systems in 1961 knew that in 2017, 11,180 students would be obtaining places to universities, occasionally via Snapchat and WhatsApp, they would most likely be taken aback by what their creation has grown into, and also wonder what on earth Snapchat and WhatsApp are.
It is clear that the relationship between universities and their students has changed. Whether we like it or loathe it, the system has never felt more like a buyers market, with a dip in applications resulting in a disparity between the number of applicants and the number of vacant places.
Far from being something to be ashamed about, when you go through the clearing system you are now in a position of choice. Unfortunately, the truth of this doesn’t seem to have filtered down to schools yet. When 50 per cent of students (as per research by The National Student) don’t understand the system, clearly something has gone wrong.
When used correctly, clearing and adjustment can be a lifeline; placing students who have worked hard and got the grades to get to university in the courses that are hopefully right for them. However, there are many schools and colleges that can’t afford dedicated higher education advisors, and even when they can many institutions have 1,000+ students, placing limitations on the individual help one can hope to receive. The time constraints of that dreaded date in mid- August, also plays a part on both sides of the phoneline.
There are clearing horror stories of heads of department being on holiday and leaving students in limbo, and the sheer amount of admin work the system creates is nigh on impossible to sift through in one day. At its best, clearing is a seamless process, picking you up from your ‘I got ABB and I needed AAB!’ crumple, dusting you off and sending you to Liverpool rather than Leeds. At its worse, there is an ardous wait for remarks, your school isn’t giving you clear advice and the uni is bombarding you with mixed messages.
Adjustment too is a minefield. Though it can be hugely beneficial for those who have had their ability underestimated, there are simply not enough students who know of its existence or how it works. Schools should give precise detail on what the clearing process entails, rather than treating it as something to be avoided at all costs.
The UCAS website is supposed to be a tool for the student to utilise, but due to the sheer amount of information it contains it can be hugely confusing to navigate. With more students sitting A levels than ever before, schools and universities must solve this clearing conundrum as soon as they can.
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