This is a scary and stressful time for all concerned students, their parents, teachers and advisers and university staff. Like Christmas, it only happens once a year, requires huge amounts of preparation and build up and then seems to be over in a flash. The difficulty with Clearing is that most students aren’t prepared for it as they don’t really expect to be in that position and schools, colleges and universities find it almost impossible to predict how things will pan out as circumstances change significantly every year.
Each year has its own unique set of issues and the context for 2020 is something that none of us could have envisaged. Some of these unique challenges are outlined below.
As we all know GCSE, A Level and BTEC examinations were all cancelled this summer. Students will receive a calculated grade based on their mock exam results, non-exam assessment and prior attainment which will be standardised by the exam boards.
Student number controls, enabling universities to recruit full-time undergraduate UK and EU students for a September 2020 start, up to a temporary set level, which is based on their forecasts for the next academic year, plus an additional 5%, have been put in place, restricting the numbers of students that universities will be allowed to recruit. The Government will have the discretion to add an additional 10,000 places, with 5,000 of these reserved for nursing, midwifery or allied health courses
For a number of years some universities have been offering unconditional places to those applicants with very high predicted grades in order to sway the ‘best and the brightest’ to choose them. Others have been targeting particular schools and colleges, whilst some seem to have been dishing out unconditional offers to anyone who has been predicted to meet the minimum entry requirement.
In most cases, students will have had to name the university as their firm choice on UCAS application forms to qualify for an unconditional offer. If one of your students has accepted an unconditional offer but wants to change their mind, our advice is to shop around in Clearing and if they get a verbal offer that they are happy with, then they will need to release themselves from their original choice university in UCAS Track.
Some students will have signed up for this trial service and if they end up in Clearing they will be matched to up to 5 universities on a daily basis, who may choose to ring them during the Clearing period to discuss offering them a place.
Most universities will be operating a remote Clearing Helpline with all the staff based in their own homes. This is bound to present some very interesting technical and logistical issues.
The number of unemployed people has risen at a record rate, while the number of vacancies also fell by a record amount. Young people have been hit the hardest. This might mean that students who were hoping to go directly into employment may now be considering university as an option.
Despite this unique set of circumstances, the basic advice for students at this time of year remains largely the same and can be found on the UCAS website.
The Schools and Colleges Liaison Team at the University of Huddersfield has many years’ experience of co-ordinating and staffing the Clearing helpline. We thought it might be useful to share some practical tips with you and the students you advise:
The University of Huddersfield’s Clearing Helpline number is 03301 232277.
Julie Pink, Head of Schools and Colleges Liaison Service, University of Huddersfield