A-level results day and Clearing 2019: reasons to be cheerful

Photo: Tallis Photography, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As A-level results day approaches, UUK’s Daniel Wake looks at recent trends in university admissions, and provides some final information to applicants, who for the first time can choose to put themselves into ‘Clearing’.

On Thursday 15 August 2019 when this year’s A-level results are published, most students will discover whether they have earned a place at their chosen UK university.

For some there will be jubilation; but those that experience disappointment need not despair, as they will still be able to apply for courses through UCAS Clearing.

Outcomes from last year's cycle                                                          

In 2018, there was a total of 533,360 acceptances to full-time, undergraduate courses in the UK. Although this was a slight reduction of 0.1% from the previous year, it came in the midst of a 2.5% decrease in the number of UK 18-year-olds.

In the end, a record 33% of UK 18-year-olds entered university, and there were record highs for international acceptances too, with 31,855 EU students and 42,220 non-EU students placed at university, up 3.8% and 4.9% on 2017 respectively.

Source: UCAS End of Cycle 2018 report – Chapter One; UCAS equality and entry rates data explorers

2018 also saw encouraging progress in widening participation, with the entry rate of UK 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds (POLAR 4, quintile 1) at a record level of 19.7%; although more must be done to narrow the entry rate gap between the most and least disadvantaged students.

2019 and beyond: how do the numbers compare?

The final deadline for applying to up to five universities or colleges simultaneously was Sunday 30 June 2019. At that stage in the cycle the total number of applications was 638,030 – a slight increase on 2018. And, despite a 1.9% fall in the overall UK 18-year-old population, the number of UK 18-year-old applicants increased by 1%.

On the international stage, the number of other EU and non-EU applicants has risen by 1.1% and 7.9% respectively, reinforcing the global reputation of UK higher education and its continued popularity as a destination of choice for students.

This is all great news for employers – from whom demand for graduates continues to rise – and will bring about societal gains for the UK. Educating more people of all ages at university will grow the economy faster, by increasing productivity, competitiveness, and innovation, as well as enhancing social mobility.

Source: UCAS 2019 cycle applicant figures – 30 June deadline

Note: In Scotland, a substantial section of undergraduate provision is not included in UCAS’ figures

Results day doesn't go as planned? Do not despair!

On A-level results day most* applicants will either have a place at their 'firm' or 'insurance' choices, or be able to apply through Clearing for any vacancies.

Clearing for 2019 opened for entry on Friday 5 July. Applicants can use Clearing if they are applying after the main scheme deadline, did not receive any offers, did not want to accept their offers, or did not meet the conditions of their offers.

Most Clearing activity takes place during the first few days after A-level results day. Last year more than 15,000 applicants were placed at university through Clearing the day after A-level results came out, and nearly 39,000 after the first five days

This year, for the first time applicants can release themselves into Clearing instead of having to contact their chosen university or college and wait to be released. To do so, the applicant must select 'Decline my place' on the UCAS Track platform, before being taken to an explanatory page with a further drop-down question to confirm their choice. Students can also decide to adjust their course if they meet and exceed the conditions of their conditional firm choice.

Overall, admissions staff will be extremely busy during the Clearing period. Like previous years, we will provide regular website updates on the numbers of university applicants and acceptances, which will be based on UCAS' daily Clearing analysis.

We wish students the best of luck with their applications!


Visit the UCAS website for the official source of Clearing information and guidance.

*Students in Scotland have already received their SQA results, while other applicants have already met their entry requirements.

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