UK University Enrolment Explained (& What to Do When You Have Your Results)

How to navigate UK university enrolment when you have your results: Confirmation, Clearing, and Adjustment, step by step....

Whether you are brand new to applying to university in the UK or whether you’ve had your heart set on studying in Britain for a while, it’s not too late to apply for 2021 Entry.

For students who want, or need, to change their plans, Clearing & Adjustment offer alternative application routes in order to enable students to enrol in time for Autumn 2021.

So what's Clearing all about, and how does it work? Find out in the video below!

Clearing begins on 5 July, but you’ll need your results to apply.

For IB and US curriculum students, for example, this means they will be able to apply for courses straight away. A-Level students, on the other hand, will have to wait until A-Level Results Day (in 2021, that’s 10 August) to officially apply.

Here, we’re going to take you through your unique situation and what you need to do in order to apply (or re-apply) for your dream course for this year:

If you haven't already applied to university in the UK this year

Applications to UK universities are centralised through UCAS (the University & Colleges Admissions Service).

If results day rolls around and you decide you'd like to study in the UK, it's not too late! In Rad's story below, you'll hear about how he secured a late-stage place at the University of Exeter through Clearing. 

If you’ve never yet applied to the UK, we’d recommend starting by registering on UCAS.

Some universities let students apply directly (circumventing UCAS), but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it: universities have access to your UCAS profile, too, and many will ask you for your UCAS details at multiple points throughout your application process.

UCAS Track is the part of the platform where, once you have an account, you can keep track of your applications and offers. It’s also where you’ll find information pertaining to confirmation, Clearing, and important numbers like your UCAS personal identification number and your UCAS Clearing number.

Most universities will make their official offers through UCAS, and many even require you to be registered before you speak to them, as they’ll ask for the personal identification number which UCAS creates once you’ve registered, which allows them to verify your details.

Did you know? In 2020, 24755 students who successfully applied through Clearing were first time applicants, meaning they hadn’t previously applied to universities in the UK!

If you don’t consistently have reliable internet access, or if you want to check what you’ll need to fill out in the online application before proceeding, you can find a UCAS PDF application guide here.

You’ll also need to pay the £26 application fee, which you can pay online using any card enabled with Verified by Visa or MasterCard Securecode, or contact UCAS directly for further advice.

Once you’re all set up, you’re ready to start researching and applying for courses!

If you haven’t already had to provide proof of English proficiency for previous applications, you might have to sit a last-minute ELT (English Language Test).

Given the tight turnaround deadlines for Clearing & Adjustment, if at all possible, you’ll want to sit it beforehand so you’ve got your results ready.

Especially short on time? You can check which universities accept the Duolingo qualification (the DET). It’s online, and results are available within 48 hours. Just be aware that universities can adjust their requirements frequently during Clearing, so double-check with the university directly, too.

If you’ve already applied to UK Universities this year

If you’ve had your heart set on studying in the UK for a while now, chances are you’ve already applied to UK universities for 2021 entry.

If you don’t currently hold any offers (either because you’ve already declined them or your applications weren’t successful), then you’re already automatically eligible for Clearing.

If you’ve been given conditional offers, your UCAS Track will read: ‘you have replied to your offers and are holding at least one conditional place’.

As soon as you’ve got your final results, you’ll be able to check the status of your applications in UCAS Track. Here’s what you need to know.

If your results are better than expected

If your results are better than your predicted grades, your UCAS Track status will update to confirm you’ve got a spot at your firm choice. Congratulations: you’re going to university! 

If you’d like to think about applying elsewhere, you have two options: Adjustment and Clearing.

You might be in a position like Linglin, and find that your results are even better than you expected - well done! With Adjustment, you'll be able to explore more options. Find out how it went for Linglin in the video. 


Adjustment is a chance for students who have exceeded the conditions of their offer to see if another university, one with stricter entry requirements, will consider offering them a place.

If you want the security of keeping your existing offer until you receive a better one, then Adjustment is the way to go.

Since you don’t have to give up your current place, it’s best for students who want to study the same subject but want to see if they’ve got a chance of being accepted onto a course with more rigorous entry requirements.

The downside is that Adjustment takes place over a much shorter time period, and there’s less support available for students. Moreover, universities are often so busy with Clearing that finding course information, or even someone to speak to, can be trickier.

Did you know? Adjustment used to be quite popular, however in the last 10 years, participation has dwindled by about 80% as more and more students who exceed their offers decide instead to apply directly through Clearing. In 2020, only 260 students enrolled through Adjustment!


Clearing is the process through which universities advertise university courses with places still available.

Going through Clearing is a popular option even for students who have surpassed their offers.

The caveat is that, in order to access Clearing, you must first officially decline your place in UCAS Track (in other words, you formally reject any offers you are currently holding). In select cases, you might even have to contact the university directly to negotiate being released from your offer.

Since Clearing means declining your offer and losing your place before being offered an alternative, we’d recommend it for students who have had a change of heart and no longer want to attend the university from whom they hold an offer, or those who’ve decided to pursue a different subject or degree.

If your results are as expected and you’ve met the conditions of one of your university offers

Well done! You’ve worked hard to meet your predicted grades, and it’s paid off: you’ve either been accepted into your firm choice, or, if your results were just a little lower, you’ve got a spot at your insurance choice. If this is the case, you’ll find your university place confirmed in UCAS Track.

Should you decide that you’re no longer interested in this course, you’ll have to officially decline your offer (‘decline my place’ in UCAS Track).

In select cases, you’ll also have to contact your university directly to ask to be officially released.

Once you no longer hold any offers (you may have to repeat the process for your insurance choice), you’ll automatically be enrolled in Clearing. UCAS Track will update You are in Clearing’: time to start course-hunting!

Had a change of heart? You can apply for a completely different course (or subject), but universities will have access to your personal statement, so be prepared to explain why you’re suddenly applying for something totally different!

Don’t just say it’s because you got a better grade in that subject. The course you enrol in will be one of the biggest parts of your life for the next three years, and it could even determine your future career pathway.

If you find yourself unable to explain your change of direction to another person, then it’s worth taking a step back and making sure you’ve considered your other options.

If your results are lower than expected, but a university has made you a counter-offer

If you’ve not quite met your offer (be it firm or insurance), the university in question may come back to you with an alternative offer.

You’ll know this is the case as your UCAS Track will state that you’ve been offered a place but with ‘substantial changes to your original choice’.

This can be a different course format (e.g. a longer course with a yearlong internship or placement), a place for the following year (2022 - this is called deferred status/entry), or a different subject altogether.

Did you know? Deferred entry has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past decade. In 2020, 35725 students deferred their entry.

Whether you’re interested in this offer or not is completely up to you! It means the university is impressed enough with you as an applicant that they’d like to keep you, but you haven’t quite met the requirements for your chosen course.

The first thing you should do is to research this alternative option, to make sure you understand it and whether or not it seems like a good fit. If you’d like more guidance, we recommend phoning up the university (yes, really) to ask your questions directly.

You can also have a look online to see whether courses of interest are available to students in Clearing.

Should you decide that you’re no longer interested in this course, you’ll have to officially decline your offer (‘decline my place’ in UCAS Track). Once you no longer hold any offers (you may have to repeat the process for your insurance choice), you’ll automatically be enrolled in Clearing. Time to start researching!

If your results are lower than expected and you haven’t met your offers

If you’re disappointed with your exam results or haven’t achieved your predicted grades, Results Day can very quickly feel like a nightmare.

It’s so disheartening not to meet the conditions of an offer, especially if this is an institution or subject you’ve had your heart set on for a while.

If you’ve missed your firm choice, but have been accepted into your insurance choice you can either accept the offer from your insurance choice, or you can choose to decline your place to enrol in Clearing.

If you’ve missed your offers, you will automatically be enrolled in Clearing.

But don't feel disillusioned! Lots of students who go through this process end up at their perfect university. Check out Kelly's story below for a great example.  

Clearing can be quite daunting, but don’t worry! The number one thing you can do is to make sure you are prepared and informed. For more tips and resources to guide you through this important time, make sure you check out our 2021 Results Resource Hub.