Is UCAS Clearing the ‘Sale Period’ for Universities?

UCAS clearing is starting mid- August. Thousands of disappointed  university applicants will have another go to get one of the remaining places. This begs for the question: Is UCAS Clearing the ‘Sale Period’ for Higher Education?

What do you think?Is UCAS clearing the 'sales period' for Higher Education?

There are definitely some similarities.

Limited offering

Undoubtedly, during sale you get access to designs and sizes that didn’t sell very well during the previous period. There might be many parameters that led to this outcome; questionable quality, high price, stiff competition, poor marketing, etc.

This is what happens during clearing as well. Students can choose subjects and universities that didn’t manage to fill their places for various reasons e.g. low ranking at league tables, high living expenses, saturated job prospects in the specific area, etc.

Limited duration

Sale period doesn’t last for long on purpose. A sense of urgency is created; either we buy something now or the opportunity is gone. We all aim to go on a ‘mission’ at the start of the sale period. We know well that good things disappear fast. Get it now or the lady behind you may grab it!

Most students have a similar feeling during clearing. It is so competitive that they want to secure a place even if it is not the subject they want. They are in panic mode. They usually rush to a decision without thinking about it in detail. Will the subject they study improve their employability? How do employers perceive it? Have they talked to students who have already graduated?

There is though a significant difference.


The big advantage when we buy things during the sale period is price. We usually get them at a significant discount. Sometimes we end up buying something just because we find it at a lower price. Raise your hand if you have bought something at sales because it was cheap and then you never used it. I do!

Students cannot get a university place during the clearing process at a discount though. Tuition fees remain the same. Hence, getting a degree continues to be a very important investment decision and they need to ensure that the value they get out of it justifies its cost.  

Word of caution: There is always a trade-off between cost and quality of offering. Students need to understand the consequences of the trade-offs before they apply.

So, is UCAS clearing the ‘sale period’ for universities?

There are definitely elements in the clearing process that remind us of the ‘sale period’. This is not necessarily a bad thing. All depend on whether students understand the importance of their decision, do their research in advance and make informed choices.

The bottom line: when you don’t find what you want, what you really really want, it is best to come back empty-handed.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, consultant and speaker. She has worked in senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development. She is the author of the book b4iapply to uni’.

This entry was posted in b4iapply to uni, Before I apply, Higher Education, Link education with career, Value for money and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is UCAS Clearing the ‘Sale Period’ for Universities?

  1. ania mitan says:

    what is UCAS? 🙂 ania

    • Ania, thanks for asking this question. I am sure many people who don’t know the UK system have the same question.
      All university applications in the UK go through UCAS. It stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
      UCAS Clearing is the process run by UCAS that matches students with remaining places.

      • Wingsy says:

        I discovered your A-level exam results 2012 securing a place at university what to do with your grades . Some really great information here which I have found very useful and I am sure many others have too. Hope this helps students Take care.

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