New national survey reveals student perceptions of Clearing process

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As students around the country prepare to receive their exam results this week (Thursday 17 August), a new national survey has revealed almost half (47 per cent) of current A Level and BTEC students still don’t understand the Clearing process.

A similar amount (44 per cent) admitted they didn’t understand the role of Adjustment – the process by which students can change course or university if they get better results than predicated.

This is despite only 45 per cent of students questioned expecting to get the same grades as when they applied for university.  

The research, carried out in the run-up to A Level results day on behalf of Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, looked at students’ perceptions of the options available to them after receiving their exam results.

The study showed that the majority of students said they would stay with their existing university offer if they got better results, however this number was lower than last year, indicating that more students are now considering changing course or university once they receive their results.

The survey also gave an insight into students’ hopes and aspirations for the future, with the top three being, to have a happy and healthy life, being successful in their career and being financially well off.

Students rated graduate job prospects, teaching standards and a university’s facilities as the major deciding factors when choosing a course. Meanwhile cost, proximity to the university and quality were the top three considerations when choosing student accommodation.

The survey also showed some interesting regional differences:

  • Cost was far more important for students in East Anglia, with 44 per cent citing this as the most important factor when choosing a university, compared to 25 per cent nationally.
  • For students in the East Midlands the facilities on offer at a university were a bigger consideration than elsewhere, with 41 per cent saying this was an important factor when entering the Clearing process, compared to 22 per cent of students nationally.
  • Students from London are more confident that they will achieve the grades they need to get on to their preferred course, with 44 per cent stating they expected to do better in their exams than when they first applied to university, compared with 29 per cent nationally.
  • In the North East students are far more worried they will not get the grades they need, with 81 per cent listing this as their main concern now their exams are over, compared to 53 per cent nationally.
  • The availability of accommodation was less important to students from the North West, with just 13 per cent stating this was a factor they would consider when entering the Clearing process compared to 27 per cent nationally.
  • In Northern Ireland 100 per cent of students questioned said they would still accept their existing offer even if they got better grades than expected, compared to 68 per cent nationally.
  • Students in Scotland are more confident in achieving the grades they need, with just 24 per cent saying it is a concern to them compared to 53 per cent nationally.
  • In the South East only 15 per cent of students were expecting to do better in their exams compared to when the originally applied to university, compared to 29 per cent nationally.
  • Students in the South West would be less upset if they didn’t get into their original choice university or course, with just 18 per cent saying they would be ‘devastated’ compared to 43 per cent nationally.
  • In the West Midlands students are less worried about leaving home to go to university, with just 13 per cent stating this was a concern compared to 23 per cent nationally.
  • Graduate job prospects are the most important factor for students from Yorkshire, with 76 per cent saying this was one of their main considerations when choosing a course compared to 52 per cent nationally.

Northumbria University’s survey highlights the importance of students having a full understanding of the options available to them as results day edges closer.

Helen Bower, Assistant Marketing Director (Undergraduate) at Northumbria University, Newcastle, said: “The Clearing process has changed significantly in recent years and the option to ‘trade up’ using Adjustment now gives students the opportunity to reconsider their original choice if they have done better than expected in their exams.

“We recognise there is a lot for students to take in during their final year at school or college and that A Level results day can be very stressful. The key is not to panic. It’s important that whatever they decide, it’s the right option for them.

“Many students have deliberated long and hard about which university they feel is the right one for them. However, the Clearing process gives young people more flexibility and potentially opens new doors.”

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