THIS time of year can be an emotional rollercoaster for many students.

Some may have missed their university offers after receiving their A-level results, while others may have done better than expected in their exams.

The thing to remember is that, whatever your grades, there are plenty of options open to you.

This year a record number of students have found degree courses through clearing, a process whereby universities list all of their courses which still have vacancies after results day, so prospective students can apply and start that same year.

So far, more than 15,000 applicants have taken up places at UK universities after going through the process, managed by the UCAS - the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. This is up 2.4 per cent on last year, according to a Press Association analysis of UCAS figures, and almost three times as many as a decade ago.

Tens of thousands of degree courses are still available - including at some of the UK's top universities - as institutions compete to snap up students yet to find a place.

Last year 500 students secured places at the University of Bradford through clearing.

“Clearing has grown hugely over time, “ says Claire Pryke, the university’s associate director (recruitment operations). “Years ago the process was perceived as being for those who did not do very well, but that is not the case now. While it does cater for students who did not do as well as expected, it also helps students who want to change course or go to a different university.

“Some may be wanting to trade up.”

In what Claire terms a “buyers’ market”, many students who do not have a place approach a number of universities through clearing, assessing each one before they make a choice.

“What is different over the past couple of years is that a people are applying directly to clearing as a first application. They want to wait and see. “

This process takes the pressure off students, says Claire. “In days gone by there was a lot more pressure to make decisions, whereas now students know there is likely to be a larger number of courses available through clearing.”

Mature applicants in particular, who may have gained qualifications many years ago, or have relevant work experience, make choices through clearing. “They may see places advertised and think of it as an opportunity.”

Claire cites an example of a woman who attended a recent open day at the University of Bradford. “She had a lot of experience working in the care sector and was interested in studying nursing.”

Courses on which places are available at the institution can range from health and medical-related subjects to business, media, computer sciences and engineering.

It is not necessary to have been within UCAS for the academic year to apply, she adds.

Available university places are listed between July and September. “Clearing is often associated with results day,” says Claire, “But it often carries on until early October. Some students wait for GCSE retake results to come through, especially English and maths. It is important for students to be aware that the opportunity has not passed.

“The process is now a lot more fluid, with students making decisions at different times.”

A mixture of staff and student ambassadors act as call handlers at the university, with experienced admissions staff available to answer any queries and chat to students to clarify any issues.

This year, for the first time, prospective students can submit applications online with automated forms. “We can send back an offer, or, contact them if more information is needed,” says Claire.

She adds: “If students who are not sure about what to do, look at the UCAS website – there are courses out there that they may not have known existed or thought of before, yet which may be just right for them.”

*To contact the University of Bradford’s Clearing helpline ring 0800 0731225 or visit Also visit