A record number of students are on track to be given clearing places in Sheffield and nationally, as A Level pass rates slump to an eight-year low.

The Fashion Retail Academy found that a record 17,538 A-Level and vocational students could enter through UCAS clearing, with 13,000 fewer traditional applications made this year.

UCAS statistics published yesterday show that in the 24 hours following Thursday’s A-Level results day, 15,160 clearing places have already been filled – nearly double the figure in 2013.

Last night the University of Sheffield had hundreds of courses still in clearing, while Sheffield Hallam was listing 267 courses in clearing.

Lee Lucas, principal and CEO of the Fashion Retail Academy, said clearing has “gone mainstream” and the negative slant on the process has been overcome.


“Clearing used to be seen as a path for rejected students who didn’t get the results they wanted,” he said.


“All that has changed now. The stigma is gone and many students use clearing because they have had second thoughts about their chosen subject or vocation.”

It comes amid major reforms which saw the overall A* to E A Level pass rate fell to 97.6 per cent, its lowest since 2010, while those achieving an A* hit a five-year low.

It is thought the demand for clearing this year was helped by a 2 per cent drop in those applying through the usual UCAS pre-results process, falling from 649,700 to 636,960.  

An estimated 26,587 courses across nearly all of the UK’s 148 universities offered clearing spaces.

The University of Sheffield was among 18 Russell Group institutions to advertise a clearing course, with the University’s social media accounts regularly promoting the clearing hotline.

The number of students accepted through clearing has risen more than 18 per cent in the last five years, and this year 3,620 students applied directly through clearing , abandoning the mainstream process altogether.

Mr Lucas added: “Many students are veering away from traditional courses because of high tuition fees, raising concerns over value for money. Instead, they are opting for more career-focused subjects to support a better outcome on graduation.

“These types of courses can promise a greater chance of getting into the job they ultimately want, and some courses are condensed so provide the same learning hours much faster.”


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