Clearing 2017: It’s personal for our Associate Dean Liz Murphy

Anxiety has been building for A level results day on Thursday 17 August, but many young people and their parents may not know just how strong a position they are in.

Some students will be fortunate enough to have their places automatically confirmed even if they don’t quite meet the entry requirements, given the competitive recruitment environment.

And while others will still face the uncertainty of looking for a place this Clearing 2017, I’d like to reassure them of the amount of choice that will be open to them.

With no cap on student numbers in England, together with a declining population of 18 year olds, universities will be really keen to hear from those who are a good fit for their courses.


Clearing is now a respected and important application route, with one in eight students getting a place that way last year – that’s nearly 65,000 according to the admissions service UCAS.

It’s a subject close to my heart, as I was once a Clearing student too. Now I find myself as Associate Dean at Coventry University, making decisions on offering places to the next generation.

It can be an extremely emotional time. It was for me too, all those years ago, but back then places were strictly controlled and universities held all the cards. Now it is students who, with their grades in hand, have real empowerment as customers. But with so many options, its still important to know what to do, if you, or a loved one, find themselves needing a university place in Clearing.

My first tip would be to breathe deeply, take a walk and try to clear your head. This applies to students and parents. Once the drama of the moment is at least subsiding, it’s time to make a plan.

Nearly all universities will have places on at least some of their courses this year and you can find what is available via the UCAS website. In recent years around 30,000 courses with vacancies have been available – including in many courses that weren’t available to people of my generation, such as Cybersecurity.

I’d recommend doing your online course research then making a few early calls when you’re well prepared. Remember that no one can make a formal Clearing choice through UCAS until 3pm which gives you that head-space. But take care, not all university Clearing hotlines are the same.

In my career, I’ve been a freelance higher education consultant for many years and worked for 10 different universities, so I have a somewhat unique position to understand what happens across the sector.

In the past, there have been cases of phones being staffed by anyone and they’ve been simply instructed to make as many offers as possible, as long as the candidate has the grades.

Thankfully, at Coventry University it’s different. Students are able to speak to teaching staff and even course directors, so that they can discuss in detail the course content, employment opportunities for graduates and often overseas learning experiences, which are a key feature of many of our programmes.

We train our academics to listen first. To establish the interests of the young person and what they are trying to achieve through study. At Coventry, our focus is for it to be a personal interaction, with a key course tutor. To work with the individual to find the right subject and recommend a course where the student will thrive.

Finally, if we feel we are not a good match for each other, we will politely say our goodbyes. For us, it’s about finding the right students, not making faceless offers to anyone with the grades.

So, I’m proud of my colleagues and to be part of the Clearing team. If you need help and support through Clearing, we can offer that, with the personal touch.

Liz Murphy

Associate Dean Coventry University

If you’d like to see our available courses for 2017, head to our dedicated webpages.