Aug 10 2021

Clearing up a mess - Helen Scott on clearing

With students receiving their A-levels results on Tuesday 10th August, Helen Scott, Arden University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor questions whether clearing is still fit for purpose. 

With the changes that we have seen across the world and throughout the education system in the past year, the clearing process is starting to look increasingly archaic. An all-out rush for university places on one day of the year only serves to heaps pressure on students and universities when enrolment could be managed more smoothly throughout the year. 

There have also been rumours of introducing additional tests for entrance into some universities in addition to A-levels. While it would be time consuming and administratively costly there have been consultations on the use of contextual university admissions, as it is believed (and there is research to back this) that A levels results alone are not sure indicators of degree success. 

After arguably the most challenging academic year for both students and universities this year’s clearing will be almost an unknown quantity. We know that fewer courses have been listed, and that could be hesitancy around the accuracy of teacher assessed grades, but after a year where many deferred their places and campus-based universities found their relations with students strained it could also be down to universities not wanting to enrol thousands of students without reassurances they can deliver an education programme that satisfies students if lockdowns happen again. 

With the possibility of reimbursements if the worst happens then factors to mitigate damage need to be put into place. Last year, 70,000 students found places through clearing - we won’t know until results are released if it will be different this year, but there are still a number of high-ranking universities publicising courses for clearing.

The fact is that universities won’t want to create another covid melting pot on campuses that could further strain relations with the student body and cause reputational and financial damage at a time when all businesses are experiencing financial troubles. This is one of the reasons that talk of passports and tests to prove students are free from covid is so widespread.

But there are other questions that still hang over the heads of universities at this time. Are their traditional courses, designed with lecture rooms and tutor offices in mind, still fit for purpose? They aren’t built with digital in mind and now that many students will want some element of hybrid learning they will not be satisfied with making do. This desire for distance learning is why we believe that Arden University is seeing younger students enrol to take our courses. 

This year, there will be a big push to make sure that there are enough spaces for medicine and dentistry students that have valid offers. But the issue is not just down to additional funding. Not all universities will be able to respond quickly enough to develop the increased capacity needed for these additional students. However, part of the role of universities is to prepare people for work and to train people so that we can prevent shortages. With the shortage of doctors and other medical professionals at the moment universities should get all the help needed to create the right facilities to accommodate additional students.