‘Clearing’ - Time for a re-think?

Published: 25 August 2016

For many years the clearing system has been viewed as the back-up option for students to secure a University place. Those who have secured their place this way previously may have felt downcast due to the negative connotations of “going through clearing”. As the sector continues to change and student expectations become more sophisticated, has clearing held one of the key answers all along?

There is considerable drive towards providing students with flexibility and choice both pre and post enrolment. Conventional procedures have been restrictive, pushing students into major life decisions when they actually may not be ready and preventing them from making truly informed choices on what and where to study. So where does clearing come into the picture? Well, it allows students to select their institution and course from a cast of thousands with their grades in hand. This is the type of flexibility the sector should be striving for, so it is not surprising to see the calls from prominent leaders in HE for clearing reform. UCAS data from this year provides some compelling reading; a near 50% rise in students going through clearing being the key message. Many students are now taking the conscious decision to go down this route.

Should these trends continue next year, the calls for change will become increasingly louder. During a time of great student resistance to new initiatives such as the Teaching Excellence Framework, we can expect to see a greater push towards flexibility. It will mean HEI’s will need to adapt or risk faltering. The comfort afforded by reliable predictive forecasting for future student numbers based on conditional offers will cease in importance. HEI’s will need to equip themselves with more sophisticated modelling and forecasting techniques such as the kind seen in multiple product/service providers in the private sector. It will also impact marketing, admissions and estates in previously unseen ways.

The impact of a potential new clearing system on people and teams will require major change management expertise. There is already an increasing expectation that senior leaders within HE come to the leadership table with significant experience in leading teams through major change and this will only add to it. Taking a group of people from point A to point B is now a minimum requirement for senior and executive leadership roles. Whilst there is much uncertainty at the moment, one thing that does feel real is the collective actions of students showing how the future should look.

Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education Practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders tasked with delivering transformational change across the sector.

Categories: Education Recruitment

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