By Michelle Coull

Once exam results are in, thousands of young people around the country frantically look to UCAS to discover if their “conditional” offer has changed its status to “accepted”.

A day of elation for many can be a time of anxiety or disappointment for others, who don’t receive the grades they need and face an uncertain future.

Clearing is a time when prospective students can consider an alternative - and universities get a chance to advertise their remaining places. But with so little time to make a decision, colleges must run strong, effective campaigns to attract the right students and persuade them that their institution is the right choice.

This is where a well-planned Clearing Campaign comes in, and it must hit the following criteria:


It’s important to be positive and welcoming, as students going through Clearing are likely to be emotionally fragile. University College Falmouth offered an encouraging message in its “We’ve Saved You A Place” campaign. With strong visuals and a reassuring tone, it became one of the institution’s most successful.


With a reputation for being a confusing and complicated process, a university needs to empower students – who are going to make a decision on their future fairly quickly – and take the pressure out of the process as much as possible, with an easy-to-navigate website and clearly branded ads.

Creating a digital hub for all Clearing enquiries would be the best approach.


An astonishing 20% of Clearing’s Google Searches happen in July – way before A Level results are announced. So preparation for clearing should start well before results day, and be a fundamental part of your student recruitment strategy.

Once results are, in things move fast with 12% of all Clearing students placed in 48 hours. A week on, 67% will have a university place.


Newcastle University used sophisticated social media searches, picking up on prospective students using certain subtle phrasing and comments about their results. And they took affectionately used Geordie slang to develop the #Gannin2Ncl social media campaign, with the tagline “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”


A personal connection between your university and its students is vital. University of Birmingham’s #hellobrum campaign went as far as producing a video which could be personalised and sent out to all students who had accepted a place during clearing.  The film featured a news reporter announcing the arrival of a special new student, a welcome banner, and current students expressing excitement. Each new student’s name was inserted into three separate parts of the video. This led students to share their personalised video on Facebook and Twitter – and the university has continued to personalise materials within the campaign. 

The #IAMIN campaign at Loughborough University encouraged those who had accepted offers to take a selfie using a snapshot frame sent in their offer pack. This frame featured a message asking them to recommend Loughborough, and directing them to the clearing website. PR and digital tactics were used to create a buzz around this, generating more than 51,000 website visits. Loughborough continued through to induction, using the hashtags #IAMHERE and #WEAREHERE to promote the university.

This user-generated content played to a strong sense of community which is central to the Loughborough experience.


Of course, grabbing attention and standing out in the marketplace is paramount, so hats off to the University of Lincoln which enlisted student Thomas Ridgewell to produce a Clearing video, after he had previously created unofficial ads about the university. With more than 150,000 views on YouTube, it was a simple but effective approach, which appealed to a young, offbeat sort of audience.


To get your university noticed with a kick ass Clearing Campaign, call us now on 0800 612 9890.