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8th February 2022

Clearing latest: What’s in store for the Covid cohort?

A-Levels exams are going ahead this year, but what does this mean for Clearing?

This year we expect clearing numbers to be back in line with 2019 as well as grades.

It’s hard to believe, but in the world of HE marketing and education, we are already talking about clearing for 2022. This week, UCAS released their clearing inventory where each year they run a draw like system for advertisers and universities. Our clients will be deciding over the next few weeks which advertising solutions are likely to be best for them this year.

So, what will clearing look like this year? And what is in store for the Covid cohort who have never even sat an exam in the ‘normal’ sense? These students have had a disrupted two years and never took their GCSEs so have never experienced exam conditions. This week exam boards in England published advance information about exams and Ofqual has said that grade boundaries are likely to be lower than in previous years. Some students will have missed more school than others but at least we should see results returning to what we were seeing back in 2019.

The huge inflation in results that we saw in 2020 and 2021, not helped by the private sector (Times article dated 5th Feb 2022: Private schools gamed covid rules to give their pupils more top levels) meant that 2021 was a record year.

44% of grades were A or A* compared to 25% in 2019. This meant that first choice acceptances were up 15% YoY and clearing numbers were significantly down. Some universities were even incentivising students to defer a year. We also saw medium and lower tariff providers losing out to higher tariff providers for these same reasons.

What we do know is that students research their chosen universities well and even clearing choices are rarely unfamiliar. According to UCAS, only 1 in 20 join a university or collage with which they are unfamiliar. We also know that subject selection comes first. A third of students decide on their degree before they even turn sixteen, whilst another third decide before researching. That is 66% of students knowing their subject before university. This supports the need for an always on marketing strategy, throughout the year and in the months leading up to clearing, not just for those few weeks in August. Course information is also king. Subject searches outperform brand searches with 95% of all searches being course related.

This year we expect clearing numbers to be back in line with 2019 as well as grades. In the next few weeks, UCAS will be releasing the UG applicant data analysis for this year which will likely shed more light into the marketplace and subject demand trends.

Check out some of the creative that helped us smash Queen Mary’s Clearing target.

And, if you want to help your future students make the right decisions get in touch at kim.mclellan@hunterlodge.co.uk

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