There are few things we like better than Clearing. It’s the combination of world’s colliding (politicians, rappers and Top Gear presenters tweeting), celebrating student opportunity and mobility and of course being a part of what is an incredibly competitive key recruitment period for UK universities. It’s not called the Black Friday of student recruitment for nothing.

Russell Groups

Since it was launched five years ago, the personas revealed in the National Clearing Survey have formed the backbone of hundreds of marketing strategies. This year’s survey was the biggest yet, analysing over 500,000 data points from 153 HE institutions, including three in five Russell Group universities and one in four post-1992 institutions. 

The annual release of the National Clearing Survey has become a key event in the HE calendar, and this year we took the results around the country for an exclusive first look.

Over breakfast, Director of Research, Kas Nicholls, presented the 2020 Clearing student personas and the headline findings in front of industry partners, journalists and research participants (top tip: sign up to #ThinkStudent so you don’t miss your invite to the next one). And we’ve got the scoop for you. Here’s an exclusive look at this year’s National Clearing Survey, before the big reveal on 23 January in our webinar.

The 2020 Clearing Student has evolved 

Traditional, Adjustment, Mindchanger and Direct Applicant. They’re all still with us after five years of refinement. Does this mean that the Clearing audience is static? Absolutely not. These personas have stayed the same because they’ve stood up to the rigours of both critical analysis and practical, strategic marketing application.

Double Direct

But they have evolved...

One in three respondents this year were Direct Applicants, an amount which has doubled over the past four years of our research. It’s clear that applying directly to university through Clearing is becoming an active choice, not a last resort.  

And institutions need to be ready for this to grow even further in 2020. Focus now on your long term creative and content strategy and be prepared with your landing pages and online advice now. There are plenty of insights in the full report that will help you deliver a tailored marketing plan to attract and recruit Direct Applicant students in no time. 

You’ve got to be quick in Clearing

Students are switched on and researching earlier than ever before ahead of A-level Results Day. Six in ten students are conducting research before they get their results, an increase of 20% based on our report last year. And great news if that research leads to your institution because six in 10 students will go to the first one that they contact. 


But if you think that you’ve got a sizeable amount of your Clearing enquiries sorted, then think again. Because fewer students are contacting their original firm or insurance choices and less than half would recontact their original firm choice. 

Think you don’t have a Clearing problem? 

And here’s something that might make you sweat (although it’s great news for students) - for the first time ever, we were able to ask how many students used the ‘decline your place’ button to enter Clearing. And four in ten respondents confirmed that they had used it. 

In 2020 it’s going to be more important than ever to bring your marketing A-Game to Clearing and the NCS has all the insights you need for a creative, data-driven strategy. On 23 January, we’ll be revealing all of the headline findings and the 2020 Clearing personas in our exclusive webinar. Sign up now and you’ll be among the first to get your hands on the full report, as well as quiz our Director of Research on the findings. 


January TBC

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Article by

Nicola Jones

PR & Events Manager