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Clearing: Why Is There Such A Stigma?

08/08/2013 09:24 BST | Updated 14/08/2013 08:38 BST

Clearing is touted as a "last resort" process which leaves students feeling like failures, according to students and universities.

The process, which last year placed more than 55,000 applicants at universities, is for students who have both over and under-achieved. It is perceived by many as stressful, with some students admitting they felt ashamed.

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Newcastle University student Eugenie Johnson, who is about to start an MLitt after gaining a first in her degree, said clearing was always referred to as a "last resort" by her teachers.

"Clearing was not a process that was fully explained by my college," she tells us. "Perhaps more worryingly, it was always referred to as a 'last resort' or a bad alternative to actually receiving a place through your initial 5 choices. For me, this was particularly frustrating - as my rejections piled up I was made to feel a failure."

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Eugenie says many people still have misconceptions about clearing

The straight-A student, who runs a higher education adventures blog, said she was lead to believe clearing only offered places at universities "nobody really wanted to go to".

"It is amazing how many people still think clearing is for people who have underachieved or aren't good enough to get a place at their chosen universities," Johnson continues. "I definitely think there's still a stigma around clearing, but I do hope that this changes soon, particularly so that the self esteem of college students going through this process won't fall as low as mine did."

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Emma Agese, who, since leaving London South Bank University (LSBU), has launched her own skincare and cosmetics business Agese Oils, told HuffPost UK: "Looking back the thought of shame probably crept in at the fact that it appeared as though clearing was for those who didn't get good enough grades.

"I think this process is extremely beneficial," she continues. "It allows those who had missed out on their earlier applications maybe because of their predicted grades or like me just did not decide in time."

Cathy Gilbert, Director of External Relations at the University of Birmingham, said:

‘There is no shame in getting a place through Clearing. In fact, the new system allowing universities to accept an unlimited number of students who achieve ABB or above means that if you want to be placed at a great university, and have the right grades or do better than expected, it's an excellent opportunity.’

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Clearing is an important part of the application process and can help to ensure that there is the best match between students and universities.”

While Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, insists clearing should not be seen as a "last chance saloon" but instead as a "credible application route".