A re-imagined Clearing process for 2020

July 27th, 2020

The Clearing process allows Universities to fill valuable remaining spaces on courses and is crucial in ensuring that recruitment targets are met. It’s therefore vital that the University offers an excellent customer experience, backed-up by an efficient and effective administrative process.

Reducing the time from when an interested applicant first gets in touch to the point a decision is available is incredibly important, as is the conversion of offers into accepted places and the provision of personalised guidance and support.

This year’s Clearing process responds to these challenges by introducing two major process changes; increased use of an online form and an increased focus on personalisation.

The online form was piloted last year and automates the decision-making process by enabling applicants to match their qualifications against the requirements for a course and offering an immediate decision, subject to verification of results.

Where a decision cannot be made because of complex or non-standard qualifications etc. the applicant will be referred for interview, or review/decision by a member of the Admissions Team. This removes the need for applicants to wait in a telephone queue to speak with a member of hotline staff who essentially performs the same process. In 2018, despite a hotline presence of nearly 100 staff, call wait times were still over an hour at their peak; which is a reduced experience for applicants and creates the potential to lose them to other institutions.

This year sees the roll-out of the online form across a wider range of courses and a new-look form which has been designed with a focus on user experience. The new-look form has been broken down from one previously large page into several smaller pages, giving the user a better feel of progression and movement throughout. Simplifying questions and language and reducing the number of input options in drop-down menus makes it easier to complete the form and reduces the chances of someone needing assistance.

In addition to functional, load and capability testing the new form has also been road-tested by International Student Recruitment staff (who complete the form on behalf of international applicants) prior to being used by home/EU applicants as international Clearing opens before the main home/EU period. This has been invaluable in offering usability insights into the new look form. Luke Atkins, Senior International Relations Manager, said:

“Everyone has found the form straightforward to use. Colleagues report that it’s intuitive for users in terms of layout and the order of information is logical. The structured approach is also helpful in terms of process. Bringing the form into use for staff to use with international applications before releasing it for applicants to use directly has been helpful in testing how it works and identifying issues. There have been no major issues reported apart from a few minor initial glitches which have now been resolved”

Complementing the new-look form are changes designed to meet applicant need for personalisation during the Clearing process and this will be achieved by emphasising the role of the Admissions Tutors and Student Ambassadors in a way that has not been done before.

This year, applicants who want to register their interest prior to Clearing formally opening will be asked to include their contact details as well as specifying the courses they are interested in. This will allow Admissions Tutors the opportunity to assess their eligibility for a place as soon as the A-level results are available and before Clearing opens.

This means that the University will be able to proactively contact these applicants and make verbal offers without them needing to make a separate application. Applicants who have been offered a place will also be given the opportunity to speak with an academic member of staff, speak with a Student Ambassador via WhatsApp or text or join the virtual Clearing open event.

Rachel Gillam, Deputy Director of Admissions said:

“Meeting applicant need and responding to feedback gleaned in previous years is hugely important in keeping our Clearing processes current, relevant and appropriate. We know that applicants want a personalised service and this year we have really focused on ensuring that the applicant takes the lead and chooses the contact that they prefer. This is vital if we’re to convert offers into valuable acceptances”

The Clearing process for home/EU applicants opens on Thursday 13 August and the team are looking forward to seeing how these changes impact on this year’s Clearing process.

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