University Marketing Trends | Clearing Insights 2019


According to UCAS, lower-tariff universities student intake fell by 5.4% from 2015 to 2017 (UCAS End of cycle report). This is a loss of over £300m in fee income over three years. Universities in the highest third of average entry grades, which have on average dropped their entry criteria, have seen increases in their annual intake. Such Universities have taken in more than 30% extra full-time undergraduates in 2017 compared with 2014. Between them, the top 30 expanding institutions have secured more than £900m in additional fee income since 2015.

As market pressures bring the future of some universities into doubt, student intake periods such as Clearing will continue to play a significant role for some universities’ growth. We have highlighted here some key trends that Higher Education Marketers should focus on during universities’ clearing promotions.

Clearing Student Insights for Universities 2019  


Behaviours during clearing over the past five years have changed – our insight into trends shows that students’ actions during the recruitment cycle have shifted as a result of technologies and market conditions. Understanding these behaviours can help fine-tune your strategy, the targeting you select, and the timing of your activity.

Some clearing students’ trends worth noting are:

  • Forty-three thousand students found a university place through clearing in 2016. Nineteen thousand students secured University places the 1st day of clearing. Nine per cent of all students in UK enrolled for a University course in 2017 as a result of clearing.
  •  Mobile drives a massive course hunt earlier each year. In 2017, weekly queries rose steadily six weeks prior to clearing.
  •  Clearing searches are expected to be intense on the big day. Fifty per cent of all ‘clearing’-related searches happen before 10am
  •  Students check their mobile devices first, then continue on desktop later in the morning. Running a sequential re-targeting campaign across devices has a proven track record for boosting performances.
  • Clearing is an emotional day for students. The Top Primal emotions are fear, surprise and awe. 
  • We see that urgency leads to more generic searches… Students are likely to be more engaged and receptive to unique value propositions.


 University Marketing Trends for Clearing 2019  


Unconditional offers have exploded in recent years, along with offers of free iPads and discounted accommodation during clearing. This is the unintended consequence of market competition in higher education. Universities are injecting significant budgets into their promotions, and this is expected to increase until new regulations come into force.

 So, what marketing trends should you expect to see for clearing 2019? 

  • Clearing acceptances in 2017 and 2018 were more active on day one than ever before – it’s crucial that you get your message in early for clearing. Many institutions begin their clearing promotions months before August. Students research clearing in the days and weeks before A-level results day, and traffic continues in September.
  • Mainstream Digital channels (i.e. social media, search engine, programmatic, native) are expected to continue to steal large shares of budgets; however, marketers are getting more creative. Outdoor campaigns, hyper-local TV campaigns (i.e. Sky Ad Smart), radio (particularly through DAX) and experiential outdoor events are expected to be seen more frequently. 
  • Higher education specialist sites are expected to maintain their strong presence in clearing promotions. Particular channels worth paying close attention to are UCAS, What Uni and Studentroom.
  •  Top pre-clearing related searches focus around the keyword ‘Clearing’. Students also tend to search for specific universities. Keyword themes to focus on include:
    • University clearing 2019
    • Clearing University
    • How does clearing work
    • UCAS clearing list
  • Universities look to build personal relationships with students via clearing helplines and instructive videos. Some popular native campaign themes focus on:
    • “What to do if you don’t make your uni offer”
    • “Seven ways to stop freaking out about results day”
    • “Help! I’m having second thoughts about my uni choice”
  • Collection of audience data and personalisation of ad content are expected to increase. Unlike past years, the generic clearing promotions may be accompanied by course-specific promotions.

A standout clearing campaign has the potential to gain greater exposure and drive more enrolments. 

Contact our team for help with your next campaign.