The Honest Marketer

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Rejecting the criticism of a 'calm down dear' attitude to Clearing

The articles and blogs on Clearing have gone into overdrive, as you’d expect at this time of year. However, I was more than a little rattled to read one Guardian Professional article which rather patronisingly told universities: “It is vitally important for university leaders to abandon the 'calm down dear' narrative on admissions and show a proper sensitivity to the pain and stress that will be experienced by many individuals who have missed AAB grades in the coming weeks.”

I think it’s fair to say that within the sector, we are all very aware of the chaos that we were facing due to the Government policies on AAB, the cap and higher fees. Most universities have a ban on leave for the staff who will be front line in the Clearing process – senior managers, admissions, academics and marketing staff. And, rest assured, there will be numerous universities who will be only too willing to take students who just miss out on AAB – many right on the doorstep of the universities they were originally considering. The reality is that no university is going to want to fall short on its student number targets – even Russell Group universities.

Having worked at four universities, I have witnessed numerous examples of the stress and panic that occurs in Clearing. Last year, BCU took 10,000 calls across the University on Results Day and in the first two hours of Clearing, we’d already taken over 1,000 calls to the Clearing hotline. I’ve seen students so desperate they ask for any course that will accept them with the points they have and parents who refuse to get off the line because there is no course we can offer their child.

The universities I have worked at go to great lengths to provide sensitive and often impartial advice and guidance to ensure prospective students make the right choice for them. Telling people to remain calm is a crucial part of the advice, yes, but there’s far more to it than that. Just take a look at BCU’s six Clearing video guides – There’s no pressure to come to Birmingham City, it’s all about giving sensible, practical advice to help students make the right decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

It’s a well-known fact that students who come through Clearing to a university or course they have never previously considered are far more likely to request a transfer to another course, another university or, worse still, drop out. This is in nobody’s best interests, least of all, the students themselves.

Don’t be guided to make your decision based on a knee-jerk reaction, the first place you are offered or a cheap financial incentive. Stay true to your original intentions and think carefully about the career you hope to have, the courses that could lead to it and the type and location of the university you want to attend. Better still, try and visit any university you are considering afresh – most will be holding dedicated open days or will be prepared to give you a guided individual tour. And, yes, don’t panic.