UK Higher Education

Clearing 2019: most popular subjects, destinations trends & traffic

Clearing and adjustment has become an increasingly popular route into higher education with UCAS confirming over 17,000 students were accepted through the process in 2019 so far, up 15% on 2018. This year self-releasing online was made possible for the first time ever, and students across the country traded up and moved across in their droves.

With a record number of institutions making quality courses available in this new marketplace, including the top ranked universities such as Cambridge, what does this mean for the clearing landscape? We delve deeper into the most popular clearing course searches, performance of high to low ranked institutions and destination trends across the Complete University Guide (CUG) and Whatuni.

Overall traffic

On A level results day this year CUG received over 1.2 million pageviews, a YoY increase of 23.86%, with specific clearing pageviews increasing by a staggering 41.70%. Meanwhile, in the month leading up to results day, CUG clearing pages achieved a 29.31% increase in views, and Whatuni clearing pageviews were up 48.5%, suggesting that students are thinking about clearing far earlier than they have historically. Over 4,500 students (up 8%), shunned the main application process altogether this year according to UCAS and instead waited for their results to make their decision, and this trend is only set to grow.

Tariff points

The below chart compares the grades used to filter search results on CUG, where inputted grades are converted into UCAS points and bucketed into 30 point segments.

When looking at results day vs the preceding month, it’s clear to see that on results day there was a noticeable shift to the left – indicating that there were a higher proportion of users searching with lower UCAS scores. In the period 14 July – 14 August, 12% of users were searching for courses requiring 91 > 120 points, whereas on results day this increased to over 16%.

To note – this only includes users who input A-level results or UCAS points directly.

Subject level trends

Whatuni

As demand for courses found through clearing increases, what subjects are proving most popular? The top five subjects searched on Whatuni between 14 July and 14 August 2019 are found below.

1. Psychology
In 2018 (for the same period) Psychology also ranked as the top most searched subject, however, this year its popularity has fallen by 6.36%.

2. Life Sciences
Last year, Life Sciences came in as the second most-searched subject, however this year its popularity fell by 2.08%.

3. Semi-medical/ physical/ psycho/ therapies
This subject category places third, up one place from fourth last year, with a 2.97% increase.

4. Teaching/ training
Dropping from third place to fourth this year with a 14.92% decrease in searches, is teaching and training. In fact, this subject has dropped for two years in a row, after being the second most popular subject in 2017.

5. Computer Science
Our year-on-year comparison shows a 15.68% drop in searches for Computer Sciences, maintaining its position as the fifth most searched for subject on Whatuni.

On A level results day, we saw some interesting shifts. Biomedical Sciences was the most searched for subject on the day, having only ranked 11th in the month leading up to results. The fourth most popular subject was Economics, having only been the 25th most searched for subject in the month leading up to results. Meanwhile Teaching dropped out of the top five altogether, falling right down to only the 16th most searched for subject on results day.

Complete University Guide

On CUG on A level results day there was no major change in subject popularity with scarcely noticeable increases for Economics (1.11%) and a very marginal drop in Medicine searches (0.80%). See the most popular subjects on CUG between 14 July – 14 August 2019 below:

1. Law
Law remains in first place this year, however, it has suffered a drop in searches, falling by 2.62 percentage points.

2. Medicine
Medicine remains the second most searched for subject, and compared to last year, it has seen a marginal increase of 1.16%

3. Computer Science
Computer Science remains in third place, with a scarcely noticeable increase of 0.42%.

4. Economics
Economics remains in fourth position with a 0.69% increase.

5. Psychology
Psychology takes fifth position again, with a marginal increase of 0.51%.

Law and Psychology were the most popular clearing subject searches on CUG and Whatuni

Search Destinations: where from

The top three cities where traffic to Whatuni originates in the period 14 July-14 August 2019 are London, Birmingham and Bristol. London has the highest share with 16.6%, while Birmingham ranks second with 1.6%. Bristol has trended upwards and overtook Glasgow which was in third place last year.

On results day, London and Birmingham remain the most busy origin cities for students searching, however students further north in Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds make up the third, fourth and fifth most popular origin cities for Whatuni searches respectively. Meanwhile students in Bristol drop to seventh from third.

On CUG the searches for the period 14 July-14 August 2019 came predominantly from London with a 18.9% share of total searches, followed by Birmingham with 1.57% and Lagos 1.33%. Bristol’s upward trend can be seen on CUG as well as Whatuni – after rising by 0.36 percentage points it now places fourth amongst the most popular origin cities.

On results Day, the searches on CUG, much like Whatuni, came predominantly from London and Birmingham, however students in Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham make up the third fourth and fifth origin cities respectively. Across both sites we see an opportunity to target students in the Midlands and North of England.

Search Destinations – where to

The most popular regions being searched for between 14 July and 14 August 2019 as study destinations in the UK on Whatuni are: Greater London (20.65%), South East England (13.65%), and North West England (8.6%). West Midlands is still the fourth most searched for destination but has seen a slight decrease in interest losing 1.11% share to other regions. This trend doesn’t change on results day.

Institutions seem better equipped to handle clearing calls in 2019

Clearing Calls

The total calls taken by institutions increased by 14.8% YoY, showing that universities are becoming even better equipped to deal with students in clearing. The average call duration was 6 mins 18 seconds, slightly up from last year’s 5 mins 40 seconds. Answered call percentage on average was 85.11%, with a record 57 institutions answering 100% of calls from Whatuni, and 38 institutions answering 100% of calls from CUG.

Whatuni CUG Total or average
Total mins 271hrs 51mins 46secs 684hrs 33mins 19secs 956hrs 25mins 5secs
Total calls 2540 6611 9151
Answered calls 2078 5845 7923
Answered call % 81.81% 88.41% 85.11%
Average duration 6 mins 23 secs 6 mins 12 secs 6 mins 18 seconds

Updated clearing traffic – 1 July until 30 September

After releasing an initial look at clearing from 14 July until 14 August, 2019 we decided to jump back in and have a look at the data from 1 July until 30 September and see what difference this made to subject and student interest.

Search destinations: where from

The top three cities where traffic to Whatuni originates in the period 1 July-30 September, 2019 are London, Birmingham and Bristol. While these cities are the same as originally seen in the data, the interest in them has changed slightly. Although London was still the top location where traffic came from, it had dropped from the previous year by 9.44%. Birmingham was up 0.35%, but Bristol saw the largest increase of 16.34%.

On CUG the searches for the period 1 July-30 September, 2019 came predominantly from London, Birmingham and Bristol also. However, for CUG traffic London did not see a drop in interest and was up 4.13% compared to the previous year. Birmingham was up 14.56% and Bristol was up a staggering 32.13% compared with the same time period from the previous year.

Students in Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham came in after those top three cities.

Subject level trends

Whatuni

The top five subjects searched on the site overall on Whatuni between 1 July and 30 September, 2019 are as follows.

1. Psychology
In 2018 (for the same period) Psychology also ranked as the top most searched subject. However, this year its popularity has fallen by 11.83%. This is a larger decrease than initially seen in our data.

2. Life Sciences
Life Sciences came in as the second most-searched subject but this year its popularity fell by 7.91%, which again was more than initially thought.

3. Semi-medical/ physical/ psycho/ therapies
While this subject category places third, one up from last year, instead of the initial increase in popularity shown it actually saw a 7.58% decrease in students searching for these subjects.

4. Teaching/training
Dropping from third place to fourth this year with a 17.07% decrease in searches is teaching and training.

5. Computer Science
Our year-on-year comparison shows a 18.66% drop in searches for Computer Sciences, but it still maintains its position as the fifth most searched for subject on Whatuni.

Looking at top searches within clearing there are some interesting trends. Graphic Design saw a major increase in traffic. This was followed by Biology, Finance, Social-Work and Marketing, which all saw increases in interest. Psychology, Law, Economics, Financial Management/Accounting and Nursing were all top searched subject areas.

Complete University Guide

On CUG a major change in subject popularity could be seen in business management studies and Economics. Medicine searches increased but not enough to retain its previous second most searched subject spot. See the most popular subjects on CUG between 1 July- 30 September, 2019 below.

1. Law
Law remains in first place this year and has risen in popularity, increasing by 2.7%.

2. Business management studies
Business management studies has jumped into the second most searched spot with an increase in searches of 11.83%.

3. Economics
Economics was the third most popular subject, with a 7.54% search increase taking it up from the fourth place it received initially.

4. Medicine
Medicine has fallen down the list as it was the second most searched for subject last year, but it still saw an increase of 8.94% in searches.

5. Computer Science
Computer Science dropped to fifth place on our CUG list but increased in searches by 7.16% compared to last year.

Psychology was the only subject to drop out of the top five in this updated Clearing data.

Clearing Conclusions

Looking at this data compared with the initial data it shows how just because students don’t claim their places early on there are still options available to them as they navigate through their choices, which can change the popularity of certain subjects. For more information about any of the above insights, please contact editorial@idp-connect.com.

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