A Birmingham university is bracing itself for thousands of calls in the annual scramble for last-minute university places.
In just a week from now, students will be finding out how they fared in their A-level exams.
For the majority, it will be cause for celebration, but for those who haven’t made the grade comes the added uncertainty of university clearing.
Clearing is the process which matches students that have been turned down by their original choices due to lower grades to other courses.
Birmingham City University (BCU) is traditionally the largest clearing university in Birmingham, and staff are making final preparations to make sure nothing is left to chance when the clearing hotline opens on August 16.
The university faced one of it’s busiest years yet in 2011 as students raced to bag a place in what would be the last intake before the tuition fee increase.
From the autumn, universities across the country will be charging up to £9,000-a-year tuition fees – treble the 2011/12 fee of up to £3,375.
The University of Birmingham and Aston University will charge the maximum £9,000. BCU was one of the last of the region’s universities to reveal its revised fee level for 2012, and set a three-tier price structure of £7,500, £8,200 and £9,000 for full-time degree courses.
Many students passed up on the traditional gap year before university last year to take advantage of the lower fee structure, so there are expected to be more places available through clearing at institutions throughout the country than usual.
Maxine Penlington, chief operating officer for BCU, said universities faced “uncertainty” on what demand would be during clearing, but insisted her team was “well-resourced to cope with anything”.
She said: “It is very, very difficult to estimate what clearing will be like this year.
“Broadly speaking, there will be the same number of places available for new entrants this year as last year.
“But there are fewer applicants in the system so it may mean there are more places available through clearing.
“We are ready for clearing – we are putting togther rota of staff to manage the hotline, and making sure all the computers are in place.
“It is always extremely busy during the first hours, but we are ready.”
The university’s clearing hotline, which is open for six weeks, fielded 4,000 calls for just 300 available spots in 2010.
The exact number of places available at BCU this year has not yet been confirmed, but it could be anything up to 1,000.
Ms Penlington said the best advice she could give to students facing clearing was to stay calm, do research and above all, not panic.
She said: “If you are a student who is worried, then do research in the days leading up to the results day.
“Some universities may publish their list in advance of August 16 of the vacancies they know they will have.
“On the day, look on the UCAS Track website to see if your place has been confirmed – it may be that you will still be made an offer even if you don’t have the exact results. If you haven’t, then go to UCAS and see where the vacancies exist and get in touch with institutions to get fixed up with a choice.”
A 20-strong team will be ready to take calls from students from 8am on results day at BCU.
But Ms Penlington reminded students – and parents – that the line remains open for six weeks. She added: “The message we are trying to get out is to keep trying.
“The chances are there will be still be places available up until the last moment.
“It can be a difficult time for students and families, but if you do your research, have all of your details ready and speak clearly on the phone, it will make it easier.”
For more information, visit www.bcu.ac.uk.