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A different kind of future: my Clearing experience

Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course:BA (Hons) Politics
Category: Social sciences and social care

14 June 2023

Tom decided to return to university to gain a degree and change his career path. He applied to ARU through Clearing and hasn't looked back since. Here, he shares his experiences.

I decided that I wanted to start a degree whilst travelling in Southeast Asia. Having resigned my job in customer service a few months earlier I was determined to move onto something different when I got home.

ARU graduate Tom

Despite enjoying many aspects of the working life I’d built since leaving sixth form, I saw that a degree would be the crucial next step toward finding a job that more closely aligned with my interests; that matched my ambitions and would provide new challenges, whilst offering a different kind of future. Most of all, I wanted to learn – about the world, how it worked, why things were the way they were.

Whilst still travelling around Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, I started researching universities, settling on ARU – my local institution – and the BA Politics course [now Politics and International Relations]. At this stage, my main concern was how I would cope with making the step up from A-Level after being out of education for so long, especially considering my less than impressive results! I contacted the Politics course leader who encouraged me to apply through Clearing. These turned out to be my first steps on an incredibly rewarding and ultimately life-changing journey.

The Clearing process

From that first contact with ARU, and throughout the Clearing process I embarked on once I got home, I felt fully supported.

Every member of staff I encountered was calm, knowledgeable, and helpful. This collective attitude blunted the sharp edges of my fear, assuring me that my instinct was right, and that I would belong at ARU.

The Clearing process itself was also incredibly simple, amounting to not much more than gathering personal documents and filling in a few forms online. Then, once I started that September, this 360-degree support continued. For example, to supplement the excellent teaching I was receiving, I was able to address my concerns about making the step up into higher education by taking advantage of the Study Skills Plus workshops. These are free to all students and set up to focus on specific areas of academic development like academic writing or referencing. Taking these workshops in my first semester enabled me to hit the ground running, my initial concerns proven unfounded as I finished the year with first class marks.

What’s more, this level of support continued throughout my time at ARU: in my final year when I needed to take time out to care for a relative, the Student Support Services could not have been more helpful or understanding. I was able to take the break I needed and come back the following year to finish my degree, eventually graduating with a first.

My recommendations

Of course, succeeding in higher education relies on putting in the effort throughout. Getting started through Clearing is no different. Make sure you:

  • research the available courses thoroughly to find one which is the right fit for your interests and ambitions
  • prepare your identity documents and education certificates (or, as in my case, dig them out of the loft!)
  • get your finances in order by reading up on what help is available. ARU also has a Money Advice Service that can help with this
  • register with ARU temps, the University's in-house employment agency which can help you find part-time work.

Once I was student, I was able to work as a Clearing advisor through ARU Temps. Having seen both sides, I can testify to the work that goes in behind the scenes to make the process as friendly and as easily navigable as possible. The Clearing team are there to help you make a start on your journey – contact them with anything you need, I promise there are no silly questions, nothing someone hasn’t already asked before.


Although the time before starting university is daunting – with thoughts about getting through Clearing and then putting in the work to get your degree looming in front of you – I promise with ARU you will have the support you need to climb that mountain. What’s more, the results will be worth it.

Personally, being a student reshaped my life for the better and greatly expanded my interests whilst deepening my knowledge in all sorts of areas. I then went on to postgraduate studies before starting work. The help and support I received at the Clearing stage were the first instrumental steps in achieving this outcome. It could be for you too.

By Thomas Whalley
BA (Hons) Politics graduate

What is Clearing?

Clearing is an opportunity to reconsider your options, and join a university where you can study a subject you're passionate about.

You can apply through Clearing if:

  • you didn’t apply before the UCAS deadline
  • your grades are different to what you expected
  • you’ve only just decided to go to uni
  • you’ve changed your mind about what or where you want to study since you originally applied.

Find out more about Clearing at ARU


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.