Closure Report




Friday, 30th August 2019 - 9:00am


Amanda Lund, Ailidh MacKay, Lynn Cooper, Alisa Vamplew, Kathryn Hood, Lyndsay Wilkie, Gillian Simmons, Tessa Rundell, Emma McNab, Muriel Mewissen, Alan Rae & Victoria Weinsberg


Project Summary


Clearing is for applicants who have not yet secured a place at university, or who have a place but wish to apply to another university. The Clearing 2019 project was developed to support Student Recruitment and Admissions and the College UG Admissions Offices to enter UCAS Clearing 2019 with places being available to a small group of widening access students from Scotland. In addition, in 2019 the project included the addition of an advice line for school students who had received SQA results.

The project started in May 2019 and key dates were:

  • Scottish Clearing and Advice Line 6th August 2019
  • Scottish Advice Line 7th August 2019

Staff across USG, Colleges, and IS Application Division worked together to ensure that the Clearing process was successful providing a positive experience for our new students. Clearing 2019 went well with the high engagement of the Project Sponsor and the entire project team working well together while considering areas for improvement from the last year’s projects.

On Scottish Clearing Day the call centre dealt with 320 calls and 10 widening access students have been accepted during the Clearing period up to the end of August.

Although the Clearing call centre was not in operation on A level  results day, the telephone system was used to manage calls to the College of Science and Engineering, Medical and Biomedical Sciences and Agricultural Sciences which all had programmes open in Clearing. 456 calls were received by the phone number published on the UCAS website, with 478 calls directly to Science and Engineering; 170 to Medical/Biomedical Sciences and 46 to Agricultural Sciences. 103 Clearing offers were made on A level results day and the day after. For comparison, Clearing 2018 dealt with nearly 3,000 calls and more than 200 Clearing offers were made across SQA and A Level Clearing days.



All objectives were achieved:

Objectives (O) & Deliverables (D)








Set up, operational maintenance and "tear down" of the telecommunications infrastructure and processes for handling inbound clearing calls. 

Achieved: Clearing already took place in Argyle House last year and due to the smaller Scope and limitation to Scottish Clearing only much fewer calls were expected. Even though ITI staff had to ensure the infrastructure was set up, maintenance and tear down of telecommunications went smoothly.


ITI Communications Infrastructure


Designed, Tested and Implemented Telephony and Technical Solution with the following:

  • Robust telephony and technical processes

    • Call routing established
  • SIP trunks and ports to enable service
  • Appropriate and user friendly Audio Scripts
  • Appropriate audio messages in place
  • Call queuing system

Achieved:  Testing was undertaken in a timely manner and everything went smoothly. However, it should be noticed that Telephony and Learning Teaching Spaces need to be guaranteed access to the Training Rooms in Argyle House at least one week before the actual Clearing week to ensure everything can be set up and tested.


ITI Communications Infrastructure


Setting up an additional Support Line 

Achieved: Phone systems worked perfectly. SRA would like to review the required number of lines next year and potentially have less Info and more Clearing Lines.


ITI Communications Infrastructure & SRA


Technical Set Up: To be defined 

Achieved: Additional support line was set up using additional capacity in Argyle House training rooms with separate set of audio scripts & call handling agents. Call Handling Groups separate two different groups.



SIMD checker aligned to Clearing to provide potential applicants and staff within call centre a simple way to check if applicant meet required criteria within Scottish Clearing.

Achieved: This was straightforward to set up and maintain this year due to the development work undertaken in 2018. 




Online SIMD checker established within UoE site

AchievedStaff within SSP were involved in the roll out and testing of the checker which worked well with no issues noted.  The checker remained open after Scottish Clearing (although not visible to the public) so Colleges could continue to use it for applicants.  This should be built into the plan for next year.




Central and College Admissions areas are fully equipped and ready for handling inbound clearing calls to ensure prospective students have a smooth experience through Clearing process

Achieved:  This works as well as it could have been working considering the scope was narrowed down to Scottish Clearing only. A First line would generally be beneficial to filter calls better. The late change for rUK Clearing was an issue. Overall, positive feedback was received with a number of lessons learned from last being used to improve the experience this year (mainly the SharePoint Frontline Queries form and spread sheet).

Call handlers all had telephony and IT.  Headsets were available to anyone who required them (however security of these has been picked up as an issue due to one set being taken in between events).

The call handling data available in Argyle House was again well received and seen as a good motivator for call handlers as they could see how many callers were waiting to speak to them.  This would have been useful within all the College call handling locations and is picked up in key learning points.


SRA / Colleges / ITI Communications


Support for SRU team to deliver project including Project Management support 

Achieved: Project Meetings, SharePoint Meetings and individual meetings with the Project Sponsor took place to ensure that the project is on track. However, lessons learned for next years Clearing were reported and included the wish to handle the Agenda differently and defining roles clearly at the beginning of the project. Furthermore, the risk log should be part of the Project Meetings.




SharePoint Site Development Support to incorporate improvements identified from previous years 

Achieved: Positive feedback was received on Clearing day for the improvements made within the form. However, the entire Development process was carried out with a short time frame before the Clearing Day. Feedback and lessons learned, should be shared with  the Project team as part of the Closing to ensure that the changes can already be made and be prepared for next year. The development for the Form were decided to have an easier process for both staff and applicants in order to also avoid that applicants get asked the same questions twice. However, due to different needs of different stakeholders, it is sometimes challenging to meet all of their needs.


IS / Colleges / SRA /  SharePoint Solutions Team


Development of an additional form within SharePoint to capture information requests 

Obsolete due to change of Scope. The change of Scope should be reported in a PICCL.


IS / SRA /   SharePoint Solutions Team


Clearing Call Centre and processes for Scottish Clearing.  This will provide:

  • An appropriate location throughout required timescales
  • The appropriate project team and tools throughout required timescales
  • Appropriate levels of awareness / communication across UoE and prospective students.
  • Clearing process completed efficiently and successfully

Achieved: Scottish Clearing went as expected while taking care of more calls compared to Clearing 2018.


SRA / Colleges / CAM


Call centre team for dealing with Stage 1 calls and College operational teams for dealing with Stage 2 calls:

  • Established operational  teams in Colleges
  • Call Centre Team recruited and trained
  • Equipment and resources for teams provided

Achieved: Feedback indicates that operational teams found Stage 2 processes had improved from previous years. 

Stage 1 screening of calls was effective. The revised form for Scottish Clearing was perceived as an improvement, although not having a finalised draft available for training was problematic. 




Technical support in place during period when clearing calls will come in.  (aligned to D1 and D2)

Achieved: This was in place. 


ITI Communications Infrastructure


Technical support for SRA including on site communication and desktop support team for operational window and robust contingency arrangements

Achieved: The monitors had been checked before the event.


ITI Communications Infrastructure


System and process to record and share information gathered across the team on the day 

Achieved: As noted in D3 the form and associated spread sheet was well received and worked well.  Forms will be revised and developed further for 2019




Technical solution to record and share information across first and second line call handling

Achieved: as above




Clearing Preparation Pack consisting of an information pack developed for use if Clearing project required in future years.

Achieved: The SharePoint site will be used for this purpose along with this report to address key areas to develop / improve.




Development of information pack within SharePoint site

Achieved: as above





Key benefits include:

  • The successful execution of the project meant that UoE was well positioned to deal with Scottish Clearing which has subsequent financial and institutional benefits including meeting outcome agreement targets. This was successful for Scottish Clearing this year and there this benefit is expected to be achieved in that respect.
  • The administrative burden of handling clearing students was reduced through improved processes and use of technology which will increase efficiency in affected administrative areas. However, there were a number of changes to the scope compared to previous years (i.e. not undertaking Clearing for A Level / rUK) changes to process were aligned to these rather than on further improvements
  • Prospective students applying through Scottish clearing had a smooth experience. Low waiting times on the day of Scottish Clearing are likely to assume callers should have had a good experience. There were lessons learnt in relation to the call flow / process for prospective students using other lines i.e. going directly to Colleges who had limited resources in some cases to handle the uplift in call numbers.
  • The negative consequences of de-scoping rUK clearing from this project were reduced by additional work carried out from ITI.
  • Positive and effective teamwork across teams within the project enhanced working relationships. Many of the team involved have undertaken the project for a number of years. This provided many benefits including a smooth set up of telephony and online tools and equipment. The project team worked together to ensure issues were dealt with effectively and areas for further improvement were identified.
  • Combined Embargo & Clearing Meetings went well and ensured a smooth collaboration. This further benefited in time savings for all College Representatives due to only needing to attend one meeting. Shifting from an initial focus on Embargo related topics to focusing on Clearing within the duration of the project was perceived well.  

Analysis of Resource Usage:

The original IS resource budget for the project was 50 days.


Staff Usage Estimate: 50 days

Staff Usage Actual: 42.6 days

Staff usage Variance: 14.8%


Explanation for variance

- The Scope has changed due to the University not participating in rUK and International Clearing anymore. Thus, the initially requested Support Line was not required anymore and A Level Clearing took place only for very few programmes without a Clearing Call Centre.

Scope / Changes

- Clearing 2019 was only open for Scottish Applicants.

Clearing Days Overview:

There were 320 calls taken on Scottish Clearing Day and 10 widening access students have been accepted. The VET School confirmed 6 offers and 2 SIMD20 offers on A Level day.

Key Learning Points / Areas for Improvement

For next year the Project Sponsor and Team believe it would be of value to continue rolling the Clearing Project and the UCAS Embargo project together.

There are a number of interdependencies between the projects and a lot of overlap, particularly in terms of communications, timescales and stakeholders. Bringing them together provides a greater oversight of the period, and be a more efficient use of staff resource. There is also a wish to review the marketing campaign aligned to this wider scope and to enable alignment with wider UoE aims and objectives.

A key learning point is to retain flexibility for A Level Results day and not de-scope this completely in the future. The infrastructure set up (phones and staff) should be kept after Clearing day.

From a project perspective there were many learning points from the last three Clearing events that had been used successfully this year including use of staff (rather than students and staff), use of a bespoke call centre, adapted training, longer lead in times, etc. Key learning points from this year include:  

Training / Packs

UCAS Process

  • A meeting should be developed early in the project with representatives across Colleges / key stakeholders (who deal with fee status etc.) to discuss and agree processes requirements / issues.
  • Front line staff should be provided with specific guidance to support queries on the UCAS process from prospective students.



  • Exact requirements for the project should be confirmed in May 2020 with Project Team, Building Manager. Access for ITI staff to set up telephony, testing, training and equipment take down should be included
  • The Training Rooms in Argyle House should be booked at least for two days (potentially the entire week) before the Clearing week to ensure that ITI and Learning Teaching Spaces Teams have access to the rooms to set everything  up.
  • It has also been mentioned that the team would enjoy to carry out Clearing the Greenfield Suite again if it was possible  

Call Handling / Process  

  • Call handling live data to be made available to College locations as well as main call centre.  This would benefits second line call management and ensure a shared understanding of call levels is had across key areas.
  • Involvement of Accommodations teams was very beneficial and should be continued next year
  • If rUK or Scottish Clearing is not being undertaken via the Call centre process consideration needs to be given to the impact this will have and how additional calls coming in through other UoE telephone lines will have i.e. consideration of a generic helpline or increased communication  

Points from Clearing 2018 to be kept due to their relation to rUK Clearing, which was out of Scope this year:

  • Closures should be reported listing UCAS codes for communication clarity.
  • Call hand over scripts should be added to standard script.
  • Ensure first line call handlers include email address so it can be cross checked on second line for accuracy.
  • Ensure first line call handlers include College on form via a drop down menu to ensure consistency.
  • Agree process for issuing letters, suggested these should be issued by 1pm at earliest rather than 10 minutes after decision.  


  • The Phone support went very well overall
  • The numbers for both results days should be the same
    • It was suggested that the phones could be re-numbered for the days next years
  • The phones should be set up before the Clearing Training day and it was suggested that training should also take place on the phones  
  • A Level Results day: having at least a first line would support filtering incoming calls better  

Advertising / Communications

  • Website: Course data should not be available before 5pm before Clearing Day.
  • The published phone numbers for both result days should be the same
  • Audit / review of communication / marketing campaign across other universities / colleges to identify good practice.
  • Widen scope of marketing campaign rolled out around Clearing, should advice line concept be used again and is anything more needed in terms of both clearing days. Discuss in advance of 2020.
  • Project team to be confirmed, meetings scheduled and access to SharePoint enabled in May by PM for 2020 Project  

Project Management

  • Intern support this year went very well and should be replicated for future projects if possible.
  • The Risk Register should be reviewed and updated at the beginning of the project and be reviewed during the project meetings and updated on the project website  


  • The action list in SharePoint should be refreshed and a standard developed of actions required on an annual basis developed so this can be used to kick the planning off in 2020. Attendees at project team meetings should have a substitute who can attend / make decisions on their behalf (eg. to cover annual leave)  


  • SIMD Checker - Scottish Government data set requires to be checked annually (no change this year but there will be in the future. Additional text is needed to advise what dataset is being used and why. It was agreed the application would be disconnected from the live clearing web pages but keep it running as this is used for schools/colleges and also used for the next years project  
  • SharePoint / Call Handling Form - Positive feedback in the site and support for further development next year.  Further suggested improvements include:
    • SharePoint form circulated well in advance and changes / requests gathered from all key stakeholders.   
    • Establish cut-off time for alterations to the site / forms with enough time to preform load testing and make any changes before the day of clearing (ideally End of June)
    • Ensure sufficient SharePoint support is booked for length of project and attends some / all of the project team meetings
    • The form should be reviewed with the following changes made:
      • First and Second Line Questions should improve both Applicants and Staff Experience aiming to optimise the process of filtering applicants before forwarding them to the College
        • The College of Science and Engineering only had one applicant, who met their entry requirements out of 8 Calls
        • Qualifications part in the first line should be reviewed to support college specific requirements
      • Running order of questions should be reviewed against reasons for refusal to ensure call length can be reduced further.
      • Terminology within forms / scripts should be signed off by full Project Team
      • The form should generally be reviewed to meet the requirements for Clearing 2020
      • The back end of the form (excel spread sheet) should be further developed to enhance the second line call handling process.  This will require early engagement with Admissions staff within Colleges and key stakeholders.
        • CAHSS was suggesting to add an “awaiting referral” view for applicants to appear in who have been offered a place, but who have not yet referred themselves vai UCAS and been formally accepted
      • All SharePoint Development Meetings should be taking place with all Stakeholders required and at least with Representatives for First and Second Line Support to ensure that all needs are considered and everyone can also understand each other’s views.
    • The rUK/International Clearing Form should be reviewed and reworked completely if needed again as this screening process is different to the Scottish Clearing process
      • Script changes could also become complex depending on the outcome of Brexit (eg. Fee status screening)  

Outstanding Issues


Project Info

Clearing 2019
USG Portfolio Projects (OTHUSG)
Management Office
Project Manager
Victoria Weinsberg
Project Sponsor
Rebecca Gaukroger
Current Stage
Project Classification
Start Date
Planning Date
Delivery Date
Close Date
Overall Priority