It’s fair to say this year’s National Clearing Survey webinar, ‘The 2022 Clearing Student Revealed’ generated a high level of engagement. There wasn’t quite enough time to go over all the questions in the webinar, but you asked, and now our experts have answered. 

Without further ado, here’s a deep dive into the National Clearing Survey to help you prepare for Clearing 2022 and get started with the NCS. Asked by strategic marketers, and answered by Net Natives’ expert strategists and researchers.  

(If you haven’t already watched the 'The 2022 Clearing Student Revealed webinar', you can catch up on demand or take a look at our write up to get you up to speed.)

On Tik Tok, because paid content only allows for nationwide targeting which then limits the locally-focused targeting we desire, would you say organic content is key? 

Utilising a mix of paid and organic is key. The use of TikTok Spark ads is a fantastic way to grow an organic following through the paid channel. Regarding geo targeting, TikTok now allows for more granular in-country targeting. For example, in England we can target Bristol, London, Manchester, Merseyside, Nottingham, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. For our guide on how to get started on TikTok, download our whitepaper here

Were any universities from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland included in the survey? And how many universities from the North were featured in the survey?

The locality of the universities involved in the survey is partly based on where our partners are from, so the more partners we have signing up from those areas, the better the data. Between 2018 - 2021 we had 13 responses from universities in Scotland, 12 from Wales and three from Northern Ireland. In 2022, we’ve had six responses from Scotland, nine from Wales and one from Northern Ireland. We’ve also had responses for eight Institutions in the North West, six in the North East and 12 in Yorkshire and the Humber. If you’d like to take part in the 2022 survey and improve our data even further, you can do so here. 

When discussing the relative loss/increase in daily use of social media channels by students, Facebook has continued its rapid decline and TikTok its path of accession. But what about Instagram and Snapchat; have they seen declines too or are they in more of a holding position?

They have both seen a slight decline; Instagram has gone from 78% daily use in 2018 to 72% in 2021, and Snapchat has gone from 74% daily use in 2018 to 66% in 2021. And here’s the relative percentage increase/loss for popular social channels between 2018 and 2021:

  • Instagram -9% 
  • Snapchat -11%
  • YouTube -17% 
  • Twitter -28%
  • Facebook -39%
  • TikTok +1150% 

Instagram and Snapchat are still the most popular, and for ‘traditional’ age students. TikTok is the third most-used platform daily. 

In relation to key finding one ‘One in two students don’t go to the first institution they contact’, can you please tell us what this was in previous years?

There has been a slight decline in recent years; in 2018 60% went to the first university they contacted, in 2019 it was 59%, in 2020 56% and 2021 it was down to 50% (one in two).

When do universities start Clearing campaigns? I thought it was May but would love your insight on this. 

Looking at the data, May is a general trend, but getting to the market as early as possible and being ‘always on’ will lead to greater results. By building your brand early, you will have more engagement leading up to and during Clearing.

We had fewer courses available in Clearing this year, was that a sector-wide trend? How much might that have contributed to the downturn in Clearing applicants? 

Actually we found that clients were in for everything last year so we’re not sure that would have had an effect.

The data on the NCS dashboard gives percentages, can we see actual numbers behind this?

No, we don't show the actual numbers, as the number of responses isn't consistent across the years or across segments, so percentages allow for easier comparison.

Are the statistics around social media based on general usage or specific usage for Clearing decisions? Do you know if you see different types of usage for different channels e.g. TikTok for fun videos and general engagement content and Instagram or another for more ‘serious’ info type content. Interested to understand if there is any difference. 

All of our media use questions are around general usage rather than specific usage for Clearing decisions. In the webinar, we mentioned that we have recently conducted one of our Student Pulse Trends surveys asking about different types of social media and what students are looking for from universities on each platform. We do see differences in the types of content, with TikTok generally for lighthearted content and student-generated content around student life or getting a feel for the campus.

Are all students a bit less willing to travel, or are there just more students looking to commute from home?

We haven’t asked this explicitly in the survey so we’re not sure on this one. 

Have we seen any indication of the depth of mental health support or type of support students are looking for?

We didn’t ask this question specifically in the National Clearing Survey, but our Student Pulse research has shown us that with six in 10 students feeling only somewhat or not at all supported by their institution, this is something that universities should look to improve. The top things students asked for were better mental health services, making support more accessible and better communication with students. For more insights into student wellbeing, you can access the Student Pulse here

We hope you found these responses useful. If you would like to uncover more insights, then this is where the NCS Dashboard comes in. All you need to do is log into Akero Data Labs (or sign up for free if you don’t have an account), head to the 'Insights' tab, and you'll find the NCS dashboard there.

You can also become an NCS partner, by signing up to take part in the National Clearing Survey 2022/23. By getting involved, not only are you helping to make Clearing better for everyone, but there are numerous benefits for your institution. Having your institution-specific data as an NCS partner also allows you to benchmark against national findings. 

If you have any questions about getting involved with next year's NCS, the dashboards or any of the insights, please get in touch at 


Article by

Tilly Howarth

Marketing Events and Campaigns Executive