Make a Good Decision this Clearing!

What do you know about yourself? “Think wisely and make good choices” says Dr Laura Sillars, Dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University.

How many weeks do you think you have between being zero and 80? The writer Oliver Burkeman has recently published a book on this … most people guess a far larger number than the true figure. My nine-year old guessed 10,000. When I told him it was in fact only 4,000 he suggested that this was a good rationale to eat a lot of cake! Well, I like cake a lot as well, but that’s a little beside the point. This number shouldn’t scare us, but it does focus the mind on making the best use of our time.

Eat a lot of cake!

A standard three-year degree will occupy your imagination for c.156 weeks (including holidays where it might be at the back of your mind even if not front and centre). That is 4% of your total available lifetime budget. So, it’s worth making a good decision on what and where you study. There is so much noise and so much available data, how can you choose? Writing as someone who made a good (but rather rushed) decision in clearing rather than weighing up the options I have some personal experience to share.*

Make the right choice for you!

So this sounds a bit obvious, but most good decisions require us to know ourselves a little to know what we specifically need. Do you thrive in an ambitious environment where you’re mostly working alone and self-driven? There are Universities that offer, what one of my colleagues calls, DIY degrees. They really suit some people who are ready to simply crack on. These are not the degree experiences that we offer at the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Teesside University. We are very focused on the learning environment, creating networks within the lessons and nurturing talent. So, what is it you’re looking for?

Make a list

Start by writing a top ten list of things that are important to you. Here are some ideas. Do you need a focused timetable so you can work or undertake caring duties? Do you need great facilities to be on campus because you haven’t got space at home? Are your career aspirations driving you? Do you want industry experience so you’re ready to go once you graduate? Do you want to improve your technical skills? Is a smallish friendly group more important to you than being in a big competitive environment? When you’re done, share your list with friends and family to check if you missed anything.

Once you have your own list you can mark the places you’re looking at against your own criteria.

1. Website

Don’t just look at the course content and the general marketing blurb, search for distinctive words that connect with what you’re looking for. If you’re still not 100% sure about which course then follow the next steps.

2. Attend a Clearing Open Day

This way you can meet staff and students from all different courses and you can dip in and out of subject talks. It will help you review your options.

3. Visit (any day – even if not an open day)

Visit for a friendly vibe

Nothing gives you a better sense of a place than a deep dive visit. Even if it’s lashing with rain or snow, get out there. This is a big decision. There are so many sensations you can get from a visit. It also allows you to review the place against you list criteria.

We find that many folk who come and visit us sign up both because they love the learning facilities and environment, but also because they get a sense of the friendly vibe which helps them imagine studying with us. You can only experience this by coming in person.

4. Speak to Someone

Even if you spoke to someone in the past, get in touch again. We all have teams of people waiting to speak to potential candidates. Approach your conversation with curiosity – write down key words that are said. Do they align with what you are looking for. Friendliness and good humour should not be overlooked here!

5. League Tables and Data

You can gain some useful insights from the league tables if you’re reading them through the lens of your own criteria. In the student-led NSS survey, our creative courses score really well in all areas, but specifically our courses are very strong on areas such as Academic Support and Teaching on My Course. This data can tell you something about what we prioritise as a team.

So as you weigh up what you’ll do with 4% of your life, I’ll leave you with a quote from Oscar Wilde:

‘Be Yourself; everyone else is already taken’

Make a decision that fits you now and your sense of what is important to you for the future, your values, the ways you like to live and work and the rest will fall into place.

Good Luck!


Courses in the School of Arts & Creative Industries


BA (Hons) Comics & Graphic Novels

BA (Hons) Fashion

BA (Hons) Fine Art

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

BA (Hons) Illustration

BA (Hons) Interior Design

BA (Hons) Journalism

BA (Hons) Music Production

BA (Hons) Photography

BA (Hons) Sport Journalism


Art & Design

Media & Journalism

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team to find out more about studying in the School of Arts & Creative Industries, email and we’ll get straight back to you.

Art & Design Facilities video

Media Facilities video

I am NOT a failure

Words on clearing and a secret revealed by Angela Lawrence, our Associate Dean for Marketing and Recruitment

One of the first WhatsApp messages I received on A Level results day this year was from a friend to tell me that her colleague’s son had not met his grades and he was devastated. It’s so hard to hear these words – devastated, destroyed, heartbroken.  My “go-to” response is to quote from Winston Churchill, who said

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

Whichever way you look at it, this years university applicants have had a rough ride. They never experienced GCSE exams, but then had to take A Level examinations.  They without doubt had a less than perfect learning experience during lockdown despite all the very best efforts of their teachers – it was just not the same as sitting in a classroom alongside friends each day. So to not get the results they hoped for probably feels like yet one more kick in the teeth following a uniquely unorthodox two or three years of study.

I’ll let you into a secret. I went through clearing, way back in the 80’s. It was actually my own fault – I didn’t work as hard as I should have done for my 4 A’ Levels and if I’m honest, I wasn’t completely surprised to find out that I hadn’t got the grades I needed to get in to my chosen uni. Nonetheless I felt that fear and devastation that so many applicants tell us they feel. Fortunately, my parents hit the clearing lines and it wasn’t too long before I had a couple of offers to choose from…roll forward several decades and I’m now close to completing a Doctorate. I am NOT a failure

Things have changed so much since then. Clearing is so much more accessible and such an easy process. Clearing is not seen as failure, but as opportunity. We’re told that there are far more applicants in clearing this year and I can speak from experience and say that our lines  were incredibly busy on A Level results day. We’re also speaking to lots of mature students, many of whom are realising that their dreams too can be fulfilled.

It’s hugely satisfying to know that we are turning devastation into delight and heartbreak to happiness through clearing.  So if you didn’t get the results that you hoped for, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, don’t see this as failure but as a new opportunity, and in Churchill’s words, have the courage to continue!

Teesside University’s clearing hotline

01642 738400

Art & Design Courses

Media & Journalism Courses

Music Technology Courses

Performing Arts Courses

Discover YOUR opportunity in clearing