UNIVERSITIES and higher education colleges are encouraging students to not give up hope if they have just missed out on a place to study.

If you have missed out on an offer from your preferred universities, then UCAS will tell you that you are in clearing in the Track section of the website from 8am.

The first step is to get your exam results from college so you can tell other universities to get on a different course. If you've achieved better results you can also change offer by going through the adjustment process.

Once you've got your results, search for a course at www.ucas.com and see what's available from midnight tonight (Wednesday). Once you've seen a course that appeals to you, give the university a ring on their dedicated clearing hotline.

You'll be asked a series of questions so treat it as a mini-interview. If you are offered a place you want to accept add it to your choice for clearing on UCAS Track from 5pm on Thursday (August 15) and the university will confirm your place.

Applicants can log in to the redesigned Track on the UCAS website from 08:00 on results day to see if they have been accepted or are eligible for Clearing. They will also receive an email from UCAS confirming their status.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS Chief Executive, said: "There will be a rich variety of courses offering vacancies through Clearing this year, across a range of universities and colleges.

"Some 12 per cent of all enrolments last year were through clearing which has now become a mainstream application route for higher education.

"If you are flexible and open-minded, clearing offers a chance to re-think your choices, make more realistic applications or even to fulfil new ambitions."

You can call a UCAS clearing expert on 0871 468 0 468 for advice from 7.30am.

Anglia Ruskin University, in Cambridge, still has places on numerous courses and will be opening its Clearing Centre at the Cambridge campus at 7.30am to help students look for a course. You can either drop in or give them a call on 01245 493131. To see the full range of courses click here.

Norwich's UEA still has places on most of its courses too. To find out which courses are available click here or call 01603 591515.A range of courses is also available at University Campus Suffolk, to find out more visit here.

It may be the chance to take some time out and reconsider your options, for ideas on a gap year click here.