Scholarships and bursaries help students who need financial support pay for the cost of going to university. The terms 'bursary' and 'scholarship' are used interchangeably and each university has its own terminology. Here's a guide to the different types, and how to get them.
What are scholarships and bursaries?
Scholarships and bursaries are the same thing. They may be offered in monetary form paid directly into your bank or as a discount (for example, 40% off your accommodation, or even as vouchers for things like books.) They can be funded by universities, private companies or charities.
How are bursaries and scholarships different from student loans?
Bursaries and scholarships never have to be paid back whereas UK students must start repaying their student loan as soon as their salary exceeds a certain amount (£21,000 per year for UK or EU students who have studied in England).
Am I eligible for a bursary?
Extra student finance comes in various shapes and sizes. Your eligibility could be based on your academic abilities, your household income or, more often, a combination of several criteria.
Here is an explanation of each major type of scholarship and how you can apply:
- Almost all UK universities offer bursaries for students from low-income families. This may either be to help with tuition fees or living costs or both.
- Qualifying criteria include:
- from a low-income family
- a mature student with existing financial commitments
- a student with children, especially single parents
- a student that was previously in care (a ‘care leaver’)
- homeless or living in a accommodation for vulnerable people
- Universities may also offer merit-based bursaries or scholarships for students who excel in a particular area of academia or university life.
- It is advisable to search on the university website to gain an idea of what they offer. You can also use Scholarship Search.
- The scholarships on offer are not all related to academic performance; there are a vast number of funding opportunities for those who excel in Sport, Drama or Music. For example, The University of Manchester offer a ‘SPORT’ Scholarship with up to £2,500 per athlete, to 15 student athletes on a UK Sport or Sport England Talent pathway. Another example is Royal Holloway’s music scholarships, which are worth up to £1,500 a year.
Charitable and commercial bursaries
- It is worth doing some research to find out what is available because, for suitably qualified students, there are significant funding opportunities beyond your university, mainly from charitable trusts.
- Such forms of financial support are also available from many commercial companies or government organisations who use financial incentives to recruit graduates.
- Nuffield Foundation offer undergraduate research bursaries in science.
- The Thomas Wall Trust offers grants to those pursuing vocational courses or courses concerned with education and social welfare.
- The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) makes awards to craftsmen and women of all ages to help them further their careers.
- The Gen Foundation principally provides grants to students/researchers in biological, chemical, botanical, and food sciences. Exceptional candidates in language, music and art may also be considered.
- The Lloyds Scholars programme, in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group offer financial support and work experience opportunities to undergraduates at specific universities.
- The Army Medical Services Professionally Qualified Officer bursary scheme provides financial support during your medical studies and a place in the Army after you’ve graduated. It’s open to potential Medical, Dental, Veterinary and Nursing officers.
Extra help bursaries
Unlike most other bursaries, the ones listed below are funded by the government.
- Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)
- DSAs help with the extra essential costs you might have as a direct result of your disability, including a long-term health condition, mental-health condition or specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.
- DSAs can help with the cost of having a person to support you (for the additional support you might need while studying), items of specialist equipment, travel and other study-related costs. It doesn’t depend on your household income. How much you’ll get depends on your individual needs:
- You may receive up to £5,358 for specialist equipment.
- You may receive up to £21,305 for a non-medical helper allowance.
- You may receive up to £1,790 for general allowance.
- Money is paid either into your bank account or directly to the organisation providing the service or equipment.
- You’ll need to download and fill in a form to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).
- Parents’ Learning Allowance
- This government allowance helps students with dependent children pay for course-related costs such as books and travel. You can be eligible for up to £1,617 a year, depending on household income. The Parents’ Learning Allowance is paid on top of other student finance and doesn’t have to be paid back.
- You can apply for the Parents’ Learning Allowance when you apply for student finance.
- Adult Dependants’ Grant
- This helps with the extra costs you might face if an adult depends on you financially. To be eligible, the adult dependent must either be your husband, wife, partner/civil partner, or a relative, such as a parent or grandparent.
- You can get up to £2,834 a year depending on your household income.
- To apply you will need to fill in the Adult Dependants’ Grant section on your main student finance application - you’ll need to give estimates of your household income.
How do I apply for scholarships and bursaries?
How you apply will depend on the body that is awarding your scholarship:
- Applications for government extra help bursaries will usually be submitted with your student loan application.
- Universities will sometimes assess bursary eligibility with your UCAS application or potentially you will have to wait until you have received an offer.
- You will normally have to apply directly to charitable organisations and companies.
Tips for applying:
- Start your research early. The application deadlines for some scholarships fall much earlier than the standard UCAS deadlines. For example, the deadline to submit an application for an Organ scholarship at Oxford and Cambridge is 1st September.
- Be prepared to promote yourself. Applications to scholarships can be incredibly competitive (particularly if they are merit-based.) Certain organisations may require applicants to submit an essay or portfolio of work to assess candidates; take time over this task and make sure to include in your application why you in particular would benefit from this opportunity.
- Double check if the bursary you applied for affects other types of funding. For instance, the Adult Dependants’ Grant will affect any income-related benefits and tax credits you might get.
- Ensure you are aware of any strings attached. Many scholarships and bursaries require a level of commitment from students in their chosen field. For example, an Organ Scholar at King’s College Cambridge is expected to rehearse for and play at seven services per week, in exchange for the £450 per year financial allowance.