Extra funding, bursaries and scholarships for university - Which? (2023)

What extra financial support can you get at university?

Most students will be entitled to student finance, ie a tuition-fee loan, and some form of maintenance support. What you cangetwill depend on your household income, where youlive and where youplan to study. Students must apply to the student finance body in their country for this.

However, there may beextra financial help available to you,and unlike tuition-fee and maintenance loans, they don't accumulate interest, nor do they have to be repaid.

What are scholarships and bursaries?

Scholarships and bursaries are extra pots of money you can apply for, whichcome in various shapes and sizes.

They might be offered on the basis of your academic abilities, they may be means-tested (based on your household income and personal circumstances), or perhaps a combination of both.

There may also be an application process to decide who's awarded this extra funding –especially when a lucrative scheme receives lots of applicants.

Funding like this couldlast for one year of your university course (usually the first year), or it may extend over the whole period of your studies.

Scholarships try to cover some or all of the cost of your tuition fees and living costs,meaning you won’t need to borrow as much in terms of student loans.

Plus, if you secure a bursary or scholarship, you won't need to pay back the money.

Who can apply for a scholarship or bursary?

Don't be fooled into thinking thatscholarships are only for A* students or those on low incomes.

They can be awarded to studentsapplying for a particular subject,or those in mitigating personal circumstances that can make pursuing university-level study difficult, such as having children, or adults who depend on them for care or financial support.

In fact, you'd be surprised by some of the more strange and random scholarships and bursaries that exist–from being a vegetarian to having the surname Graham (yes, really!).

Considering the cost of university lifeand tuition fees, it's definitely worth having a look at what other help isavailable.

What bursaries and scholarships are available?

Here’s a quick guide to what kind of criteria scholarships might be looking for:

  • Doing well in your exams:you don't have to getstraight A*s to qualify;some universities offer money for ABBor less, depending on what subject you want to study.
  • Musical talent:this may apply if you’re planning to perform while you’re at uni.
  • Personal circumstances: including where you come from, if you’ve been in care, what your parents do for a living, your religion, or if you’re the first in your family to go to university.
  • Financial need: these are usually based on your household income and often called grants or bursaries.
  • Sporting achievement:if you’re competing at regional, national or international level in a sport, many universities offer scholarships to attract the best talent, so you can help them win competitions!
  • Industry scholarships:these are offered to attract new talent into a certaincareer or industry and often includework experience as part of the offer. It may even lead to a job when you graduate.
  • Interests and hobbies:there are some scholarships that are based on your extracurricular activities, such as community work.
  • And the rest:some schemes are open to all subjects and universities, usually requiring you to submit an essay or video to apply.

Where do I look for scholarships and bursaries?

Scholarships and bursaries are offered by universities, further education (FE) colleges that offer degree courses, charities, trusts or even your local council.

What's available and the eligibility criteria you have to meet will vary.

Your university

If you know where you will be studying, the first place to check is your universitywebsite to see what it offers.

Some bursaries and scholarships are automatically allocated, but not all, so don’t assume they will contact you if you are eligible.

Tip: Make sure you give permission to share your details when you apply to the Student Loans Company (SLC), as this is how universities find out if you are eligible for scholarships related to financial need.

Charities and organisations

Not all bursaries and scholarships come from universities.

It's worth researching some of the smaller organisations that give grants for educational support – the charity Turn2Ushas a search function to help find relevanttrusts and charities, while the bookThe Guide to Educational Grants is another useful resource.

Tip: Many schemes are offered to students worldwide, so don’t let the mention of dollars or euros stop you from applying.

The Scholarship Hub website

If you don’t know what you want to studyyet, you can search and compare the database of scholarship schemes on The Scholarship Hub.

Register (for free) to see listings for each university, as well as those not linked to particular universities.

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Tip:When you search, think more broadly than the subject you're studying – and don't forget to check out scholarships open to all students.

Examples of bursary and scholarship schemes

  • Royal Television Society Bursaries: worth £1,000 a year to students studying television production, broadcast journalism, or for technology students keen to pursue a career in television.
  • Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust: up to £3,000 a year for students undertaking their first degree with a close family member who is a commercial traveller, chemist or grocer.
  • BeArt Presets Scholarship: for Year 13s who have accepted a place at university, or current students. For $5,000, applicants simply need to explain how the scholarship will impact their life.

Note that deadlines for applying differ from scheme to scheme, and year to year.

So don't simply look once – we'd recommend checking fairly regularly throughout the year to spotnew opportunities as they open.

Applying for bursaries and scholarships

Identify all available funding

The wider you cast your net when it comes to hunting for extra funding, the more likely you are to be successful.

Research who the big players are in fields or sectors tied to the subject you're planning to study. If they don't explicitly mention anything about scholarships or university funding for students on their website, drop them a quick message introducing yourself.

Explain your university plans and any goals you have for the future, and ask whether they offer any financial support.

Worst case, they don't reply and you've lost a few minutes of your day; but best case, your initiative and enthusiasm impresses them and they can help you in some way (plus, it gives you a foot in the door for future work experience, internships and graduate schemes).

Ask once, and the opportunities may snowball from there.

Reach out to your university

Reaching out directly to your universitystudent services or finance department is the first step in making yourself known to them, especially if you speak to a specific individual. This way, when opportunities pop up for funding that match your criteria, they'll know to get in touch with you.

Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or fire off a quick email – no matter how simple you think your question might be, the university will be best placed to answer it, and not just when it comes to finance questions. They can also answer any questions you have about entry requirements, housing or the course.

Plus, universities will vary in what extra funding is available, so don't assume anything.

They can get busy, but they should aim to respond as soon as possible.

Take your questions to an open day

A good approach to an open day is to have a handful of questions to ask.

You could have a long journey to get there and back, so you want to make sure you're getting the most out of the trip.

Before heading to an open day, check what the day will involve. Are there mandatory talks or sessions, or do you have some flexibility to pick and choose what you do/see?

If the latter, a finance-related session may be worth checking out.

Apply early

Missed the deadline for most scholarship applications?

If you've crunched the numbers and going to university will be a real struggle without the extra help, consider putting it off for a year and working in the meantime to save some cash.

This will give you time to plan ahead and apply for scholarships the following year, as well as build up any skills and experience you can bolster your application with.

Be organised and show initiative

Scholarships and bursaries can be competitive, especially if the criteria to apply are quite loose, so don't wait around.

Hopefully, you should have most of your parents' financial information to hand from when you applied for student finance, which can save time.

Also, it'sworth working out what your living costs might look like as soon as you can.

Many students are surprised by the typical cost of university life, including those bills that mum and dad are likely to have been taking care of (eg monthly phone billand other household bills).

Give consent to share your income

Allowing the student finance company to share your financial status with your university takes the hassle out of applying, and you could find yourself receiving a bursary automatically.

It all boils down to simply ticking a box when applying for student finance. Easy!

Just read the small print before doing so, to confirm you're happy with how your information will be used.

Often this isthe best way for universities to identify students from low-income households who would benefit most from extra help.

Treat your application like your personal statement

If you've already written your personal statement as part of a Ucas application, you'll have some practice talking yourself up in the best way possible, in an essay format.

However, it's worth doing some further research into the provider of the bursary, and how the bursary came about.

This might give you some ideas as to what areas you should emphasise here.

Get interview-ready

Like writing a personal statement, an interview may be a familiar scenario you find yourself in when applying to universities.

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Again, do your research about whoever is providing the bursary to give you a few talking points to jump on.

Don't fret if you're asked to complete a presentation as part of this process.

Often, your interviewer will come up with a topic or project that's quite broad or subjective, to see how yourespond.

Keep in mind that,while you're seeking financial support, it's not about gaining sympathy with the biggest sob story to 'win' over your interviewer.

If you've encountered or overcome certain hardships, don't shoehorn these in. Bring themup when asked, or where it feels appropriate to the point you're making.

What are my chances of getting a bursary or scholarship?

In the same way as you wouldapply for jobs, you might need to applyfor several scholarships and grants before you get lucky.

Once you get into the swing of applications, you might find it gets easier. That said, always take each scheme seriously and read any criteria or background information carefully– something mentionedmight inform what you write in an essay or talk about in an interview.

Persevere and keep looking throughout your studies,not just when you’re applying to university. An average scholarship is worth around £1,500, so the effort can pay off.

The Scholarship Hub spoke to 20 organisations that offer bursary or scholarship schemes, and you might be surprised to hear that half of them said they had to work hard to attract applicants.

So your chances of being successful are higher than you think!

What is a fee waiver?

Rather than giving you extra funding, fee waivers reduce what you owe.

You can get fee waiversby themselves, or you can get a mixture of a fee waiver and bursary in one package of support.

And, none of your fee waiver has to be paid back.

Where do you get fee waivers from?

A university or college might offer to reduce the cost of your tuition fees for a year or more, rather than give you a cash payment –or you could receiveboth.

This means you won’t need to borrow as much from the Student Loans Company.

What’s better –a fee waiver or a bursary?

In the case of fee waivers and bursaries, the latter is nearly always better news for your pocket.

A bursary is usually paid directly into your bank account – meaning you'll get cash upfront.

A fee waiver is taken off yourtuition fees.

Since a bursary allows you to decide how and when you want to use your money, it’s the better option for most students, especially when it’s estimated that not all students starting university under the new student finance system will end up repaying all of their student loan anyway.

Of course, you might not get the option to decide on which type of funding you’d prefer – and a fee waiver will still reduce your overall debt.

That’s particularly appealing if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of having student debt hanging over you.

What are hardship funds?

Hardship fundsare designed to help if you’re experiencingfinancial problems,either while you’re at universityor when you’re applying to go.

They are awarded by the institutions themselves, with the amount of money decided on a case-by-case basis.

There’s usually an application form to complete in order to state your case.

You can apply either if you simply have less money coming in than going out, or if an unexpected cost arises like an expensive repair bill.

Your circumstances will be taken into account and certain groups – student parents, disabled studentsand so on – will normally be prioritised for help, although all UK students can apply.

Where do you get hardship funds from?

You can apply for a hardship fundvia your university or collegestudent services or finance department, either when you’re already at university, orsometimes when you'regoing through the application process.

As these funds are decided case by case, it's worth researching what's availablein relation to your own circumstances first, rather than going on the word of other students who've applied for these – just because someone else received a certain amount (or was unsuccessful), it doesn't necessarily mean you’ll get the same result.

You'll need to take documents(such asbank statements) that confirm how much student finance you receive, as well as expenses and outgoings to justify why you deserve this additional help.

Learn more about hardship funds ongov.uk.

What is the NHS bursary? Read our FAQ

Bursaries used to be available from the NHS for students in a range of health fields to help with tuition and living costs, but this has significantly changed in recent years.

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Read on to find out what the changes mean, whether you’re a new student or are already at university.

Note, the belowinformation refers to undergraduate students who started their course after 1 August 2018.

Can I get an NHS bursary?

The NHS bursary is now primarily for students studyingmedicine and dentistry.

Students studying nursing, midwifery or Allied Health Professional courses are no longer eligible for an NHS bursary (although there is still other financial support available for these students).

NHS bursary: am I eligible?

To be eligible for the NHS bursary now, you have to meet the below criteria:

Where you live

  • You must have been residing in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least three years beforethe start of the firstacademic year of your course.
  • There may be exceptions. See the NHS Business Services Authority websitefor more information.

Your course and year

  • You must be studying an NHS-funded course (full- or part-time) that will result in you registering as a doctor or dentist (ie medicine or dentistry).
  • You can only apply for an NHS bursary once you reach the fifth year of your course.
  • Until then, you can apply for student finance as all other full-time students would, namely a tuition-fee loan and maintenance loan.

Your household income

  • The overall amount you can get will depend on your annual household income.
  • Depending on your circumstances, this might be what you or your parents/guardians/partner earn(s).

Whether you’ve received funding before

  • Even if you’ve already received an NHS bursary, or some other form of higher education funding, you could still be eligible.
  • Note, you can still apply for a maintenance loan on top of your NHS bursary, although this may be limited.
  • Your entitlement will reducein your final year.

NHS bursary: what can I get?

If you’re a medicine or dentistry student, you can apply for an NHS bursary once you reach the fifth year of your course.

The NHS bursary will include the following:

Tuition fees: provided these aren’t more than the standard amount, the NHS will pay these in full, straight to your university.

Bursary: this will depend on your household income.This is based on a standard academic year and goes straight into your account each month (in equal instalments over the year). Further support is available for extra weeks of your course, at a weekly rate.

Grant: all eligiblefull-time students get a £1,000 grant once they apply for the NHS bursary.

Maintenance loan: you can apply for a smaller maintenance loan to supplement what you receive from the sources mentioned above to help with your living costs.

Which healthcare courses aren't eligible for the NHSbursary?

The NHS bursary is no longer available for midwifery, nursing or Allied Health Professional courses.

See the full list of non-eligible courses below:

  • Dietetics
  • Occupational therapy
  • Operating department practitioner
  • Orthoptics
  • Nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry/chiropody
  • Prosthetics and orthotics
  • Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic)
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Most dental hygiene or dental therapy courses.

Student finance for other healthcare courses

If you’re studying one of the courses in the dropdown above, you can apply for student finance (ie a tuition-fee loan, plus maintenance loan) just as you would if you were studying any other undergraduate course.

On top of this, you can also get extra support via the NHS Learning Support Fund.

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What is the NHS Learning Support Fund?

If you’re eligible for both a tuition-fee and maintenance loan, you can apply for extra help via the NHS Learning Support Fund (you don’t necessarily have to havethese loans,you just have to be eligible).

There are fourfunds you can apply for:

Training grant

The training grant is a non-means-tested grant of £5,000 for each academic year for all eligible students.

On top of this,you can get an extra £1,000 per academic year if you're studying:

  • Mental health nursing
  • Learning disability nursing
  • Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic)
  • Prosthetics and orthotics
  • Orthoptics
  • Podiatry

Parental support (previously known as child dependants allowance)

An annual £2,000 grant for students with a child under 15 years old (or under 17 if they have a disability). This doesn’t affect your entitlement to the childcare allowance. You can apply from the first month of the academic yearuntil nine months later.

Travel and dual accommodation expenses

You can be reimbursed for travel expenses to clinical placements that cost more than the normal expense of getting to university (including toll roads and parking if you drive).

This only covers the cheapest possibleoptions (no first-class tickets!) and may also cover accommodation where appropriate –although there will be a daily limit for this. Claims must be approved by your university, so remember to keep your receipts.

Exceptional support fund

Up to £3,000 is available for students facing severe financial struggles and hardship at any point during their course. This is subject to eligibility and is means-tested, so you need to provideproof of your income and spending (ie bank statements).

The purpose of it is to assist those unable to make ends meet despite careful and responsible budgeting, having tried all other sources of income or financial support from their university.

You can apply for these on the LSF Application System.

Extra financial support for all healthcare students

There areextra grants and allowances available to all students (not just those studying medicine and dentistry) that depend on personal circumstances.

These don’t have to be repaid.

Dependants allowance

If you’re financially responsible for someone (ie a child, or an adult with disabilities), you could apply for the dependants allowance, which is means-tested. Those responsible for children may also be eligible for a (non-means-tested) parents’ learning allowance.

Childcare allowance

This can help tocover the costs of (registered or approved) childcare. Up to 85% of the cost may be covered, up to a certain limit.

Disabled students’ allowance

This can help cover any extra costs incurred due tolong-term illness, a mental health condition, learning difficulty or other form of disability. Examples of costs that can be covered include specialist equipment or travel costs related to your disability. This is assessed based on your needs, so be prepared to provide evidence.

Funding from other sources

It’s always worth checking with your university for any extra funding on offer.

These could be bursaries or scholarships you can apply for ahead ofyour course, or hardship funds if you face money troubles in the middle of your course.

What’s available and the eligibility criteria you need to meet will vary from institution to institution, so check directly with them for more information.

Associations or organisations tied to your specific subject may be able to point you in the right direction for additional financial support, such as the Royal College of Nursing for nursing and midwifery students, the British Dental Association for dentistry students and so on.

Get started by doing an online search ofyour subject, plus ‘organisation’ or ‘members’ to see what organisations areout there.

Before diving into the world of extra funding, check out our complete guide to student finance and tuition feesto see what you're automatically entitled to.

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