Student Finance

Student grants, bursaries and scholarships

£1000s of funding is missed out on each year by students who don’t even know that they’re eligible for it. Find out if you could be due any support…
MonopolymoneyIf your only plan for paying for uni involves a Student Loan and an impending sense of doom, you're missing out!

There's a treasure trove of free money lodged in grants, scholarships and bursaries, but many students don't know about 'em, don't think they're eligible, or just don't bother applying.

Don't let that be you! Here's your starter for finding the funds you get to keep.

Most of the schemes on this page are for undergrad students. See our guide to postgraduate funding for more ways to pay!

What's on offer?

Toy frog lazing on sofaForget hunting down the back of the sofa – when it comes to funding that doesn't need to be paid back, these are the goodies to try first.

  • Grants: available to anyone who satisfies the criteria, such as the means-tested Maintenance Grant (Bursary in Scotland). Some charities, councils and businesses also stump up funds, with delightfully specific criteria – skint vegetarian's award, anyone?
  • Bursaries: cash with narrower criteria – e.g., for students from lower income backgrounds, care leavers, or specific courses – or earmarked for specific spending, such as childcare. Bursaries are sometimes awarded on a first-come basis, so you'll need to get in before the pot's empty.
  • Scholarships: funds aimed at attracting (or supporting) high achievers. Don't think they're just about book smarts, though: your country, gender, course or even your golfing ability could all net you fee waivers or free cash.
  • Sponsorships/apprenticeships: lucrative but harder to find, degrees sponsored by a company can net you a salary and pay your fees. The trade-off is that it takes longer to get a degree (as you'll be working at the same time).

Getting your head around grants and bursaries can be trickier than keeping clothes on Miley Cyrus but don't get too hung up on the names for now.

Whether they're grants, bursaries, awards or endowments, they all do similar things – go by whether they suit your circumstances, rather than what they're called!

Hardship funds are slightly different: this is emergency cash from your uni that you can only apply for once you're up a certain creek. It's worth knowing about (just in case), but it's not money you can plan for.

Student Finance

Spilt jar of penniesHere's what's up for grabs in official undergraduate funding – apply for these along with other Student Finance.

We've outlined some of the core criteria for each type of funding but, if you like the sound of what's on offer, click through and check for yourself.

As a minimum expect nationality and residence criteria (some funds are just for students already settled in the UK or, at a push, those from the EU/EEA), plus limits on how much – if any – university-level study you've already done.

Once you've nailed that lot, any cash you get is paid directly into your bank account, so it's up to you to make it last!

Maintenance Grant

Grants and bursariesFull-time students from Wales and Northern Ireland can apply for a Maintenance Grant to help with living costs and, unlike the Maintenance Loan, it doesn't have to be paid back.

While that's a win, remember any Grant you get means less Loan (you can't max-out both cash pots unless you're entitled to the Special Support Grant).

In England, Maintenance Grants are only for continuing students – it's being phased out for new starters from 2016. Take a look at our Big Fat Guide to Student Finance to see how it affects you.

You could be eligible if:

You live in the UK (or meet other residence requirements), are a full-time student studying for a recognised qualification and your household income qualifies you to a bite at the funding pie.

How much money can you get?

The higher your household income, the less Grant you'll get. Here's how it stacks up:

CountryMax. GrantHousehold income for full GrantHousehold income for partial Grant
(cont. students)
£3,482up to £25,000up to £42,641
Wales£5,161up to £18,370up to £50,020
Northern Ireland£3,475up to £19,203 up to £41,065

Worth bearing in mind: while you can get partial funding on a fairly healthy household income, it's no jackpot. On £50k in Wales, for instance, you might be looking at £50 in Grant – about enough for a couple of textbooks.

Special Support Grant (SSG)

If you're on income or housing support, are a single parent or have a disability, you may be able to swap the Maintenance Grant for a Special Support Grant.

You'll get the same pay-out but it won't reduce the amount of Loan you can apply for, and won't affect your benefits, either.

You could be eligible if:

You're a full-time student from Wales or Northern Ireland (or a continuing student from England) with special circumstances, for instance:

  • You're a single parent
  • Your partner is also at university
  • You have a disability
  • You claim or are eligible for income support or housing benefit.

How much money can you get?

The Special Support Grant matches whatever the Maintenance Grant would pay you.

Bursary (Scotland)

Highland cowIn Scotland, maintenance money that doesn't have to be paid back comes in the form of a Bursary.

How much you can get depends on your household income, as well as whether you're a 'Young Student' or 'Independent Student' – take a look at our guide to funding in Scotland if you're not sure which you are.

You could be eligible if:

You live in the UK (or meet other residence requirements), are a full-time student studying a recognised qualification and your household income qualifies you to a bite at the funding pie.

How much money can you get?

Here's what's currently in the pot:

Household incomeYoung studentsIndependent students
£0 to £18,999£1,875£875
£19,000 to £23,999£1,125£0
£24,000 to £33,999£500£0

Student Finance top-ups

These cash piles are for special circumstances such as course-related travel, health conditions or being financially responsible for others.

Apply for 'em through your Student Finance body.

Travel grants

Small dog sitting on suitcaseYou may be able to get help with travel expenses if you're studying abroad as part of your course, or have clinical placements in the UK that mean travelling a lot.

You could be eligible if:

  • You meet the UK residence rules
  • You have to travel in the UK for a clinical placement (unless you already get an NHS bursary)
  • You have to travel abroad to study as part of your course (or, if you're funded in England, are on an Erasmus scheme)
  • You're in full-time university education.

How much money can you get?

You could claim for return trips between your home and the overseas uni, help with medical insurance and visas or accommodation for UK clinical placements.

In England, Wales and NI you can't claim for the first £300 and, in England and NI, support is means tested.

Finally, forget quaffing champers in first class: you'll be expected to use the cheapest form of transport (buses, not taxis), and will need receipts or records to claim expenses.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)

Graffiti: wheelchair users kissingIf you have a disability, DSA could help you cope with the extra costs of going to uni. There's support for mental health and physical conditions, as well as unseen things such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Funding doesn't have to be repaid and isn't means tested – but if you're already getting money for the same conditions (such as financial support from your uni), you might not be able to apply for DSA as well. Check it out before you apply.

You could be eligible if:

  • You're a UK student eligible for Student Finance
  • You're a full- or part-time student on a recognised course (undergrad or postgrad)
  • You have a long-term health condition, a mental health issue or a learning difficulty.

You'll need to supply proof you're eligible by going along to an assessment or providing a doctor's letter (you may also be able to claim for the cost of that, too).

How much money can you get?

The main thing to keep in mind is that the allowances are for study-related costs affected by your condition, and not just things that all students need – we're talking specially adapted kit rather than essential Hello Kitty stationery …

Pay-outs vary by country and circumstances, but here's a rough idea what full-time undergrads can apply for (allowances for part-time students are worked out on a sliding scale).

Remember that these are maximum amounts, so you could get less:

General allowances – around £1,700/year

Non-medical helper – in the region of up to £21k/year

Specialist equipment – around £5,200 for the course

You may also be able to apply for travel expenses.

Dependants' grants

Tiny chihuahua in a tea cupIf you're financially responsible for others, you may be entitled to extra help. Again, what's on offer, what it's called, and eligibility vary around the UK.

Because these are funds for very specific circumstances, you'll need to check the terms and conditions carefully – along with whether they affect other funding or benefits you already get.

You could be eligible if:

  • You're entitled to Student Finance
  • You're financially responsible for an adult or child who lives with you
  • Your income – or that of your household or an adult dependent – qualifies you for help.

How much money can you get?

Childcare: typically up to 85% of childcare costs up to around £150/week for one child, or £260 for two or more. If you don't already have a registered child minder, the allowance is capped at around £115. In Scotland you can claim up to £1,305/year.

If you already get state benefits that pay for childcare, you may not get the Grant. You also can't claim if you get free childcare (or if you rope in your rellies to do it for you).

In Scotland you apply directly to your college or uni for funds – in the rest of the UK it's through Student Finance.

Parents' Learning Allowance (Lone Parent's Grant in Scotland): up to around £1,500/yr for students who have dependent children.

Adult Dependants' Grant: up to around £2,700/yr if you're financially responsible for another adult.

Bursaries and scholarships

Dolphin playing with hoopThink of these as cash with criteria: you may be able to grab funding to cover your fees, or a hefty chunk of your living costs, but you're going to have to jump through a few hoops to get it.

Schemes are run by universities and colleges, charities, businesses, local government and even private funders, and each one sets its own rules for who gets a look-in.

You could be eligible if:

You meet the criteria – stuff like:

  • Household income
  • Gender
  • Nationality (not just for international students – Dundee Uni offers scholarships for students from the rest of the UK, too)
  • Grades
  • Sporting or musical talent
  • The course or subject
  • Special circumstances – i.e., you've got kids or are a care leaver.

How much money can you get?

Anything from £500 to five grand or more, in one-off or yearly wads.

Some universities offer bursaries to students with less than £25k in household income – others dole it out to everyone. Either way, it's the mother of all cashback offers, so well worth investigating when you apply!

How to apply

There are loads of places to find funding. Unfortunately there's no one-stop shop, so you'll need to hit them all up individually. Lucky for you we've got a full list of student bursary and scholarship sources.

Course and career funding

NHS bursaries and grants

Dr Nick from the SimpsonsIf you're studying nursing, dentistry, medicine, or a related healthcare subject, you may be able to get extra money in the form of NHS bursaries, grants and fee waivers. What's on offer depends on the country you're studying in. So far, so simple.

Unfortunately, some of that funding is on shaky ground: some schemes have already disappeared, may vanish in future, or are better cloaked than a Hobbit on a mission. Here's what we know is on offer for students starting in 2016 – watch this space for updates as we get them.

You may be able to claim for NHS funding up to claim up to 6 months after your course starts: use it or lose it!

You could be eligible if:

  • You meet the residence and nationality rules
  • You're studying an approved healthcare course.

What can you get?

  • Tuition fee waiver, reduced-rate Student Loan plus means tested bursary: England, Wales and NI
  • If you're eligible for the bursary, a £1,000/yr non-means tested grant: England and Wales
  • Extra support if you have disabilities, dependants or travel costs: everywhere
  • Access to Student Funding if you're not eligible for NHS money: everywhere

When you can apply, or which years you get funding can vary, too – for example, medical and dental students might only get NHS funding for the last two years of their course.

How to apply

England: NHS Business Services Authority

WalesStudent Award Services

Northern IrelandStudent Finance NI

Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland

Social work bursaries (SWB)

Two children walking down a roadIncentives for students starting social degrees is patchy, with schemes not available in some parts of the UK, and reserved for postgraduates in others.

Either way, any bursaries going are capped to a limited number of students each year.

You could be eligible if:

  • You meet residency rules in the country providing the funding
  • You're on an approved course
  • Aren't already getting similar funding for social work training (not including Student Finance).

How much money can you get?

England: Undegrads in Year 2 onwards can apply for a non means tested Basic Bursary, worth around £4,800 (slightly more in London), plus Placement Travel Allowances.

Wales: a non-income assessed undergrad bursary of up to £2,500/year (3 years max), plus a placement allowance.

How to apply

In England, funding is handled by NHS Business Services Authority

In Wales, head to the Care Council for Wales.

Teaching grants and bursaries

Chalk text on blackboard: possibleIf you're applying for a teacher training degree, you get access to the same Student Finance (grants, bursaries and loans) as everyone else.

You might also be able to nibble on extra funding in the form of teaching grants and bursaries – but, being realistic, they're much harder for undergraduates to get a bite at.

You could be eligible if:

  • You're studying an initial teacher training degree course(such as a BEd, BSc or BA) or PGCE
  • You meet the subject and/or residence criteria.

How much money can you get?

It varies by country and subject demand ('golden handshake' incentives can be quite lucrative if there aren't enough teachers in a particular field).

If  you've got a hankering for Maths or Physics, there are undergrad bursaries currently on offer for students in England, but slim pickings otherwise. There are far more funding opps, and for a wider range of subjects, once you get into postgrad teaching (especially if you nail a First!)

Where to search for funding

If you're from the EU or EEA, start with the country you want to study in.

Hardship funds

Girl holding cuppaIf you find yourself struggling to get by once you start your course, there's one last option for finance to see you through: we're talking hardship funds from your uni.

What the scheme is called (eg Access to Learning Fund), how much is in the pot and how it's paid varies by institution but, as the name implies, the money's there to help seriously skint students.

You could be eligible if:

  • You're a full-time student (including postgrads)
  • You can prove you've managed your finances responsibly.

How much can you get?

Payouts vary, with who getting what decided by the uni. Any money you get is meant to cover costs not covered by other forms of funding (i.e., if you're entitled to Student Finance, you'll need to have applied for it already).

Hardship funds don't just come in grant flavours: you may be offered a loan instead. Don't be put off by that, though – if you've fudged-up your finances uni support beats piling up credit card debt.

How to apply

Look out for the fund as it will be called something like "Access to Learning Fund" in many English Unis.

Through your university's student services office. Be prepared for the student support team to scrutinise your bank statements, your spending and your budget (make one now and you'll be sorted when the time comes!).

8 golden rules for free funding

Girl giving thumbs up

  1. Apply early, especially if funding is limited. Allowing extra time to pimp the paperwork means you're more likely to get the cash in hand when you need it.
  2. If you don't get in early, don't assume you've missed the float: you can apply for Student Finance up to 9 months after your course starts. Deadlines here.
  3. Check, check and double check if handouts affect other funding or counts towards household income.
  4. Sniff out any strings involved: does it have to repaid? What happens if you leave your course early? Can you spend it on what you like?
  5. Get educated about what counts as income. It could mean not missing out on funds unnecessarily (it could save you on Loan repayments later on, too).
  6. Cash management is king: learn how to save it, stretch it and work it like a boss.
  7. Exhaust the funding options on this page before borrowing from commercial lenders. If you still need extra cash, a 0% student overdraft should be your next stop.
  8. Don't give up! Finding something you're eligible for can take serious dedication. If you're drawing a blank, don't forget there are other ways to turn a buck. Use 'em.

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