Student grants, bursaries and scholarships

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By in Student Finance. Updated July 2015.

£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…MonopolymoneyWith three quarters of UK universities charging top whack in tuition fees there’s more financial support than ever before – much of which doesn’t ever need to be repaid. Sadly, lots of students just don’t know help is available.

As with all sorts of funding, it can be tricky sorting the good from the barely legible. We’ve put this guide together to get you up to speed.

You never know, you might be entitled to a student grant that you didn’t know about…

What is a grant?

Grants and bursariesGetting your head around grants and bursaries can be trickier than keeping clothes on Miley Cyrus. The simplest way to put it is that grants are offered by student finance or a finance institution to as many people who can reach the criteria. A bursary or scholarship is offered by universities, colleges and charities to only a select number of students who meet the criteria.

To find out how to get bursary and scholarship funding, check out our article on Student bursary and scholarship sources.

This review covers the student grants situation in England, with more info in our Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales funding guides. Some of the grants we’ve compared below may be limited to full-time UK students studying their first degree. If that’s not you, follow the links to get the goss direct from the funding bodies.

Maintenance Grant

Student Finance EnglandThe Maintenance Grant is one of the most common sources of student funding whilst at university, and is offered to full-time students to help them to subsidise their living costs. Crucially, unlike the Maintenance Loan, this grant doesn’t have to be paid back.

You could be eligible if:

  • Your household income is below £42,620 for the year
  • You’ve been a UK citizen for the past 3 years
  • Your course leads to a recognised qualification (check with your university or college).

How much money can you get?

If you’re entitled to the Maintenance Grant, you’ll get a smaller slice of the Maintenance Loan pie: 50p less in loans for every £1 of grant money you get.

Here’s how the sums pan out between loans, grants and household income (we’ve crunched our numbers based on living away from home and outside London).

Household IncomeMaintenance LoanMaintenance GrantFull Amount
< £25,000£4,047£3,387£7,434
< £42,620£5,519£50£5,569

How to apply

Simply choose to be income assessed when you apply for student finance here.

Special Support Grant

moneyhandsYou may be eligible for the Special Support Grant (instead of a Maintenance Grant) if you’re on income or housing support. Again, you’ll need to be studying full time to qualify but, unlike the Maintenance Grant, you can still claim the whole amount of Maintenance Loan.

You could be eligible if:

  • You’re a UK student
  • 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 pays out, but anything you get won’t reduce the amount of loan you’re entitled to, and doesn’t count as income (so won’t affect any benefits you’re entitled to).

How to apply

Apply at the same time as applying for student finance here.

Travel grant


If your course has a study abroad option or is a medical degree that requires a lot of extra travel, you could get a travel grant. Travel grants are quite selective but they’re there to help those who need it. Every little counts!

You could be eligible if:

  • You travel to a hospital as part of a medical or similar course (unless you already get an NHS bursary)
  • You travel abroad to study for at least 50% of the term
  • You’re in full-time university education
  • Your permanent home address is in England
  • You receive income-based support

How much money can you get?

Travel costs minus around £300. You could claim for return trips between home and your overseas uni, for help with medical insurance and visas, and even for your children’s travel costs if you’re a single parent.

You must use the cheapest form of transport in every situation, which means taking the bus as opposed to a taxi or chauffeur-driven limousine.

How to apply

Apply using your student finance account here. If you’re eligible, you’ll automatically receive a grant application form. Don’t forget to keep receipts for anything you want to claim.

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)

Disabled Student GrantsIf you have a disability then you may be eligible for extra funding whilst studying at university. There are a large number of disabilities covered, including physical health, mental health and learning difficulties (such as dyslexia). DSA isn’t affected by household income, and can help you pay for specialist kit, non-medical helpers and extra travel or study costs you have to meet because of a disability.

You may need to provide a doctor’s letter, or attend an assessment to work out exactly what kind of support you can get (heads-up: your uni may have funds to cover this, so do check with them).

You could be eligible if:

  • You’re studying for a full time undergraduate or postgraduate course (including distance learning)
  • You have a condition that affects your ability to attend uni or undertake your studies.

How much money can you get?

How much you can get depends on a number of things, but the undergrad ball-park figures are: up to £5,212 for specialist equipment, up to £20,725 for a non-medical helper and up to £1,741 general allowance. You may be entitled to travel allowances, too.

How to apply

Allowances vary by need: check with student finance and take a look here.

NHS bursary, grant and funding

Medical BursariesStudying social work, medicine, dentistry or healthcare (including nursing)? You could be eligible for an NHS bursary. Read on.

You could be eligible if:

  • You’re studying towards a degree in social work, medicine, dentistry, or healthcare like nursing.

How much money can you get?

£1,000 NHS grant, £3,263 Maintenance Loan from student finance and £4,395 NHS bursary (means tested, with more dough for those studying in London).

The size of the bursary depends on factors like where you live, where you study, whether you live with your parents, how many hours you study a week, and your household income.

How to apply

You can apply for an NHS student bursary and find more information here.

Teaching grants and finance

Trainee Teachers FundingIf you’re considering becoming a teacher then you can apply for the same grants, bursaries and funding as everyone else. However, there may be extra funding, including subject-specific bursaries, if you follow particular study routes.

You could be eligible if:

  • You’re on a full-time or part-time initial teacher training degree course such as a BEd, BSc or BA
  • You’re studying for a full-time or part-time PGCE.

How much money can you get?

There are a number of regularly updated schemes which offer extra bursaries, funding and even ‘golden handshakes’ to students getting into teaching.

How to apply

For more information on applying and for more information see here.

Access to Learning fund

moneyIf you run into money and finance troubles while at university then there’s an Access to Learning fund that you can apply for through all universities and colleges in England.

The fund is there to help students who get into financial difficulty and need money to help them carry on their studies to the end.

For new students starting 2015, the ALF is changing slightly and funding programmes may differ across universities. Contact yours for the latest.

You could be eligible if:

  • You are a full-time undergraduate or postgraduate
  • You can prove that you have managed your finances responsibly

How much can you get?

Payouts vary by individual need – who gets what is decided by each university. The money is there to cover costs not covered by other forms of funding, and you may need to show them your budget (… you’ve made one, right?), student finance forms and possibly even bank statements.

Hardship funds (as they’re also known) don’t just come in grant flavours: you may be offered a loan. Don’t be put off, though: if you’ve fudged-up your finances uni support is the best place to start.

How to apply

You’ll need to apply through your university’s student services office. If you want this type of funding then be prepared for the student support team to scrutinise your bank statements and spending.

Bursaries, scholarships and awards

Oxford uni emailBursaries, scholarships and other awards are doled out by universities, colleges, local charities and educational trusts. Cash you get through these types of awards are on top of student finance and loans – they don’t need to be paid back. Get the bigger picture in our dedicated guide to Student bursaries and scholarship sources.

You could be eligible if:

  • You fit the criteria for a particular bursary or scholarship.

How much can you get?

There are loads of bursaries and scholarships out there, each with its own funds (and hoops to jump through to grab the goodies) – you’ll need to check individual schemes to see what you could get.

How to apply

There are a wide number of charities and universities that offer niche bursaries or scholarships that may be right for you. Get a head start with our article on Student bursaries and scholarship sources.

Leave a comment

111 Responses to “Student grants, bursaries and scholarships”

  1. Charlotte Dewhurst

    19. Nov, 2015

    Hi I have already started uni but have been recently told that I may be eligible for a bursary. Is it too late? How do I apply for one?
    Please reply

    • Jake Butler

      19. Nov, 2015

      I believe it may be too late to apply to most bursaries but it’s worth asking whoever is providing the finance.

  2. Claire Ashworth

    11. Nov, 2015

    I have started uni this academic year and have already received by first maintenance payment. When filling in student finance based on last year my dad was a teacher and the main breadwinner. He has now retired and my mother is on minimum wage. I am wondering if there is a possibility I can be entitled to more money. Please reply.

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