NHS bursary guide 2021
NHS bursaries aren't the easiest forms of student funding to get your head around, but there's no need to stress – this guide has all the information you need.
If your degree sets you up for a healthcare career with the NHS, you may well be eligible for extra funding in the form of NHS bursaries, which will make a big difference to your money management at uni.
The best part? Student bursaries don't need to be repaid.
To make the process easier, we've gone through the key info about the NHS Bursary, the NHS Learning Support Fund and Social Work Bursaries, along with extra guidance about the available funding in different parts of the UK. Here's everything you need to know...
What's in this guide?
The NHS Bursary is arguably the most generous form of NHS funding for students in the UK.
Unfortunately, it's not as widely available as it used to be, but if you're eligible, you could be entitled to a fair amount of financial support at uni.
Before we go into more detail, it's worth clarifying that we'll sometimes refer to the 'NHS Bursary' in this guide, and 'NHS bursaries' at other times. Here's a quick rundown of what we mean:
- 'NHS Bursary' – This refers to a specific bursary scheme that's offered by the NHS.
- 'NHS bursaries' – This refers generally to bursaries that are offered by the NHS (as they have a few funding schemes for students).
What is the NHS Bursary?
There are a few bursaries and funding options available to students studying courses related to health and social care in the UK. But, when you hear references to the 'NHS Bursary', this often refers to funding that's available to medical and dental students in England.
As a full-time student, there are five forms of funding that you can receive with the NHS Bursary:
- A means-tested bursary (this will be calculated based on household income)
- A non-means-tested grant of £1,000 (this won't be affected by household income)
- Contribution to tuition fees
- Reduced Maintenance Loan from Student Finance
- Extra funding depending on your personal circumstances.
Eligibility criteria for the NHS Bursary
While additional criteria apply (see below), here is a quick overview of which students are eligible for the NHS Bursary in England in 2021/22:
- Medical and dental students in the later stages of their courses
- Continuing students who started a non-medical healthcare course before 1st August 2017 and are still eligible for an NHS Bursary.
Which years of a medical or dental course are eligible for the NHS Bursary?
|Type of course||Course year 1||Course year 2||Course year 3||Course year 4||Course year 5||Course year 6|
|5+ year undergraduate pre-registration course*||Not eligible||Not eligible||Not eligible||Not eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
|4 year accelerated pre-registration course**||Not eligible||Eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
|3 year accelerated pre-registration course**||Not eligible||Eligible||Eligible|
* Includes any integral foundation or intercalating years at bachelor's or master's level.
** For graduates with relevant prior learning.
The above table outlines what would qualify as being in the 'later stages' of your medical or dental course, according to the eligibility criteria for the NHS Bursary.
If you're studying an undergraduate medical or dental course as a second degree, you'd still be eligible to apply for the NHS Bursary from the fifth year of your course, as long as you meet the residency conditions (below).
For students who start an undergraduate medical or dental course as a second degree and join in a later study year (e.g. the second year of the course instead of first as your last degree gave you an advanced start), you'd still be able to apply for the NHS Bursary from the fifth official course year.
Residency criteria for the NHS Bursary
You would meet the residency and nationality criteria for the NHS Bursary if:
- You are ordinarily resident in England
- You've lived in the UK for at least three years before the first academic day of the course
- You're studying in the UK
- You're a UK resident or have settled status (so there's no limit as to how long you can stay in the country).
If you're not from England, there are still a number of reasons you could be eligible for some funding during your medical or dental studies in the UK.
There are also a number of reasons you could be eligible for NHS funding while studying in the UK if you're not ordinarily resident here.
For example, if you've been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK you may be eligible for an NHS Bursary.
You can find more examples of the eligibility conditions on the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) website.
How much money could you get with the NHS Bursary in 2021/22?
If you're eligible for the funding, the NHS Bursary will be paid to you in 12 equal monthly instalments throughout the year. Bear in mind, though, that this doesn't include the Maintenance Loan part of the bursary, as this is generally paid at the beginning of each term.
We have been told by the NHSBSA that the available funding amounts should remain the same for this academic year as they were in 2020/21. If this changes, we will update the info in this guide accordingly, but you may also wish to contact the NHSBSA directly to double check how much you will receive.
Means-tested grant and non-means-tested bursary
|Type of funding||Students at university in London, living away from home||Students at university outside of London, living away from home||Students living with parents (any area)|
|Means-tested bursary (per year)||Up to £3,191||Up to £2,643||Up to £2,207|
|Non-means-tested grant (per year)||£1,000||£1,000||£1,000|
|Total bursary and grant (per year)|
The above table outlines how much you could receive from the means-tested grant and non-means-tested bursary in 2021/22.
Bear in mind that, as the means-tested bursary is based on household income, you may not receive the total amount per year.
However, all eligible students will receive the full £1,000 per year for the non-means-tested grant, regardless of household income.
Tuition fee contributions
|Course type||Amount of tuition fee contribution|
|Undergraduate course that lasts 5 or 6 years||Up to £9,250|
|Graduate entry course that lasts 3 or 4 years||Up to £3,715*|
|Final year of a course that must be completed after 15 weeks' attendance or less||Up to £4,625|
* For English students studying in Northern Ireland, the maximum amount of tuition fee contribution goes up to £3,925.
For students who are eligible for the NHS Bursary, the NHSBSA will contribute towards your tuition fees – just be sure to send your bursary application in on time to have the fees covered from the start of the year.
The tuition fee contributions will go directly to your medical or dental school.
If your fees are higher than the maximum amount the NHS will pay, you will need to cover the remaining costs. In this case, it would be worth seeing if you could receive a Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance for the rest of the fees.
If the fees are lower than the maximum contribution amount, they will only pay the cost of the fees (so you wouldn't receive the difference).
Reduced Student Loan for living costs
As well as the NHS Bursary, you may also be able to receive additional funding in the form of a reduced Maintenance Loan.
Although the amount of money you'd receive with the reduced Student Loan would be less than the standard amount, bear in mind that the extra funding that you get with the NHS Bursary should mean that you're not missing out at all. Instead, there would just be a smaller proportion of funding that needs to be repaid.
Contact Student Finance to find out what funding may be available to you. And remember that, unlike the NHS Bursary, you would need to repay the reduced Student Loan.
Additional funding for NHS Bursary students in 2021/22
Students who are eligible for the NHS Bursary may also be able to receive some additional forms of funding available from the NHSBSA. Most will be calculated based on your household income, so there's no guarantee you'll receive the maximum figures mentioned below.
Here are some additional forms of funding you could be entitled to with the NHS Bursary:
- Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) – You could receive funding to help with extra costs at university if you have a disability, learning difficulty or health problem (physical or mental). Over £25,000 could be available to fund a helper, specialist equipment and other costs. If you've previously received DSA support from Student Finance England, apply to the NHSBSA instead in the years you're eligible for the NHS Bursary.
- NHS Bursary Hardship Grant – Medical and dental students in financial hardship can apply for a grant of between £100 – £3,000. This grant is awarded at the discretion of the NHSBSA.
- Dependants' Allowance – If there are people who are mainly or wholly financially dependent on you while you're studying, you could receive up to £2,448 per year if your spouse*, civil partner*, partner* or first child is dependent on you. You could also receive up to £549 for each child, after your first.
- Parents Learning Allowance (PLA) – You could get up to £1,204 per academic year if you have dependent children. If your Dependants' Allowance includes a dependent child, you'll be automatically assessed for PLA.
- Childcare Allowance – If your dependent child is under 15 on the first day of the academic year, or they are under 17 and are registered with special educational needs, you could receive funding for up to 85% of your childcare costs, capped at £128.78 per week for one child or £191.45 per week for two or more children.
- Extra Weeks Allowance – For courses that run for more than 30 weeks and three days within the academic year (excluding holidays), you could receive Extra Weeks Allowance of £108 per extra week if you study in London away from home, £84 per extra week if you study outside London away from home, or £56 per extra week if you live with your parents.
- Practice placement expenses (PPE) – You can claim travel costs for practice placements in hospitals or community health centres that aren't at your university, as well as travel costs for placements when it costs you more to get there than it would to get to your university.
* If your spouse, civil partner or partner is also a full-time student and gets loans or grants related to your children, you'd get 50% Dependants' Allowance for each child.
How to apply for the NHS Bursary
Applying for the NHS Bursary with NHSBSA is pretty straightforward. Each year that you're eligible, you'll need to complete an application on the Bursary Online Support System (BOSS).
It should take about 30–45 minutes to complete the application form, and you can save it and return to it later if you're not able to fill it all in at once.
You can find out more and log in to BOSS here.
When to apply for the NHS Bursary
To receive funding from the beginning of the academic year in 2021/22, you should have applied for the NHS Bursary by 31st May 2021.
If you're still yet to apply for the NHS Bursary for 2021/22, you can apply within nine months from the first date of your academic year, but you might not receive funding from the beginning of your course if you miss the 31st May deadline.
Here are some examples of when you would need to apply for funding by at the latest, depending on your course's start date:
|When your course starts||Application deadline|
|1st January 2021||1st October 2021|
|1st April 2021||1st January 2022|
|1st July 2021||1st April 2022|
|1st September 2021||1st June 2022|
NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF)
For students studying nursing, midwifery and allied health professional (AHP) courses, you may not be eligible for the NHS Bursary. But there is another form of NHS funding you could receive: the NHS Learning Support Fund.
Eligibility criteria for the NHS Learning Support Fund
These are the courses that qualify for the NHS Learning Support Fund:
- Dental therapy/dental hygiene*
- Nursing (includes adult, child, mental health, learning disability and joint nursing/social work)
- Occupational therapy
- Operating department practitioner*
- Orthotics and prosthetics
- Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic)
- Speech and language therapy.
* Level 5 and 6 courses.
** Bachelor's and master's students are eligible, DipHE and FD students are not.
Additional eligibility criteria for the NHS Learning Support Fund
As well as needing to study one of the above courses, you must also meet the following criteria to receive the NHS Learning Support Fund:
- You'll need to be at a university in England.
- You must be eligible for the Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan from the relevant Student Finance body in the part of the UK you're from (i.e. Student Finance England, Student Finance NI, Student Awards Agency for Scotland or Student Finance Wales).
- You will need to be actively in study, either as a new or returning student (academically and/or in practice learning).
How much money could you get with the NHS Learning Support Fund in 2021/22?
Here's how much funding you could receive with the NHS Learning Support Fund:
- Training Grant – All eligible full-time students can get £5,000 per academic year
- Exceptional Support Fund – Students who are experiencing financial hardship may be able to receive additional funding of up to £3,000 per academic year
- Parental Support – Students with at least one dependent child aged under 15, or a child under 17 who is registered with special educational needs, can get £2,000
- Specialist subject payments – New students who are doing a specialist subject* could receive £1,000 per year
- Regional payments – In certain regions that have difficulty recruiting, new students could get £1,000 per year
- Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses (TDAE) – Excess costs on practice placement for travel and temporary compensation can be reimbursed.
* This applies to new students who have started since 1st September 2020 who are studying mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic), prosthetics and orthotics, orthoptics and podiatry.
The NHS Learning Support Fund is paid in three instalments throughout the year.
If you're studying part-time, you may be able eligible to receive some funding from the NHS Learning Support Fund on a pro-rata basis. See information from the NHSBSA for more details.
How to apply for the NHS Learning Support Fund
In most cases, you'll need to apply on the NHSBSA system, or else your application will be rejected – but we'll explain an exception to this shortly.
When to apply for the NHS Learning Support Fund
For the 2021/22 academic year, applications for new students opened on 1st June 2021. If you're a continuing student, you should have been receiving weekly invites to apply for 2021/22 funding since 29th March 2021.
It's best to send in your application as soon as you can to increase your chances of receiving funding from the beginning of term.
If you're extending your course as a final year student
If you were a final year student in 2019/20 and you needed to extend your course, you must not apply using the online system. For students who needed to extend their course due to COVID-19, the NHSBSA has some advice on how to approach applications for the Learning Support Fund here.
At the time of writing, there isn't clear guidance for students who needed an extension for the 2020/21 academic year, but the NHSBSA say o their website that more info will be available soon.
Social Work Bursaries (SWB)
For social work students, there's specific funding that helps with study and living costs, and it doesn't need to be paid back.
There is a cap on how many people can receive the Social Work Bursaries each year. Universities are allocated a certain number of bursary places to nominate students for, and it's up to the unis rather than the NHSBSA to decide which students will receive the funding.
Even if you aren't nominated by your uni for the SWB, you might still be able to receive a Placement Travel Allowance if you meet the eligibility criteria (more on this below). Apply as soon as you can to increase your chances of receiving funding.
Eligibility criteria for Social Work Bursaries
To be eligible for the SWB, you will need to be studying (or intending to study) on a social work course that's university-based. The course must be approved by one of these organisations:
- Social Work England (SWE)
- Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
- Social Care Wales
- Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC).
If a social care employer is giving you any of the following, you will not be eligible for the SWB:
- Paid time off to let you attend your studies
- Payment of your tuition fees (either in part or in full)
- Payment for undertaking placement duties for a practice learning provider.
You will also not be eligible if:
- You receive funds through the Department for Education (DfE), except as Student Loans
- You get any other form of support for your social work training*
- You have funding from a public body, government benefit agency, or you receive bursaries from your university.
* To be eligible for SWB, you may receive a retainer from an employer/potential employer if it's an incentive to work with them once you've qualified as a social worker. It can't be offered as support towards your training, and it can't be funded by the DfE.
Residency criteria for the Social Work Bursaries
The NHS Social Work Bursaries are available to students who normally live in England (i.e. who haven't just moved there for uni).
But, there are additional criteria that you could meet to be eligible, such as if you've acquired the right of permanent residence or you've been granted refugee status in the UK. You can see the full residency criteria here.
How much money can you get with Social Work Bursaries?
There are different amounts of funding available to undergraduate and postgraduate social work students, but everyone who gets the Social Work Bursaries will receive them in instalments at the beginning of each term.
The NHSBSA have told us that the funding amounts should remain the same for 2021/22 as they were in 2020/21. If this changes, we'll update this guide accordingly. But to confirm how much you'll get, contact the NHSBSA directly.
Undergraduate social work students
|Where your university is located||Amount|
|Outside of London||£4,862.50|
The above table shows how much you can receive with SWBs if you've been allocated a capped place by your uni. As an undergraduate student, you won't be able to apply for any other parts of the bursary.
It's worth noting that the figures in the table include the Placement Travel Allowance (PTA).
The PTA is a fixed amount of £862.50 per academic year. And, as we mentioned earlier, you could apply for this form of funding, even if you are not allocated a place for the Social Work Bursaries by your uni.
Postgraduate social work students
|Where your university is located||Non-income assessed bursary||Income assessed bursary||Tuition fee contribution|
|London||£3,762.50||Up to £4,201||Up to £4,052|
|Outside of London||£3,362.50||Up to £2,721||Up to £4,052|
If you've been allocated a bursary place, you can expect to receive the above funding amounts for each part of SWB.
The means-tested bursary is based on household income, so you may not receive the full amount. It would also be less if you're a part-time student, as you'd receive it on a pro-rata basis.
Also, if your university charges above the maximum amount of tuition fee contribution, you will need to pay the remaining amount.
Here are the additional forms of funding available to postgraduate students through the Social Work Bursaries:
- Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) – Eligible students who have been nominated for a capped place can apply for DSA through NHSBSA. This can be for funding of up to £5,212 for specialist equipment, up to £20,725 for a non-medical helper, and up to £1,741 for a general allowance.
- Adult Dependants Allowance (ADA) – If there's an adult who's wholly dependent on you (e.g. a partner, civil partner or spouse), you could receive means-tested funding of up to £2,757.
- Parents' Learning Allowance (PLA) – Students with one or more dependent children under the age of 19 could receive up to £1,573 per academic year.
- Childcare Allowance – If you have any dependent children aged under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs, and they're attending registered childcare, you could receive funding for up to 85% of the childcare costs, capped at £155.25 per week for one child or £266.15 per week for two or more children.
How to apply for Social Work Bursaries
Applications for the SWB are made through the MyFunding system – if you haven't already, set up an account to get started.
You will need to reapply for the bursary again each academic year.
When to apply for SWB
You should send in your application for the Social Work Bursaries as soon as you can.
If you're a new or continuing student in September or October 2021, you would have needed to send in your application by 31st May 2021 to guarantee you'd receive the payment for the start of term.
Funding for students in Northern Ireland
If you normally live in Northern Ireland (i.e. you're from there and haven't just moved for uni) and you're studying a healthcare course, you can receive some additional forms of funding during your degree.
But, rather than applying for the funding through the NHS, you'd apply for it through Student Finance Northern Ireland and it would be provided by the Department of Health (DoH).
Here are some examples of the funding you could receive, depending on your course.
Medicine and dentistry
If you're a pre-registration student on a medical or dental course in the UK and you're from Northern Ireland, you could receive a means-tested bursary from the fourth year of your course onwards (depending on whether you follow a one-year intercalated degree).
During the eligible years of your course, you can get:
- Tuition fees paid in full
- A means-tested bursary for living costs
- A reduced rate, non-means-tested loan for living costs.
Nursing and midwifery
Students on pre-registration nursing and midwifery courses who are from and studying in Northern Ireland can get:
- Tuition fees paid in full
- A non-means-tested bursary for living costs.
But, please note that you won't be eligible for a Maintenance Loan alongside this bursary.
Allied health professional (AHP) courses
Northern Irish students who are doing an AHP course in Northern Ireland could be eligible for the following:
- Tuition fees paid in full
- A means-tested bursary for living costs
- A reduced rate, non-means-tested loan for living costs.
Here are examples of eligible AHP courses:
- Diagnostic radiography and imaging
- Occupational therapy
- Radiotherapy and oncology
- Speech and language therapy
- Paramedic science.
Social work students who are from and studying in this part of the UK could get a bursary from the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) at the DoH. This funding is available alongside the standard Student Finance package for students from Northern Ireland.
Funding for students in Scotland
The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) covers the tuition fees for undergraduate Scottish students, regardless of their subject. There are, however, some additional forms of funding for students on certain healthcare courses.
Medicine and dentistry
If you're ordinarily resident in Scotland and qualify as a Scottish home student, you can have your tuition fees covered in full by SAAS for standard five-year degrees in medicine and dentistry (as long as it's your first degree).
On top of this, you can apply for loans and bursaries from SAAS to help with living costs.
Funding for medical students at the University of St Andrews
Medicine degrees are structured slightly differently at St Andrews compared to other unis in Scotland, so the funding is different as well.
The BSc Honours degree at St Andrews lets students graduate after three years, before going on to one of the university's partner medical schools to complete their doctor training and get an MBChB/MBBS degree.
During the three-year medicine course at St Andrews, SAAS will cover your tuition fees.
In year four of your studies, SAAS may cover your fees if you study at a Scottish medical school. But, if you study at a medical school in a different part of the UK for the year, you would need to apply for a Tuition Fee Loan of up to £9,250 (that you'd have to pay back).
Then, in years five and six, you can again apply to SAAS for payment of your fees in full.
NHS Dental Bursary Scheme in Scotland
Dental students at some universities in Scotland can apply for a bursary of up to £4,000 per year.
The Dental Student Support Grant (DSSG) is available to some undergraduate dental students at the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow. You could be eligible if your annual household income is below £34,000.
It's usually offered on the condition that students agree to work in NHS dentistry in Scotland after graduating – if you've already started receiving the grant and have made the commitment to work as a dentist in Scotland, you need to keep to this agreement.
However, for the 2021/22 year only, you don't need to make the work commitment in order to receive the DSSG. So if you decide not to work in NHS dentistry in Scotland after uni, you wouldn't need to repay the grant from the year.
Also, if you're a dental student in Scotland and you've needed to repeat a year in 2021/22 due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can apply for an enhanced bursary. This could be up to £6,250 if you're an independent student, or up to £5,750 if you're a young student (see the definitions of a young and independent student here).
Like the DSSG, the enhanced bursary is available to students on Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) courses at the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow.
Paramedic, nursing and midwifery
In Scotland, eligible students can apply for a Paramedic, Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary (NMSB) through SAAS.
The bursary is not based on household income. Here's how much money you could expect to receive each academic year:
- Years 1, 2 and 3 of the course – £10,000
- Year 4 of the course – £7,500.
You may also be entitled to additional forms of funding, depending on your circumstances. For example, there is extra support available to paramedic, nursing and midwifery students in Scotland who have a financially-dependent partner, children or a disability or learning difficulty.
Plus, you can claim expenses for some extra travel and accommodation costs during clinical placements.
Allied health professional (AHP) courses
Students on allied health professional (AHP) courses who are from Scotland will receive the usual funding options from SAAS to help with the costs of the course.
Students on undergraduate social work courses who are from Scotland will receive the usual funding options from SAAS to help with the costs of the course.
But if you're a postgraduate social work student, you may be able to receive a bursary from the Scottish Social Services Council. Funding from them is reviewed annually, but at the time of writing it includes tuition fees and a maintenance grant (more details here).
Funding for students in Wales
Some students from Wales who are studying medicine or dentistry are eligible for NHS funding, through the Student Awards Service.
Medicine and dentistry
If you're a medical or dental student who is ordinarily resident in Wales, you could be eligible for an NHS Wales Bursary.
Unlike the NHS Wales Bursary for nursing, midwifery and AHP courses (which we'll explain shortly), you do not need to commit to working in Wales after graduating to receive the funding.
This bursary is very similar to the one that's available to medical and dental students from England (see here). Generally, you will need to be on an undergraduate medical or dental degree, and be in at least your fifth year of study to be eligible for the NHS Wales funding.
But, for specific details on getting the NHS Bursary as a Welsh student, as well as info on how to apply, have a look at the NHS Wales website.
Nursing, midwifery and allied health professional (AHP) courses
There's an NHS Funding Package available to students studying nursing, midwifery or certain AHP courses.
To be eligible for this NHS Bursary, you could be from anywhere in the UK, but you must commit to working for NHS Wales for at least two years after graduating if you're on a course that lasts three years or more.
For students on two-year courses, you'd need to commit to working for NHS Wales for 18 months after graduating.
If you stop working for the NHS early, they would calculate how much you'd need to repay based on how long you had worked for them.
The NHS Wales Bursary includes:
- Tuition fees paid in full
- A non-means-tested grant of £1,000
- A means-tested bursary (up to £2,643 if you live away from home, or up to £2,207 if you live with parents)
- A reduced Maintenance Loan (up to £4,675 if you live away from home, or up to £3,895 if you live with parents)
- Additional allowances depending on personal circumstances, such as funding to help students with disabilities and extra support for students with financially dependent adults and children.
There are a limited number of social work bursaries available for students in Wales. To qualify, you must live in Wales, study at an approved undergraduate or master's social work course in Wales and not be receiving any other financial support from an employer for the training.
Similarly to the NHS Social Work Bursaries in England, you would need to be nominated by your university to apply for a bursary from Social Care Wales.
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