Student bursary and scholarship sources
Get the lowdown on applications, plus a handy list of resources and organisations that offer students financial support.
Whether you're calculating the costs of going to uni or figuring out just how you're going to make it through the next year, there's millions of pounds of free funding that you may be entitled to (although unfortunately, it's not all for you).
Sound too good to be true? Kind of. For one thing, bursary and scholarship cash comes with eligibility criteria. And secondly, finding out what's available, what you're entitled to and getting your hands on the cash can take time, legwork and perseverance.
That's why we've put this guide to funding sources together to get you on the right track. Let's go!
What's in this guide?
What are bursaries and scholarships?
Bursaries, scholarships and grants all help students who need financial support get through university. Unlike your loan, none of these need to be repaid.
They're all basically the same thing (i.e. a pot of money that isn't repayable), but there are some distinctions between them. Grants typically come from government money, while bursaries and scholarships tend to be funded by universities, private companies, individuals, or anyone else who feels especially generous.
Grants and bursaries also tend to be income-dependent, while scholarships are typically based on merit (like academic or sporting achievement).
Who gets what can be harder to figure out than the ending to Inception. There are schemes for school students, mature students, postgrads, students with disabilities or dependants, and funding for full-time, part-time, higher and further education courses – and they all vary across the UK.
Sadly, there's no unified system that helps students see what's available from one place. But to help get you started, we've got you covered with the basic facts and funders.
Which bursaries and scholarships are you eligible for?
All universities and colleges offer bursaries for students from low-income families. Some will even calculate your eligibility for you when you apply for your course (if you share your income details from your Student Finance application) and will automatically make an award of cash, fee discounts or equipment.
Lots of bursaries/scholarships are dependent on household income, but not all of them. You can also get funding for academic success (whether it's success in your A Levels/Highers or the uni entrance exams), subject choice or sports.
Some charities offer funds for a whole range of circumstances, although again you may find you're not eligible for most funds (they're often based on factors like location, religion and race). There are also bursaries set aside for international students and even career choices (including the NHS, teaching and social work).
Even if you don't think you'll qualify for anything, it's worth looking – there are some seriously unusual bursaries, grants and scholarships out there, and you could easily be eligible!
Common sources of bursaries and scholarships
We've outlined some of the main sources below, but before you start hammering Google for scholarships info, it's best to look close to home.
If you're still at school, talk to your careers department – they may know about any community funds you can get your hands on. Next, hit up your local authority (council) – some will have pots of money set aside to help students from the local area go to uni.
Already receive funding (for a disability, for instance)? Chat to your funding officer about what else is going.
Now's also the time to search for 'bursary' on your regional government direct (e.g. NI Direct) or Student Finance portal (be warned: the search functions on some of these sites can be less than perfect).
Also spend some time perusing your university's website (they'll list what's on offer, along with eligibility and deadline info), or get in touch with the student union's welfare office. If you're applying to a collegiate university (one made up of several colleges), ask about college cash as well as uni-wide funds.
Applying for a scholarship, bursary or grant
There are three main things to remember when it comes to how and when you should apply for extra funding at university:
- It's never too EARLY to start your search – Do it while you're researching your university and course choices, and earmark any funds with open deadlines, just in case you find yourself in financial difficulties later in the year.
- It's never too LATE to start your search – Some bursaries may not have an application deadline, or you may still be able to apply for funding for next year's studies.
- But when possible, apply early – Scholarships attract fierce competition and rarely do deadline extensions. Start applying in the autumn of the year before your course starts, if you can.
Once you've found potential funds, make sure you check all the details. There's no point in applying for the John Smith Fund if the requirements state you must be either Catholic, dyslexic or a single parent, and none of those things apply to you! Find out when you'll get the money, and plan out how you'll spend or save it.
You should also check what happens to the cash if you drop out of uni, if your household income changes, or if taking the money means you're tied to working for a specific organisation when you graduate.
Where to search for bursaries, scholarships and grants
Here are the best places to find bursaries, scholarships and grants, as well as some of the major funds:
The Scholarship Hub
The most comprehensive list of scholarships for UK students available all in one place.
The Scholarship Hub includes funds offered by universities themselves, companies, charities, trusts and other organisations as well as information on sponsored degrees and degree apprenticeships.
A good place to start if you're interested in the charity route – though be aware that not all the charities listed on Turn2us will offer grants for students (it may be for carers, those with a disability or people experiencing financial hardship).
Geared towards funding for international students looking to study in the UK, the British Council site links to lots of relevant sites and funds worth checking out.
WISE lists a whole host of bursaries, grants and scholarships for women and girls pursuing a degree or career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subject.
Again, some funds aren't available to students, so check the details first!
Student Health Association
This is a top-up fund to the Disabled Students' Allowance (which you'll need to have applied for first). You must be in full-time education to be eligible and could get up to £500.
The Savoy Educational Trust
If you're taking a hospitality or catering related degree then this could be of use to you – up to £500 to help pay towards fees or equipment, such as your uniform and tools.
The Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS)
Are you talented? Are you an athlete? Boom. This one's for you. If you're a pro athlete you could receive support and services from the TASS.
Crowd Scholar award scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them attend university.
There aren't too many awards on offer (as Crowd Scholar themselves say, "£10,000 towards one student's education makes a bigger difference than £100 to one hundred students' educations"), but if you meet the criteria, it's well worth applying.
Once you've got your extra money, don't blow it all on a trip to Vegas. And, if there's money available over more than one year, don't forget to re-apply if that's part of the deal.
If you're struggling to find funding, or still can't balance your books, don't give up. Talk to your university or its welfare officers – they've got things in place to try and make sure nobody's unfairly priced out of getting an education.
Now you know what we know, go forth and prosper. Good luck!
Bursaries, scholarships and grants are one of our favourite sources of free money.