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Student Finance

Student bursary and scholarship sources

Get the lowdown on applications, plus a handy list of resources and organisations that offer students financial support.

pound coin stack next to woman on laptop

Credit: Ubermensch Matt (left), Flamingo Images (right) - Shutterstock

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 are millions of pounds of free funding that you may be entitled to (although, unfortunately, it's not all for you).

It's not always that easy to access the funding. For one thing, bursary and scholarship cash comes with eligibility criteria. 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!

Our guide to bursaries, scholarships and grants has a list of the major funds. It's worth checking if you're eligible for one of them before spending your time finding others.

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:

  1. The Scholarship Hub

    The Scholarship Hub logo

    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.

    It's a great place to find scholarships for UK students.

    Visit »


  2. Turn2us

    turn2us logo

    This is a good place to start if you're interested in the charity route. But 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).

    Visit »


  3. British Council

    British council

    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.

    Visit »


  4. Student Health Association

    student health association funding

    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.

    Visit »


  5. The Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS)

    tass talented athlete scholarship scheme

    Are you talented? Are you an athlete? This one's for you. If you're a pro athlete you could receive support and services from the TASS.

    Visit »


  6. Crowd Scholar

    Crowd Scholar logo

    Crowd Scholar awards scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them attend university.

    There aren't too many awards on offer. However, if you meet the criteria, it's well worth applying.

    Visit »


What are bursaries and scholarships?

Bursaries, scholarships and grants 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 an academic or sporting achievement).

It can be tricky to figure out who gets what. There are schemes for school students, mature students, postgrad, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, 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, this guide covers the basic facts and funders.

Don't let the elite reputations of top unis put you off. Check out our interview with Ibz Mo, the YouTuber who smashed boundaries at Cambridge.

Which bursaries and scholarships are you eligible for?

10 pound notes

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.

Bottom line? If you want to find extra funding for students, search creatively.

Common sources of bursaries and scholarships

We've outlined some of the main sources above, but before you start hammering Google for scholarship 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)? Speak with your funding officer about what else is available.

Now's also the time to search for 'bursary' on your regional government direct (e.g. NI Direct) or Student Finance portal.

Also, spend some time perusing your university's website. They should list what's on offer, along with eligibility and deadline info. You could also 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.

Finally, if you're returning to study, don't dismiss the idea of asking your employer or Jobcentre about back-to-school incentives.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 a fund if you don't meet the eligibility criteria. Find out when you'll get the money, and plan out how to save it or use it.

You should also check what happens 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.

Some external funders (e.g. charities and corporations) may want you to write a personal statement or budget plan. If it's a scholarship, you may need to attend an interview or make a presentation.

Check out our guide on everything you need to know about Student Finance. You may find you're eligible for extra funding from the government that you weren't aware of.

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. For example, you might be able to apply for hardship funding.

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.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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