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…

Bursaries grants and scholarshipsCredit: MTSOfan – Flickr

If 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?

find grants bursaries scholarships sponsorship

Forget 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 first-served 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 Kim Kardashian, 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. Just go by whether they suit your circumstances, not 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 in a bit of trouble. It's worth knowing about (just in case), but it's not money you can (or should) plan for.

Student Finance

Student finance funding

Here's what's up for grabs in official undergraduate funding. You can 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 the details for yourself.

At the bare minimum you should expect funding to have some kind of 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

Student university grant

Full-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 began being phased out for new starters in 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 entitles you to a slice of 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
England
(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
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 a £50 Grant – about enough for a couple of textbooks.

Special Support Grant (SSG)

If you're on housing or income 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 payout, but unlike Maintenance Grants, it won't reduce the amount of Loan you can apply for. An SSG 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)

Scotland student bursaryCredit: Patrick Franzis – Flickr

In 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 normally live in Scotland, are a full-time student studying a recognised qualification at a UK university and your household income entitles you to a slice of the funding pie.

How much money can you get?

Here's what's currently up for grabs:

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
34k+£0£0

Student Finance top-ups

These piles of cash 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

Travel grant student

You 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 and Wales you can't claim for the first £303 of your costs, while in Northern Irelandy you can't claim for the first £309. In England and NI, travel grants are means tested.

Oh, and you can forget about sipping gin and juice 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)

Disabled students' allowance DSA

If you have a disability, the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) could help you cope with the extra costs of going to uni. There's support for mental and physical health, as well as conditions 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 may not be able to apply for DSA as well. Check out the rules 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, mental health issue or learning difficulty.

You'll need to prove that 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 note is that the allowances are for study-related costs relating to your condition, and not just things that all students need – we're talking specially adapted kit, rather than your pens and pencils.

Payouts vary by country and circumstances, but here's a rough idea of what you can apply for as an undergrad.

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

Type of studentSpecialist equipment allowance (whole course)Non-medical helper allowance (per year)General allowance (per year)
England (full-time)Up to £5,358Up to £21,305Up to £1,790
England (part-time)Up to £5,358Up to £15,978Up to £1,372
Northern Ireland (full-time)Up to £5,266Up to £20,938Up to £1,759
Northern Ireland (part-time)Up to £5,266Up to £15,703Up to £1,319
Scotland (full-time)Up to £5,160Up to £20,520Up to £1,725
Scotland (part-time)Up to £5,160Pro rata*Pro rata*
WalesUp to £5,332Up to £21,181Up to £1,785

*pro rata means that the maximum amount you're entitled to will be a percentage of maximum amount available to full-time students, based on how intense your part-time course is. If your course is four years and the full-time version is two years, you'd be entitled to 50%.

You may also be able to apply for travel expenses.

Dependants' and childcare grants

Dependants allowance

If you're financially responsible for others, you may be entitled to extra help. Again, where you're from in the UK will affect what's on offer, what it's called, and your eligibility.

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 dependant – qualifies you for help.

How much money can you get for childcare?

Here's a breakdown of the childcare grants available across the UK:

CountryFunding available
England and WalesUp to 85% of costs covered, up to around £160/week for one child, or around £270 for two or more.
Northern IrelandUp to 85% of your childcare costs covered, up to around £150/week for one child, or £255 for two or more
ScotlandAmount is decided by your university or college

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 relatives 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.

How much money can you get from the Parents' Learning Allowance?

Separate to the childcare grants, full-time students with children are often eligible for the Parents' Learning Allowance.

The available amounts are as follows:

CountryFunding available (per year)
EnglandUp to £1,617
Northern IrelandUp to £1,538
Scotland (Lone Parents' Grant)Up to £1,305
WalesUp to £1,577

How much money can you get from the Adult Dependants' Grant?

If you have an adult dependant, you can receive up to the following amounts:

CountryFunding available
EnglandUp to £2,834
Northern IrelandUp to £2,695
ScotlandUp to £2,640
WalesUp to £2,732

Receiving an Adult Dependants' Grant will affect any income-related benefits or credits you receive.

Bursaries and scholarships

Applying for bursariesCredit: César Astudillo – Flickr

Think of bursaries and scholarships 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, 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. This can include:

  • 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 a few hundred pounds to several thousand! The money will usually either be paid as a one-off, or in 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 it's 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. Luckily for you we've got a full list of student bursary and scholarship sources.

Course and career funding

NHS bursaries and grants

NHS bursary grant

If 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, some may vanish in the future, and others are better cloaked than Harry and Ron heading to the restricted section of the library.

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!

Here's what we know is on offer for students starting in 2017 – watch this space for updates as we get them.

You could be eligible if:

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

What can you get?

Depending on your course, country of residence/study and other eligibility criteria, you could receive some or all of the following:

CountryTuition fee waiverReduced maintenance loanMeans-tested NHS bursaryNon-means tested grantExtra support for disabilities, dependants or travel costsAccess to Student Funding if ineligible for NHS funding
EnglandYesYesYesYesYesYes
Northern IrelandYesYesYesNoYesYes
ScotlandYesNo (loan available in full)NoNoYesYes
Wales£5,100 non-means tested grantYesYesNoYesYes

When you can apply, or which years you get funding can vary, too – for example, some 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 IrelandNorthern Ireland Direct

Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland

Social work bursaries (SWB)

Social work bursaries

For students starting social degrees, incentives are patchy, with some schemes not available in all parts of the UK, and others simply reserved for postgraduates.

Either way, any bursaries available will be 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?

In England, undegrads in Year 2 onwards can apply for a non-means tested Basic Grant, plus Placement Travel Allowances.

In Northern Ireland, you can apply to the Student Incentive Scheme for a non-means tested Incentive Grant (to go towards the costs of study, including tuition fees) for each year of your studies, plus a contribution towards the costs of completing your work placements.

In Wales, undergrads can apply for a non-income assessed bursary of up to £2,500/year (3 years max), plus Practice Learning Opportunity Allowance (PLOA – basically to help with the costs of completing your placements).

How to apply

In England, funding is handled by NHS Business Services Authority.

In Northern Ireland, you'll need to go through Student Finance Northern Ireland.

In Wales, head to the Care Council for Wales.

Teaching grants and bursaries

Teaching grants and bursaries

If you're applying to study 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, unfortunately, they're much harder for undergraduates to get a piece of.

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 opportunities (and for a wider range of subjects) once you get into postgrad teaching (especially if you secure a first at undergrad level!).

Where to search for funding

England: getintoteaching.education.gov.uk

Wales: teachertrainingcymru.org

Scotland: www.saas.gov.uk

NI: www.nidirect.gov.uk

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

Hardship funds

Hardship fundsCredit: NoHoDamon – Flickr

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

What the scheme is called (e.g. Access to Learning Fund), how much is in the pot and how it's paid will vary 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 will vary, and it'll be the uni that decides who gets what. Any money you get will be 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 the form of a grant – you may be offered a loan instead. Don't be put off by that, though – if you've fudged-up your finances, support from your uni beats credit card debt hands-down.

How to apply

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

Otherwise, go to 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 when you need it.
  2. If you don't get in early, don't assume you've missed the boat – you can apply for Student Finance up to nine months after your course starts. Check out the deadlines here.
  3. Check, check and triple 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 whatever 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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