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Student Finance

Student grants, bursaries and scholarships

£1,000s of student funding is missed out on each year by students who don’t even know that they’re eligible for it. Find out whether you could be due any extra financial support…

univeristy students graduation money

Credit: Fotoinfot (left), Ubermensch Matt (right) - Shutterstock

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 student grants, scholarships and university bursaries. But many students either don't know about them, 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.

Unless specified, most of the schemes on this page are for undergraduate students. See our guide to postgraduate funding for more ways to get paid.

Types of student funding

There are loads of options when it comes to student funding that doesn't need to be paid back. Here's each type, as well as what the differences between them are:

What are student grants?

Student grants are available to anyone at university who satisfies the criteria. This includes the Maintenance Grant, which is means-tested (meaning the amount you receive depends on your household income) and is available in Northern Ireland, Scotland (where it's known as the Bursary) and Wales.

Some charities, councils and businesses also stump up funds, often with delightfully specific criteria – as these weird student grants prove.

What are student bursaries?

A bursary is a pot of cash with comparatively narrower criteria, such as being for care leavers, students on specific courses, or those from lower-income backgrounds. Alternatively, the money could be earmarked for specific expenses, 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.

What are student scholarships?

Student scholarships are funds aimed at attracting (or supporting) high achievers. Don't go thinking that they're just about being book smart, though. Your country, gender, course or even your eSports skills could all net you fee waivers or free cash.

What are student sponsorships and 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 often takes longer to get a degree, as you'll be working at the same time.

But 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

piggy bank

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 student 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), 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 student bank account – so it's up to you to make it last.

Maintenance Grant

Full-time students from 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 student grant you get means less loan (you can't max out both cash pots unless you're entitled to the Special Support Grant).

In Wales, the Maintenance Grant is also called the Welsh Government Learning Grant. This is not the same as the Welsh Government Learning Grant (FE), which is for students in further education.

In England, Maintenance Grants are only for continuing students who started their course before August 2016. Anyone who became a student after that date is ineligible. Take a look at our Student Finance guide to see how it affects you.

Maintenance Grant eligibility criteria

If you're from Wales or Northern Ireland, you could be eligible for a Maintenance Grant if you meet all three of the following criteria:

  • You live in the UK (or meet other residency requirements)
  • You are a full-time student studying for a recognised qualification

How much money can you get?

The higher your household income, the less grant you'll get. However, for students from Wales, it won't impact how much funding you receive in total – your Maintenance Loan will increase by an equivalent amount. In fact, in Wales, the only thing that affects your overall maintenance funding is where you live while studying.

Here are the maximum Maintenance Grants available depending on your household income in 2023/24:

CountryMax. grantHousehold income for full grantHousehold income for partial grant
Northern Ireland£3,475Up to £19,203£19,204 – £41,065
Wales (living at home)£6,885Up to £18,370£18,371+
Wales (living away from home, outside London)£8,100Up to £18,370£18,371+
Wales (living at uni, in London)£10,124Up to £18,370£18,371+

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 (in Wales you don't need to swap – some students can get both).

You'll get the same payout but, unlike a Maintenance Grant, it won't reduce the amount of loan you can apply for. An SSG won't affect any benefits you claim, either.

Special Support Grant eligibility criteria

You could be eligible for the SSG if you're a full-time student from Northern Ireland or Wales (or a continuing student from England who started their course prior to 1st August 2016) with special circumstances, for instance:

  • You're a single parent
  • You're a parent and your partner is also at university
  • You have a disability
  • You claim, or are eligible for, some benefits, such as Income Support or the housing element of Universal Credit.

How much money can you get?

The Special Support Grant matches whatever the Maintenance Grant would pay you.

Bursary (Scotland)

In Scotland, maintenance money that doesn't have to be paid back comes in the form of the SAAS Bursary.

How much you can get depends on your household income, as well as whether you're a 'Young student' or an 'Independent student'. Take a look at our guide to Student Finance in Scotland if you're not sure which you are.

SAAS Bursary eligibility criteria

You could be entitled to a SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland) Bursary if you meet all three of the following criteria:

  • You normally live in Scotland
  • You are a full-time student studying a recognised qualification at a UK university
  • Your household income is below £34,000.

How much money can you get?

Here are the available SAAS Bursaries in 2023/24:

Household incomeYoung studentsIndependent students
Up to £20,999£2,000£1,000
£21,000 – £23,999£1,125£0
£24,000 – £33,999£500£0
£34,000+£0£0
In England, the Maintenance Loan hasn't kept up with inflation, so in 2023/24 you'll be up to £1,500 worse off. It might help to check out our guide on making money.

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 them through your Student Finance body.

Travel grants

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 which mean you need to travel a lot.

Who is eligible for travel grants?

You could be entitled to a travel grant if:

  • You're in full-time university education
  • 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 travel abroad to study as part of your course.

Students studying abroad

For students studying abroad, you can claim for return trips between your home and the overseas uni, help with medical insurance and visas.

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

You must attend an overseas institution for at least half of each academic term. This period of study can be compulsory or optional.

In Scotland, you can only claim travel expenses if studying abroad is a compulsory part of your course and isn't a paid placement. You'll be able to claim the cost of your journey abroad and your medical insurance. The amount you receive will not be contingent on your household income.

You may also be able to make a claim for expenses linked to visas and baggage, but you must contact SAAS for these before making the claim.

Oh, and you can forget about sipping gin and juice with your first-class train ticket. You'll be expected to use the cheapest form of transport (buses, not taxis), and will need receipts or records to claim expenses (for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland).

We explain travel grants in each part of the UK in more detail in our guide to Student Finance on a year abroad.

Students completing clinical placements in the UK

Students having to travel within the UK for clinical placements may also be able to claim expenses.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can apply for travel costs between your home and the facility in the UK where you're doing your placement.

In Scotland, no financial support is offered by SAAS to cover travel expenses incurred during clinical placements.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)

five pound note

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 physical and mental 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.

How much money can you get?

We have a dedicated guide to DSA funding. However, as a quick overview, here's how much full-time undergraduates can expect to get in 2023/24:

Where you are fromMaximum DSA funding available in 2023/24
England• Single allowance: £26,291* per year
Northern Ireland• Single allowance: £25,000* per year
Scotland• Large items allowance: £5,160 for the whole course
• Non-medical personal help allowance: £20,520 per year
• Basic allowance: £1,725 per year
Wales• Single allowance: £33,146* per year

* This cap doesn't include travel costs. Taking these into account, you could end up receiving more than the stated maximum.

You may also be able to apply for travel expenses.

Other sources of funding for disabled students

If you have a physical disability, we'd suggest that you check your university's website to see whether they offer scholarships for disabled students (aside from the DSA).

You might also want to check out societies relevant to your industry (i.e. if you wanted to study Engineering, you could check what the Royal Academy of Engineering has to offer) and charities that provide support to people with your particular condition, as some offer funding or may be able to advise you on where to look for extra financial support.

Larger private companies may also offer support for students with physical disabilities entering their field. If you have an idea of the industry you'd like to work in, check whether any of the big employers provide funding or have a scheme especially for disabled students.

Our guide to the Disabled Students' Allowances explains the funding in much more detail.

Dependants' and childcare grants

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 (e.g. if only single parents are eligible) – along with whether they affect other funding or state benefits you already get.

Dependants' and childcare grants eligibility criteria

Dependants' and childcare grants are generally for students:

  • Who are entitled to Student Finance
  • Who are financially responsible for an adult or child who lives with them
  • Whose income – or that of their household or an adult dependant – qualifies them for help.

How much money can you get for childcare?

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

CountryFunding available
EnglandUp to 85% of your childcare costs covered, up to £188.90/week for one child, or £323.85 for two or more
Northern IrelandUp to 85% of your childcare costs covered, up to £148.75/week for one child, or £255 for two or more
Scotland (Lone Parents' Childcare Grant)Up to £1,215, amount is decided by your university or college
WalesUp to 85% of your childcare costs covered, up to £187/week for one child, or £321 for two or more

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 your Student Finance body.

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

Separate from 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 £1,915
Northern IrelandUp to £1,538
Scotland (Lone Parents' Grant)Up to £1,305
WalesUp to £1,896

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 £3,354
Northern IrelandUp to £2,695
ScotlandUp to £2,640
WalesUp to £3,322

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

Returning to education after some time away? Check out our guide to Student Loans for mature students.

Student bursaries and scholarships

wolf of wall street throwing cash

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Think of student 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 has its own rules for who gets a look-in.

Eligibility for bursaries and scholarships

Whether or not you're entitled to a bursary or scholarship will generally depend on the following factors:

  • Household income
  • Gender
  • Nationality (not just for international students – some unis offer scholarships for UK students too)
  • Grades
  • Sporting or musical talent
  • The course or subject
  • Special circumstances e.g. you have children or are a careleaver.

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 £25,000 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 for bursaries and scholarships

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

There is course and career-related funding available too:

NHS Bursary and other funding

There's a significant amount of extra funding out there for students on nursing, dentistry, medicine or other related healthcare degrees.

And it certainly comes in handy that studying these subjects usually requires some serious brainpower, as figuring out exactly what you are and aren't eligible for is almost worthy of a degree in itself. What's more, on top of the NHS Bursary (which is only available for students from England), there is also a whole range of other similar funds out there.

Fortunately, we've got a comprehensive (and, more importantly, easy to understand) guide to the NHS Bursary and other related grants. But as a taster, here are some of the types of funding you could be eligible for:

  • Tuition fee waiver
  • Bursary (both means-tested and non-means-tested)
  • Access to regular Student Finance if you're ineligible for NHS funding
  • Extra support for disabilities, dependants or travel costs.

Where to apply for funding

England: NHS Business Services Authority

Northern Ireland: Student Finance Northern Ireland

Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland

Wales: Student Award Services.

Find out more about NHS bursaries in our in-depth guide.

Social Work Bursaries (SWB)

For students starting social degrees, incentives are patchy, with some schemes not available in all parts of the UK. In Scotland, for example, bursaries are only available for postgraduate students.

Either way, any bursaries available will be capped to a limited number of students each year.

Where they are available, students will also receive an allowance to cover expenses incurred by work-based learning (e.g. travel).

Social Work Bursaries eligibility criteria

You could be entitled to a Social Work Bursary 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?

CountryFull-time students
EnglandUp to £5,262.50/year (including travel allowance)
Northern Ireland£4,000/year (plus travel allowance)
Wales£3,750/year (plus travel allowance)

Where to apply for funding

England: NHS Business Services Authority

Northern Ireland: Your course provider will contact you with details of the scheme (more info)

Wales: Social Care Wales.

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 – most funding is for postgraduates only.

Teaching grants and bursaries eligibility criteria

You could be eligible for a teaching grant or bursary 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 hello' incentives can be quite lucrative if there aren't enough teachers in a particular field).

There are far more funding opportunities (and for a wider range of subjects) once you get into postgrad teaching (especially if you get a first class degree at undergraduate level).

Where to apply for funding

England: Department for Education

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Services Direct

Scotland: Student Awards Agency for Scotland (more info)

Wales: Welsh Government.

Hardship funds

empty wallet

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. We have a dedicated guide to hardship funding which goes into far more detail, but here's a quick summary.

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.

Hardship funds eligibility criteria

You could qualify for a hardship fund 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 or payday loan 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!).

Always check what happens if you drop out of uni – you may have to repay some or all of the money.

8 golden rules for free student funding

Here are some tips regarding student grants, bursaries and scholarships:

  1. Apply early, especially if funding is limited. Allowing extra time to fill out 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 Student Finance deadlines.
  3. Check, check and triple-check if handouts affect other funding or count towards household income.
  4. Sniff out any strings involved. Does it have to be 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.

International student? There are lots of scholarships and student funding up for grabs for you too.

Ruth Bushi

WRITTEN BY Ruth Bushi

Ruth Bushi is a freelance journalist who has written for major publications such as the Guardian, the Independent and the Big Issue. Her contributions to Save the Student cover student news, Student Finance, money-making tips and more.
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