Student bursary and scholarship sources
Get the lowdown on applications, plus a handy list of resources and organizations 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 are 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 come with eligibility criteria. Secondly, finding out what’s available, and 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!
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 most comprehensive list of scholarships for UK students is available all in one place.
The Scholarship Hub includes funds offered by universities themselves, companies, charities, trusts, and other organizations 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).
3. 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.
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.
5. 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.
6. The Savoy Educational Trust
If you’re taking 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.
7. 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.
8. Crowd Scholar
Crowd Scholar awards scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them attend university.
There aren’t too many awards on offer (as Crowd Scholar themselves say, “We select Scholars annually through a competitive application process, granting a minimum of £5,000 in scholarships and crowdfunding additional funds post-selection”), but if you meet the criteria, it’s well worth applying.
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 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).
Who gets what can be harder to figure out than the ending to Inception? 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- 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 to save it or use 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 organization 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.
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!