Which bursaries and scholarships are available?
Free money to help with the cost of studying and living at university? Sounds like a no-brainer - but it’s thought students may be losing out on around £150m in unallocated scholarship and bursary schemes.
Here's how to avoid missing that extra cash. Find out what bursary and scholarships are available, what your chances are of getting extra funding and some top application tips.
For more on student finance, see our quick guides to student finance in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What's the difference between a bursary and scholarship?
Bursary, grant or scholarship schemes are available for students to help them financially while they study for a degree.
These terms are often used interchangeably as they share one important factor in common: unlike a student loan, they do not need to be repaid and can be a helpful source of free funding on your course.
Who can apply for a scholarship or bursary?
Despite what you might think, scholarships are not just for A* students or those on low incomes.
There are scholarships, grants and bursaries given for all sorts of reasons you might not expect – from being a vegetarian to having the surname Graham (yes, really!). Students who have a great business idea or are keen writers, filmmakers or musicians can find something for them.
Here’s a quick guide to the different types of scholarships available:
- Doing well in your exams - not always for straight A*s. Some universities offer money for ABB or less.
- Musical talent: if you’re planning to perform while you’re at uni.
- Personal circumstances: including where you come from, if you’ve been in care, what your parents do for a living, your religion or if you’re the first in your family to go to university.
- Financial need: these are usually based on your household income and often called grants or bursaries.
- Sporting achievement – if you’re competing at regional, national or international level in a sport, many universities offer scholarships to attract the best talent, so you can help them win competitions!
- Industry scholarships - offered to attract new talent into a career or industry and will often include work experience as part of the offer. It may even lead to a job when you graduate.
- Interests and hobbies – there are some scholarships which are based on your extra-curricular activities such as community work.
- And the rest – some schemes are open to all subjects and universities, usually requiring you to submit an essay or video.
Where to look for bursaries and scholarships
Your university: if you know where you will be studying, the first place to check is your university’s website to see what it offers. Some are automatically allocated, but not all, so don’t assume they will contact you if you are eligible.
Tip: Make sure you give permission to share your details when you apply to the Student Loan Company, as this is how universities find out if you are eligible for scholarships related to financial need.
Charities and organisations: not all bursaries and scholarships come from universities. Research some of the smaller organisations which give grants for educational support – the charity Turn2Us is a good source of trusts and charities, while The Guide to Educational Grants book is another useful resource.
Tip: many schemes are offered to students worldwide, so don’t let the mention of Dollars or Euros stop you from applying!
The Scholarship Hub website: if you don’t know what you want to do yet, search and compare the database of scholarship schemes on The Scholarship Hub. Register (for free) to see listings for each university as well as those not linked to particular universities.
Tip: when you search, think broader than the subject you're studying – and don't forget to check out scholarships open to all students.
Examples of bursary and scholarship schemes
- Royal Television Society Bursaries: worth £1,000 a year to students studying television production, broadcast journalism or technology students keen to pursue a career in television.
- Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust: up to £3,000 a year for students undertaking their first degree with a close family member who is a commercial traveller, chemist or grocer.
- Women's Scholarship from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education: worth up to $40,000 and open to women pursuing a degree related to cybersecurity or information assurance.
- BeArt Presets Scholarship: for Year 13s who have accepted a place at university or current students. For $5,000, applicants simply need to explain how the scholarship will impact their life.
Note that deadlines for applying differ from scheme to scheme, and year to year. So don't simply look once - we'd recommend checking fairly regularly throughout the year for new opportunities as they open.
What are my chances of getting a bursary or scholarship?
In the same way as you wouldn’t just apply for one job and then give up when you hear nothing back, applying for scholarships and grants can be hard work.
Persevere and keep looking throughout your studies and not just when you’re applying to university. An average scholarship is worth around £1,500 so the effort can pay off.
There can be other benefits, too, according to this Lloyds Scholar student:
When The Scholarship Hub spoke to 20 organisations who offer bursary or scholarship schemes earlier this year, you might be surprised to hear that half said they had to work hard to attract applicants. So your chances of being successful are higher than you think!
Which? University provides guest spots to external experts. Karen Kennard is Director of The Scholarship Hub, a social enterprise helping students find alternative funding sources for their university studies.
- Applying for bursaries and scholarships: tips from students
- Explore universities and colleges: accommodation, facilities and costs