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What is an NHS bursary?

The NHS bursary has changed in the last few years. If you're studying medicine, dentistry, nursing etc., our guide makes sense of what financial support is available...

Note, the below information refers to undergraduate students beginning a course after 1 August 2018.

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What is an NHS bursary?

The NHS bursary is a source of financial support for students on healthcare courses, to help with tuition and living costs. The NHS bursary has undergone some changes in the past few years.

Learn more about your subject – browse our 70+ subject guides.


Can I get an NHS bursary?

The NHS bursary is now primarily for medicine and dentistry students.

Students studying nursing, midwifery or Allied Health Professional courses are no longer eligible for an NHS bursary (although there is still financial support available for these students).

Learn about fees and finance – read our quick guides to finance in EnglandScotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

NHS bursary: am I eligible?

To be eligible for the NHS bursary now, you have to meet the below criteria:

Where you live 

You must have been residing in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least three years up to the start of your academic year. 

That said, there may be exceptions. See the NHS Business Services Authority website for more information.

Your course and year

You must be studying an NHS-funded course (full or part-time) that will result in you registering as a doctor or dentist (ie medicine or dentistry).

You can only apply for an NHS bursary once you reach the fifth year of your course. See how much you can get with the NHS Student Bursary Estimate Calculator.

Until then, you can apply for student finance as all other full-time students would, namely a Tuition Fee Loan and Maintenance Loan.

Your household income

The overall amount you can get will depend on your annual household income. Depending on your circumstances, this might be what you or your parents/guardians/partner earns.

Whether you’ve received funding before

Good news! Even if you’ve already received an NHS bursary or some other form of Higher Education funding, you could still be eligible. 

Note, you can still apply for a Maintenance Loan on top of your NHS bursary, although this may be limited. Your entitlement will be less in your final year too.

NHS bursary: what can I get?

If you’re a medicine or dentistry student, you can apply for an NHS bursary once you reach the fifth year of your course.

The NHS bursary will include the following:
  • Tuition fees: provided these aren’t more than the standard amount, the NHS will pay these in full, straight to your university.
  • Bursary: this will depend on your household income. As a rough guide, students living away from home outside London could get up to £2,643 in 2018/19, with this going up to £3,191 for those in London. This is based on a standard academic year and goes straight into your account each month (in equal instalments over the year).

    Further support is available for extra weeks of your course, at a weekly rate.
  • Grant: all eligible, full-time students get a £1,000 grant once they apply for the NHS bursary.
  • Maintenance Loan: you can apply for a smaller Maintenance Loan to supplement what you receive from the sources mentioned above to help with your living costs. Students studying in London away from home in 2018/19 were eligible for £3,263, while those outside London could get £2,324. This drops to £1,744 for those living at home.

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Further financial support for medicine and dentistry students 

As well as the grants and allowances available to all healthcare students based on personal circumstances, medicine and dentistry students can apply for the following:

Travel Grant (or Practice Placement Expenses)

Medicine and dentistry students can claim back some travel expenses to clinical placements that exceed the everyday cost of getting to university. The same goes for study abroad that’s part of your course at a university in another country (including Erasmus).

You need to be receiving a Maintenance Loan in order to be eligible. When in non-NHS bursary years (ie up to fifth year in a five or six-year undergraduate course), students can claim a Travel Grant. Once you reach your NHS bursary years, this becomes Practice Placement Expenses (but is essentially the same thing).

You’ll need to cover the first £300 of your travel costs for the year, while what assistance you receive for the rest will depend on your household income. 

This can include accommodation as well, although only to a certain daily amount and you’ll need to get this approved.

And, obviously, first-class travel and swanky penthouse suites won’t be considered ‘reasonable’, so this will only cover standard travel and accommodation. Make sure you save your receipts, too!


NHS Hardship Grant

Medicine and dentistry students facing financial struggles on their course can apply for an NHS Hardship Grant to help make ends meet. This is a means-tested bursary, with between £100 and £3,000 available. 

However, you should only look into this once you’ve tried all other sources of extra finance, including hardship funds offered by your university. Be prepared to show evidence of your finances (eg bank statements) when applying.


Funding for healthcare students (not studying medicine and dentistry)

The NHS bursary is no longer available for midwifery, nursing or Allied Health Professional courses.

See the full list of non-eligible courses below:
  • Dietetics
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Operating Department Practitioner
  • Orthoptics
  • Nursing
  • Midwifery
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry/Chiropody
  • Prosthetics and Orthotics
  • Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic)
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • most Dental Hygiene or Dental Therapy courses 


Student finance: the basics

If you’re studying one of these courses, you can apply for student finance (ie a Tuition Fee Loan, plus Maintenance Loan) just like you would if you were studying any other undergraduate course.

On top of this, you can also get extra support via the NHS Learning Support Fund.

NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF)

If you’re eligible for both a Tuition Fee Loan and a Maintenance Loan, you can apply for extra help via the NHS Learning Support Fund (although you don’t necessarily have to have taken out these loans; you just have to be eligible).

There are three separate funds you can apply to within the LSF:
  • Child Dependants Allowance: an annual £1,000 grant for students with a child under 15 years old (or under 17 years old if they have a disability). This doesn’t affect your entitlement for the Childcare Allowance.

    You can apply from the first month of the academic year, until nine months later. 
  • Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses: reimbursement of travel expenses to clinical placements that are more than the normal cost of getting to university (including toll roads and parking if you drive). 

    This must be the cheapest possible option (so no first-class tickets!) and may also cover accommodation where appropriate (although there will be a capped daily limit for this). 

    Claims must be approved by your university, so remember to keep your receipts. 
  • Exceptional Support Fund: up to £3,000 for students facing severe financial struggles and hardship at any point during their course.

    This is subject to eligibility and is means-tested based on providing proof of your income and spending (ie bank statements). The purpose is to assist those unable to make ends meet despite careful and responsible budgeting, after having tried all other sources of income or financial support from their university.

You can apply for these on the LSF Application System

Midwifery students, check out Which? Birth Choice another free website from Which?. Many midwives have told us how they use it day-to-day, while midwifery applicants can learn more about the profession, how to use birth statistics etc.


Extra financial support for all healthcare students (including medicine and dentistry)

There are also extra grants and allowances available to all students (not just medicine and dentistry), and they depend on personal circumstances. 

These don’t have to be repaid either.
  • Dependants Allowance, if you’re financially responsible for someone (ie a child, an adult with disabilities). This is means-tested. Those responsible for children may also be eligible for a (non-means-tested) Parents’ Learning Allowance.
  • Childcare Allowance to help cover the costs of (registered or approved) childcare. Up to 85% of the cost may be covered, to a certain limit. 
  • Disabled Students’ Allowance to help cover any extra costs incurred due to a long-term illness, mental health condition, learning difficulty or other form of disability. Examples of costs that can be covered could include specialist equipment or travel costs related to your disability. This is assessed based on your needs, so be prepared to provide evidence.

The reality of student finance: uni students reveal all.

Your university and membership organisations 

It’s always worth checking with your university for any extra funding on offer. These could be bursaries or scholarships you can apply for ahead of beginning your course, or hardship funds if you face money troubles in the middle of your course. 

What’s available and the eligibility criteria you need to meet will vary from institution to institution, so check directly with them for more information.

Associations or organisations tied to your specific subject may be able to point you in the right direction for additional financial support, such as The Royal College of Nursing for nursing and midwifery students, the British Dental Association for dentistry students and so on.

Get started by googling your subject plus ‘organisation’ or ‘members’ to see who’s out there.

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