If you have real ability and commitment, going to university isn't only a chance to get a degree – it's probably the best opportunity you'll ever have to develop your sporting talent in some of the finest sports facilities with some of the best support services in the country, in the company of some of the elite performers.
- For those with the potential to achieve great things, most institutions offer university sports scholarships or bursaries.
- Inevitably, competition for these is fierce and the number on offer limited, but for those who get them they usually offer access to special support services, such as free membership of the sports centre, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning advice or special coaching.
- Some universities also offer limited financial support, to help bursars meet the cost of going to competitions, and possibly some academic flexibility.
Sporting excellence, however, is about a lot more than scholarships.
- The UK has rapidly developed an elite sporting infrastructure in the past few years with a range of sports institutes and initiatives designed to nurture the country's future sports stars.
- Many of the facilities are located at universities, so higher education is an increasingly important engine room for sporting excellence in the UK – not surprising considering that academic and sporting ability often go hand in hand – and most world class sportsmen and women are either in the student age group or only a year or so older.
- At the Beijing Olympics, 58% of Team GB athletes and 55% of medalists had come through the university sector.
- In 2012 the BUCS Visa Outdoor Athletics Championship was the test event in the Olympic stadium.
Ways in which universities support sporting excellence include:
- Supporting talented athletes. In England and Wales this is provided by TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship), and across the border in Scotland by Winning Students. They are both government-funded sports scholarship programme delivered through a partnership between universities and national governing bodies of sport.
- Hosting centres of sporting excellence, which can be multi-sport facilities linked to one of the home country sports institutes or one or more sport-specific centres. Check with individual university websites to get details of which house centres of excellence and in some cases facilities used for major regional or national competitions.
Next page: University Sports Facilities