The Brownlee brothers (triathlon) and Captain Heather Stanning (rowing) are among the Olympians whose sporting excellence benefitted from university. For those with real sporting ability and commitment, going to university isn't only a chance to get a degree – it may be the best opportunity to develop their sporting talent. We look at the support universities offer, from sports scholarships to facilities and services for elite sports.
Many institutions offer university sports scholarships or bursaries for students with the potential to achieve great things. Inevitably, competition for these is fierce and the number on offer limited. 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 students meet the cost of going to competitions. They may also permit some academic flexibility.
In return, you will be expected to compete and represent the university in your sport, helping to build the university's sporting reputation.
To quickly check which UK universities offer sports scholarships, see our University Bursaries and Scholarships guides.
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 these facilities are located at universities, drawing upon their expertise in sports science to hone athletes' talents.
Ways in which universities support sporting excellence:
- UK sporting scholarships for talented athletes. In England and Wales, elite sports students may be supported by a scholarship from TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship), and across the border in Scotland by Winning Students. These are both government-funded sports scholarship programmes, delivered in partnership with universities and national governing bodies of sport.
- Centres of sporting excellence. These can be multi-sport facilities linked to one of the home country's sports institutes, or one or more sport-specific centres. Check with individual university websites to get details of which house centres of excellence. In some cases, these facilities may be used for major regional or national competitions.
Two of the UK's most famous Olympians learned to row at university. Captain Heather Stanning MBE learned to row as part of the GB Rowing Team Start Programme at the University of Bath in 2005. She went on to win Gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics with her partner, Helen Glover. Dame Katherine Grainger – with 5 Olympic medals, Great Britain's most decorated female Olympian – had never rowed before taking it up at the University of Edinburgh. She is now Chair of the board of UK Sport.
You can find out more about what your university offers – including whether they offer a sports scholarship – on our university profiles. Check out the section in the profile on sport & exercise for details.
Next page: University Sport Facilities