University bursaries and scholarships

A lack of funds shouldn’t stop anyone who wants to go to university. Therefore, in addition to student loans and grants, universities offer a large selection of bursaries and scholarships.

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What they are  Find bursaries and scholarships  What to look out for

What they are

Bursaries or awards are usually given to students based on personal circumstances, such as income. Scholarships are usually competitive and based on merit; these need to be applied for.

The two terms are used interchangeably and each university has its own terminology.

These are for both undergraduate and postgraduate students as extra financial help. You must meet the criteria, and this does not need to be paid back.

Where to find what’s available

There is also no harm in phoning a university. If you come across difficulties in understanding or interpreting the information, don't be afraid to ask!

Bursaries and scholarships grids


These grids are a guide the types of bursaries (B) and scholarships (S) available. They do not provide a definitive summary of all that is on offer by UK universities. The information provided was accurate at the time of collation but some figures may be subject to change, so check with the universities for final details.

Funding arrangements in Scotland are both separate from and different to those in the rest of the UK (RUK). Scotland charges variable tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,250 to RUK. Scottish universities do have a range of bursaries and scholarships available for RUK student. These are shown in the grid for Scotland.

What the headings mean

  • Household Income less than £60,000 – bursaries for students from the lowest income families.
  • Living in region/specified postcode or Low Participation neighbourhoods (LPN); WP, Access, Progressing from partner colleges, Outreach; Ethnic minorities (BME) – the target, under-represented student groups for whom these bursaries and scholarships are intended.
  • Placement/year abroad; travel awards – provided for students working or studying away from their university.
  • Disabled – these students are often under-represented in universities.
  • Sports – for excellence in sport.
  • Music – for excellence in music.
  • Care – for students coming from a care background.
  • Specified subjects – bursaries which provide incentive to study specific subjects, often 'shortage subjects'.
  • Academic – bursaries and scholarships that are offered for academic excellence. These are often termed merit scholarships or excellence scholarships. They may be entrance scholarships or progression scholarships, competitive or automatic. Some are restricted to those from low income families.
  • Other – different types of bursaries and scholarships that do not fall under any of the other headings.

What to look out for

Scholarships and bursaries are largely the same from most universities, but will be advertised in different ways. It is best to consult individual universities to find the full range on offer.

Read the small print on any offers, and choose the right university for you, not because it may offer more money a year.

At Clearing, be particularly watchful because there have been suggestions that some universities may increase bursaries and scholarships in August to fill their places.

Universities charge different amounts for facilities such as accommodation, sports and societies, etc., so check the total package, including any extras you may be charged over the year.

Also think about:

  • Is the bursary automatic or conditional? If conditional, when will you know?
  • For the bursaries that are dependent on income, you should have a good idea of the eligibility criteria when you apply, and will know for definite when you get your local authority assessment. For others, you won't know until you get your exam results, well after you have made larger decisions.
  • If you are studying for unusual entry qualifications (especially any not in the UCAS tariff), you may not know until you have spoken with the university's Admissions Office.
  • Assess the generosity of the university offer. Some are ploughing back a large slice of their fee income. Some only offer the minimum bursary.
  • How many applicants will benefit from the large headline sums? Check both the value of the bursary and how many are on offer. Be realistic about your chances.
  • Do you qualify? If your parents are high-income earners, then you are likely only to be eligible for scholarships linked to your academic achievement and/or a desire to study 'shortage' subjects.
  • Look out for special and unadvertised offers when you go to interviews and open days or in Clearing.