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University bursaries and scholarships

You could get a university scholarship or bursary – these financial awards usually reward high achievement or support students with greater need. Download our summary of what might be available at each UK university in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

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Scholarships and bursaries: the differenceFinding a university scholarship or bursary (plus download guides) • Top tips when applying for a scholarship or bursary

Top up your funding with a university scholarship or bursary

University scholarships or bursaries: what's the difference?

Bursaries are usually awarded to students based on their personal circumstances, or if they come from a low-income family. Bursaries can help students who may face more barriers to attending full-time education, enabling them to access university.

University scholarships usually reward students who are outstanding in their subject, sport or music. They generally (but not always) need to be applied for, and are often competitive.

However, the two terms can be used interchangeably and each university has its own terminology. There can also be university scholarships to encourage or reward activities separate from your studies, such as volunteering.

University scholarships and bursaries are available for both undergraduate and postgraduate students as extra financial help. Most awards are for full-time students.  There can also be awards specifically for international students. You must meet the criteria, and the money does not need to be paid back.

Finding a university scholarship or bursary.

  • Consult the websites and prospectuses of individual universities and colleges, as well as UCAS. If you are considering a 'collegiate university' (a university comprising a number of separate colleges, like Oxford or Cambridge) check if there are awards from particular colleges. See also our advice about Open days and Clearing, below.
  • For a summary of undergraduate university scholarships or bursaries, the Complete University Guide has pulled together a list of what's on offer at universities in each UK nation. See below to download our university bursary and scholarship grids. Further down this page we tell you more about the criteria in the headings, so you can find out what they mean.
  • There may be entrance scholarships, awarded to new students entering university, or progression scholarships, with financial support for year two being conditional upon the successful completion of year one.
  • Applying for postgraduate study? We also have a guide to financial support for postgraduate students.
  • If you don't think you'll fit the criteria for either a university scholarship or a bursary, it's still worth a look at what bursaries and scholarships are available outside of universities. The criteria for these awards can be broader, for example based on where you attended school, what your parents do for a living, or even for being a vegetarian. Awards from external agencies or charities may also be listed on university websites.

Download our University Bursaries and Scholarships guides

The following pdf files all print at A4 size:

England: University Bursary and Scholarship Grid 2019.

Northern Ireland: University Bursary and Scholarship Grid 2019.

Scotland: University Bursary and Scholarship Grid 2019.

Wales: University Bursary and Scholarship Grid 2019.

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, as they do not include 'partnership' awards (such as with some companies), or – for International students – Chevening, Commonwealth and GREAT awards. 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.

What are the criteria in the grids?

  • Students with low residual household income – where students are from a low-income family. The definition of 'low income' varies. Commonly around £25,000–35,000, some 'low income' awards are available for households of up to £60,000. You'll need to provide evidence of your household income.
  • Widening Participation (WP) – the UK government sets targets on 'widening participation' for universities to support students whose circumstances mean they might not otherwise consider higher education. Universities often do this by offering student bursaries and scholarships to certain groups. Some may target regions, postcodes or areas where it's more unusual to go to university; or students who are entering via Access or Outreach programmes, progressing from partner colleges, or state educated. Specific groups can include ethnic minorities (BAME) or gender-specific, or those who are the first generation in their family to attend university. Check out what might be on offer. 
  • Care/ Foyer leaver, estranged students, carers (WP) – for students who may require more support; awards are generally for those under 25 years old.
  • Disabled (WP) – this may include students with physical or sensory disabilities, long-term health or mental health conditions, or with specific learning differences such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or autism.
  • Performance – for excellence in music, arts or sport; you do not have to be studying a related degree. Usually in the form of scholarships, awards do not always provide a financial incentive but may include benefits such as free lessons or coaching. International students are often eligible for these awards.
  • Placement/year abroad; travel awards – these are awards for students working or studying away from their university.
  • Specified subjects – scholarships or bursaries providing an incentive to study specific subjects, often 'shortage subjects'. Awards may sometimes be open to international students. There are also often awards for continuing students in specific subjects, these are not listed in these grids.
  • Academic – bursaries and scholarships awarded for academic excellence. These are often termed merit scholarships or excellence scholarships. Application may be competitive (i.e. awarded to the best applicants) or automatic (i.e. you simply have to meet the criteria, such as achieving certain grades). Some awards are restricted to students from low income families.
  • Non-UK students, or 'other' awards – bursaries or scholarships for international students, asylum seekers or refugees (or their children/partners), awards specific to EU students, or which do not fall under any of the other headings. Awards for international students are usually in the form of fee reductions; early payment or family loyalty discounts may also apply.
  • RUK – for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, some awards are specific to students from that nation, or for students from the Rest of the UK (RUK).

Applying for a university scholarship or bursary

Top tips if applying for a university scholarship or bursary.

Make sure you choose the right university for you, not because it may offer more money a year.

Be realistic about your chances.

  • First of all, are you likely to meet the criteria for a student bursary or university scholarship? If your parents are high-income earners, you may only be eligible for scholarships linked to achievement (whether academic or in music or sport) and/or a desire to study 'shortage' subjects. Does this apply to you?

  • How many applicants will benefit from the large headline sums? Check both the value of the award and how many are on offer. Be realistic about your chances.

Find out whether you need to apply, and what the deadline is.

Some awards require application. Others may be awarded automatically.

  • Automatic awards can include bursaries based on your personal circumstances, or if you achieve the specified grades in your exams.
  • For awards that require application, you are likely to require the offer of a place before you can apply. Make sure you note any deadlines for application.

When will you know if you've been awarded a scholarship or bursary?

Read the university’s criteria for eligibility, how to apply and when you can expect to hear if you’ve been successful. Usually this information is on the university website.

  • For bursaries dependent on income, you should have a good idea if you fit the eligibility criteria before you apply. You'll know if you are likely to meet the criteria when you get your student finance assessment.
  • For other awards, you may not know until you get your exam results, long after you've made larger decisions.

Useful to know…

  • When you apply for a student loan, you can tick a box to allow your information to be shared with the universities you are applying to. This will allow them to assess whether you meet the criteria for a bursary. Your information will not be shared with anyone else.
  • Look out for special and unadvertised offers when you go to interviews and Open days or in Clearing. At Clearing, be particularly watchful – there have been suggestions that some universities may increase bursaries and scholarships in August to fill their places.
  • Scholarships aren't just for new students entering the first year of their degree. Scholarships and bursaries may be available for 'continuing' students in subsequent years. Bursaries based on personal circumstances or low income may awarded over a number of years.
  • Awards are not always financial. Some may be given as fee waivers, where the university will not charge you a tuition fee. This means you'll have less to pay back on your student loans – but on the other hand you won't get any extra cash to live on while studying. Sometimes a scholarship or bursary may be described as having a 'cash value' but actually be to provide in-kind support, such as additional tuition or equipment.
  • Universities charge different amounts for facilities such as accommodation, sports and societies etc. Weigh up the total package, including any extras you may be charged over the year, and compare it with other universities you are interested in.

Finally…

  • Read the small print on any offers. 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!
  • If completing an application for a scholarship or bursary, check that it is grammatically correct and with no obvious errors. You do not want your application to stand out for the wrong reasons.

Remember also to check the next page for other sources of bursaries and scholarships for university.