Student bursary and scholarship sources

Get the lowdown on applications, plus a handy list of resources and organisations that offer students financial support.

Whether you’re calculating the costs of going to uni or figuring out just how you’re going to make it through the next year, there’s millions of pounds in free funding that you may be entitled to (although unfortunately, it’s not all for you).

Sound too good to be true? Kind of. For one thing, bursary and scholarship cash comes with eligibility criteria. And secondly, finding out what’s available, what you’re entitled to and getting your hands on the cash will take time, legwork and perseverance.

That’s why we’ve put this guide to funding sources together to get you on the right track. Let’s go!

What are bursaries and scholarships?

confused about bursaries

Bursaries, scholarships and grants all help students who need financial support get through university. Unlike your loan, none of these need to be repaid.

They’re all basically the same thing (i.e. a pot of money that isn’t repayable), but there are some distinctions between them. Grants (covered here) typically come from government money, while bursaries and scholarships may also be funded by private companies, individuals, or anyone else who feels especially generous.

Grants and bursaries also tend to be income-dependent, while scholarships are typically based on merit (like academic or sporting achievement).

Who gets what can be harder to figure out than the ending to Inception. There are schemes for school students, mature students, postgrads, students with disabilities or dependants, and funding for full-time, part-time, higher and further education courses – and they all vary across the UK.

Sadly, there’s no unified system that helps students see what’s available from one place. But to help get you started, we’ve got you covered with the basic facts and funders.

Which bursaries and scholarships are you eligible for?

football sporting scholarship

All universities and colleges offer bursaries for students from low-income families. Some will even calculate your eligibility for you when you apply for your course (if you share your income details from your student finance application) and will automatically make an award of cash, fee discounts or equipment.

Lots of bursaries/scholarships are dependent on household income, but not all of them. You can also get funding for academic success (whether it’s success in your A Levels/Highers or the uni entrance exams), subject choice or sports.

Some charities offer funds for a whole range of circumstances, although again you may find you’re not eligible for most funds (they’re often based on factors like location, religion and race). There are also bursaries set aside for international students and even career choices (including NHS and teaching and social work).

Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for anything, it’s worth looking – there are some seriously unusual bursaries, grants and scholarships out there, and you could easily be eligible!

Bottom line? If you want to find a bursary, search creatively.

Where can you find a bursary or scholarship?

We’ve outlined some of the main sources below, but before you start hammering Google for scholarships info, it’s best to start close to home.

If you’re at school, talk to your careers department – they may know about any community funds you can get your hands on. Next, hit up your local authority (council) – some will have pots of money set aside to help students from the area go to uni.

If you already receive funding (for a disability, for instance), chat to your funding officer about what else is going. Now’s also the time to search for ‘bursary’ on your regional government direct or student finance portal (be warned: some sites are better indexed than others).

Spend some time perusing your university’s website (they’ll list what’s on offer, along with eligibility and deadline info), or get in touch with the student union’s welfare office. If you’re applying to a collegiate university (one made up of several colleges), ask about college cash as well as uni-wide funds.

Finally, if you’re returning to study, don’t dismiss the idea of asking your employer or job centre about back-to-school incentives.

How to get a scholarship, bursary or grant

applying for student bursary scholarship grant

There are three main things to remember when it comes to how and when you should apply:

  1. It’s never too EARLY to start your search – Do it while you’re researching your uni/course choices (and earmark any funds with open deadlines, in case you find yourself up a certain creek later in the year)
  2. It’s never too LATE to start your search – Some bursaries may not have an application deadline, or you may still be able to apply for funding for next year’s studies
  3. But when possible, apply early – Scholarships attract fierce competition and don’t do deadline extensions. Start applying in the autumn of the year before your course starts, if you can.

Once you’ve found potential funds, make sure you check all the deets. There’s no point in applying for the John Smith Fund if the requirements state you must be either Catholic, dyslexic or a single parent, and none of those things apply to you! Find out when you’ll get the money, and plan out how you’ll spend or save it.

You should also check what happens to the cash if you drop out of uni, if your household income changes, or if taking the money means you’re tied to working for a specific organisation when you graduate.

Some external funders (e.g. charities and corporations) may want you to write a personal statement or budget plan. If it’s a scholarship, you may need to attend an interview or make a presentation.

Where to search for a bursary or scholarship

  1. The Scholarship Hub

    The most comprehensive list of scholarships for UK students available all in one place. Includes those offered by universities themselves, companies, charities, trusts and other organisations as well as information on sponsored degrees and degree apprenticeships.

    Visit »

  2. Turn 2 Us

    A good place to start if you’re interested in the charity route – though be aware that not all the charities listed will offer money for education (it may be for carers, those with a disability or people experiencing financial hardship).

    Visit »

  3. British Council Guide to Scholarships

    Geared towards international students looking to study in the UK, this site links to lots of relevant sites worth checking out, and has a pretty decent subject search, too.

    Visit »

  4. Student Health Association

    This is a top-up fund to the Disabled Student Allowance (which you’ll need to have applied for first). You must be in full-time education to be eligible and could get up to £500.

    Apply »

  5. The Savoy Educational Trust

    If you’re taking a hospitality or catering related degree then this could be of use to you – up to £500 to help pay towards fees or equipment, such as your uniform and tools.

    Apply »

  6. The Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS)

    Are you talented? Are you an athlete? Boom. This one’s for you. If you’re a pro athlete you could receive support and services from the TASS.

    Apply »

  7. Crowd Scholar

    Crowd Scholar award scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them attend university.

    There aren’t too many awards on offer (as Crowd Scholar themselves say, “£10,000 towards one student’s education makes a bigger difference than £100 to one hundred students’ educations”), but if you meet the criteria, it’s well worth applying.

    Apply »

Once you’ve got your extra money, don’t blow it all on a trip to Vegas. And, if there’s money available over more than one year, don’t forget to re-apply if that’s part of the deal.

If you’re struggling to find funding, or still can’t balance your books, don’t give up. Talk to your university or its welfare officers – they’ve got things in place to try and make sure nobody’s unfairly priced out of getting an education.

Now you know what we know: go forth and prosper. Good luck!

Check out our bumper guide to student grants, scholarships, bursaries and sponsorships.