Student grants, bursaries and scholarships

£1,000s of funding is missed out on each year by students who don’t even know that they’re eligible for it. Find out whether you could be due any extra financial support…

If your only plan for paying for uni involves a Student Loan and an impending sense of doom, you’re missing out!

There’s a treasure trove of free money lodged in grants, scholarships and bursaries, but many students either don’t know about them, don’t think they’re eligible, or just don’t bother applying.

Don’t let that be you! Here’s your starter for finding the funds you get to keep. ?

Types of student funding

Forget hunting down the back of the sofa – when it comes to student funding that doesn’t need to be paid back, these are the areas to look for:

Whether they’re grants, bursaries, awards or endowments, they all do similar things. Just go by whether they suit your circumstances, not what they’re called!

Student Finance

student finance
Here’s what’s up for grabs in official undergraduate funding. You can apply for these along with other Student Finance.

We’ve outlined some of the core criteria for each type of funding, but if you like the sound of what’s on offer, click through and check the details for yourself.

At the bare minimum, you should expect funding to have some kind of nationality and residence criteria (some funds are just for students already settled in the UK or, at a push, those from the EU/EEA), plus limits on how much (if any) university-level study you’ve already done.

Once you’ve nailed that lot, any cash you get is paid directly into your bank account, so it’s up to you to make it last!

Maintenance Grant

Full-time students from Northern Ireland can apply for a Maintenance Grant to help with living costs and, unlike the Maintenance Loan, it doesn’t have to be paid back.

While that’s a win, remember any grant you get means less loan (you can’t max-out both cash pots unless you’re entitled to the Special Support Grant).

In England, Maintenance Grants are only for continuing students – it began being phased out for new starters in 2016. Take a look at our Big Fat Guide to Student Finance to see how it affects you.

According to the original framework, 2019/2020 will be the last academic year where students can benefit from Maintenance Grants.

However, there is talk of reintroducing them, so watch this space…

You could be eligible if:

You live in the UK (or meet other residence requirements), are a full-time student studying for a recognised qualification and your household income entitles you to a slice of the funding pie.

How much money can you get?

The higher your household income, the less grant you’ll get. Here’s how it stacks up:

Special Support Grant (SSG)

If you’re on housing or income support, are a single parent or have a disability, you may be able to swap the Maintenance Grant for a Special Support Grant (in Wales you don’t need to swap – you can get both!).

You’ll get the same payout, but unlike Maintenance Grants, it won’t reduce the amount of loan you can apply for. An SSG won’t affect your benefits, either.

You could be eligible if:

You’re a full-time student from Wales or Northern Ireland (or a continuing student from England) with special circumstances, for instance:

How much money can you get?

The Special Support Grant matches whatever the Maintenance Grant would pay you.

Bursary (Scotland)

In Scotland, maintenance money that doesn’t have to be paid back comes in the form of a Bursary.

How much you can get depends on your household income, as well as whether you’re a ‘Young student’ or ‘Independent student’ – take a look at our guide to funding in Scotland if you’re not sure which you are.

You could be eligible if:

You normally live in Scotland, are a full-time student studying a recognised qualification at a UK university and your household income entitles you to a slice of the funding pie.

How much money can you get?

Here’s what’s currently up for grabs:

Household income Young students Independent students
£0 to £18,999 £1,875 £875
£19,000 to £23,999 £1,125 £0
£24,000 to £33,999 £500 £0
£34k+ £0 £0

Welsh Government Learning Grant

student finance Wales
Welsh students are also entitled to a grant known as the Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG), though they won’t have to apply for it separately as it is provided automatically as part of their Student Finance.

The WGLG is calculated based on household income, whether or not you’re living at home and where your uni is located, although most students’ll get a grant of at least £1,000.

Students in Wales needing extra support may also be entitled to the Special Support Grant on top of a Maintenance Grant (neither of which will need paying back). The maximum amount of SSG available in 2019/20 is £5,161 per year.

Have a look at our guide to Welsh Student Finance to see how much you’re entitled to!

Student Finance top-ups

These piles of cash are for special circumstances, such as course-related travel, health conditions or being financially responsible for others. Apply for them through your Student Finance body!

Travel grants

You may be able to get help with travel expenses if you’re studying abroad as part of your course or have clinical placements in the UK that mean travelling a lot.

You could be eligible if:

How much money can you get?

You could claim for return trips between your home and the overseas uni, help with medical insurance and visas, or accommodation for UK clinical placements.

In England and Wales you can’t claim for the first £303 of your costs, while in Northern Ireland you can’t claim for the first £309. In England, Wales and NI, travel grants are means tested.

Oh, and you can forget about sipping gin and juice with your first class train ticket. You’ll be expected to use the cheapest form of transport (buses, not taxis), and will need receipts or records to claim expenses.

Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)

disabled students allowance

If you have a disability, the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) could help you cope with the extra costs of going to uni. There’s support for physical and mental health, as well as conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Funding doesn’t have to be repaid and isn’t means tested – but if you’re already getting money for the same conditions (such as financial support from your uni), you may not be able to apply for DSA as well. Check out the rules before you apply.

You could be eligible if:

You’ll need to prove that you’re eligible by going along to an assessment or providing a doctor’s letter (you may also be able to claim for the cost of that, too).

How much money can you get?

The main thing to note is that the allowances are for study-related costs relating to your condition, and not just things that all students need – we’re talking specially adapted kit, rather than your pens and pencils.

Payouts vary by country and circumstances, but here’s a rough idea of what you can apply for as an undergrad.

Remember that these are maximum amounts, so you could get less:

*pro rata means that the maximum amount you’re entitled to will be a percentage of maximum amount available to full-time students, based on how intense your part-time course is. If your course is four years and the full-time version is two years, you’d be entitled to 50%.

You may also be able to apply for travel expenses.

Dependants’ and childcare grants

If you’re financially responsible for others, you may be entitled to extra help. Again, where you’re from in the UK will affect what’s on offer, what it’s called, and your eligibility.

Because these are funds for very specific circumstances, you’ll need to check the terms and conditions carefully – along with whether they affect other funding or benefits you already get.

You could be eligible if:

How much money can you get for childcare?

Here’s a breakdown of the childcare grants available across the UK:

If you already get state benefits that pay for childcare, you may not get the grant. You also can’t claim if you get free childcare (or if you rope in your relatives to do it for you).

In Scotland you apply directly to your college or uni for funds – in the rest of the UK, it’s through Student Finance.

How much money can you get from the Parents’ Learning Allowance?

Separate from the childcare grants, full-time students with children are often eligible for the Parents’ Learning Allowance.

The available amounts are as follows:

How much money can you get from the Adult Dependants’ Grant?

If you have an adult dependant, you can receive up to the following amounts:

Receiving an Adult Dependants’ Grant will affect any income-related benefits or credits you receive.

Bursaries and scholarships

Think of bursaries and scholarships as cash with criteria – you may be able to grab funding to cover your fees (or a hefty chunk of your living costs), but you’re going to have to jump through a few hoops to get it.

Schemes are run by universities, colleges, charities, businesses, local government and even private funders, and each one sets its own rules for who gets a look-in.

You could be eligible if:

You meet the criteria. This can include:

How much money can you get?

Anything from a few hundred pounds to several thousand! The money will usually either be paid as a one-off, or in yearly wads.

Some universities offer bursaries to students with less than £25k in household income – others dole it out to everyone. Either way, it’s the mother of all cashback offers, so it’s well worth investigating when you apply!

How to apply

There are loads of places to find funding. Unfortunately, there’s no one-stop shop, so you’ll need to hit them all up individually. Luckily for you, we’ve got a full list of student bursary and scholarship sources.

Course and career funding

NHS bursaries and grants

If you’re studying nursing, dentistry, medicine, or a related healthcare subject, you may be able to get extra money in the form of NHS bursaries, grants and fee waivers. What’s on offer depends on the country you’re studying in. So far, so simple.

Unfortunately, some of that funding is on shaky ground. Some schemes have already disappeared, some may vanish in the future, and others are better cloaked than Harry and Ron heading to the restricted section of the library.

Here’s what we know is on offer for students starting in 2019 – watch this space for updates as we get them.

You could be eligible if:

What can you get?

Depending on your course, country of residence/study and other eligibility criteria, you could receive some or all of the following:

When you can apply, or which years you get funding can vary, too – for example, some students might only get NHS funding for the last two years of their course.

How to apply

England: NHS Business Services Authority

Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Direct

Scotland: Student Awards Agency Scotland

Wales: Student Award Services

Social work bursaries (SWB)

For students starting social degrees, incentives are patchy, with some schemes not available in all parts of the UK, and others simply reserved for postgraduates.

Either way, any bursaries available will be capped to a limited number of students each year.

You could be eligible if:

How much money can you get?

In England, undergrads in Year 2 onwards can apply for a non-means tested Basic Grant, plus Placement Travel Allowances.

In Northern Ireland, you can apply to the Student Incentive Scheme for a non-means tested Incentive Grant (to go towards the costs of study, including tuition fees) for each year of your studies, plus a contribution towards the costs of completing your work placements.

In Wales, undergrads can apply for a non-income assessed bursary of up to £2,500/year (3 years max), plus Practice Learning Opportunity Allowance (PLOA – basically to help with the costs of completing your placements).

How to apply

In England, funding is handled by NHS Business Services Authority.

In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to go through Student Finance Northern Ireland.

In Wales, head to the Care Council for Wales.

Teaching grants and bursaries

If you’re applying to study a teacher training degree, you get access to the same Student Finance (grants, bursaries and loans) as everyone else.

You might also be able to nibble on extra funding in the form of teaching grants and bursaries – but, unfortunately, they’re much harder for undergraduates to get a piece of.

You could be eligible if:

How much money can you get?

It varies by country and subject demand (‘golden handshake’ incentives can be quite lucrative if there aren’t enough teachers in a particular field).

If you’ve got a hankering for maths or physics, there are undergrad bursaries currently on offer for students in England, but slim pickings otherwise. There are far more funding opportunities (and for a wider range of subjects) once you get into postgrad teaching (especially if you secure a first at undergrad level!).

Where to search for funding

England: Department for Education

NI: Northern Ireland Services Direct

Scotland: Student Awards Agency for Scotland

Wales: Welsh Government

If you’re from the EU or EEA, start with the country you want to study in.

Hardship funds

hardship funds
If you find yourself struggling to get by once you start your course, there’s one last option for finance to see you through: hardship funds from your uni.

What the scheme is called (e.g. Access to Learning Fund), how much is in the pot and how it’s paid will vary by institution but, as the name implies, the money’s there to help seriously skint students.

You could be eligible if:

How much can you get?

Payouts will vary, and it’ll be the uni that decides who gets what. Any money you get will be to cover costs not covered by other forms of funding (i.e. if you’re entitled to Student Finance, you’ll need to have applied for it already).

Hardship funds don’t just come in the form of a grant – you may be offered a loan instead. Don’t be put off by that, though – if you’ve fudged-up your finances, support from your uni beats credit card debt hands-down.

How to apply

Look out for the fund as it will be called something like “Access to Learning Fund” in many English unis.

Otherwise, go to your university’s student services office. Be prepared for the student support team to scrutinise your bank statements, your spending and your budget (make one now and you’ll be sorted when the time comes!).

8 golden rules for free funding

how to get funding for university

  1. Apply early, especially if funding is limited. Allowing extra time to pimp the paperwork means you’re more likely to get the cash when you need it
  2. If you don’t get in early, don’t assume you’ve missed the boat – you can apply for Student Finance up to nine months after your course starts. Check out the deadlines here
  3. Check, check and triple check if handouts affect other funding or counts towards household income
  4. Sniff out any strings involved. Does it have to repaid? What happens if you leave your course early? Can you spend it on whatever you like?
  5. Get educated about what counts as income. It could mean not missing out on funds unnecessarily (it could save you on loan repayments later on, too)
  6. Cash management is king. Learn how to save it, stretch it and work it like a boss
  7. Exhaust the funding options on this page before borrowing from commercial lenders. If you still need extra cash, a 0% student overdraft should be your next stop
  8. Don’t give up! Finding something you’re eligible for can take serious dedication. If you’re drawing a blank, don’t forget there are other ways to turn a buck. Use ’em.

Still undecided on which university is right for you? The list of the top ten UK unis will give you a nudge in the right direction!