Feeling confused about it all? Yeah, so were we. So we’ve broken it down for you.

In a nutshell, grants are offered to students with specific circumstances such as disabilities or a background of foster care, and will sometimes be used to fund a dissertation project or come from a charitable source; bursaries are offered to students who come from a low-income household; and scholarships aim to support and encourage high achievers. Most importantly, any money you receive in this way, you don’t have to pay back (unless you leave the course early).

The government has come under fire since they scrapped the maintenance grant in England (which you didn’t have to pay back) and replaced it with a loan (which you do need to pay back). If you live in Wales or Northern Ireland, this grant is still available. But don’t be disheartened if you live in England, support is still available and a maintenance loan isn’t as bad as it first seems. You don’t have to pay it back until you earn over £25,000 and the loan is scrapped after 30 years even if you haven’t paid it back or have only partially paid it back. On top of this, other financial support is available to people who need it. Read below to find out what you’re entitled to.

What is a grant and how do I apply?

Grants are paid by the government, universities, charities and in some cases, local councils. They’re awarded based on a set of criteria which the recipient must meet to be eligible for the grant. You may be eligible for a grant if you satisfy one or more of the following:

There are also a range of other grants available from charities. You can see what’s available here.

For more information on the above grants, click here.

What is a bursary and how do I apply?

A bursary is a sum of money offered by a university to students who come from low-income households. The amount you receive varies depending on the university. If you live in England, your household income must be below around £42,000 to be eligible for a bursary. In Wales, partial grants are available to students whose household incomes amount to up to £50,020.

All universities that charge over £6000 are required to offer a bursary to students who come from a low-income household. The decision is made by the university based on the information provided to them through your application to student finance. Your parent or guardian will have to provide evidence of their income to student finance and the amount you receive will be based on this evidence.

The deadline for applying to student finance as a new student is 13th May for students in Wales and 27th May for students in England and you don’t need a confirmed place at university to apply. You must allow up to 6 weeks for the application to be processed. Late applications will be processed as soon as possible but you will not be guaranteed to receive your first payment in time for your start date. Find more information on when to apply and what information you need when you apply here.

This is where you need to go to apply:

There is also further information regarding bursaries on the university websites. For example, click here to find the bursary information provided by the University of Leeds. If you are struggling to locate information on bursaries from the university you want to go to, then ring or email their admissions department.

What is a scholarship and how do I apply?

A scholarship is provided by the university and is awarded to students who have demonstrated excellence in some way. This might be academic, sport or musical achievement, to name but a few. You are unlikely to be given a scholarship without having applied (although not impossible). How these scholarships are awarded is based on a range of factors. In some cases, the scholarships are restricted to students who come from low-income households but this is not always the case. Scholarships may come in the form of reduced tuition fees or extra money for living costs. This is at the university’s discretion.

To apply for a scholarship, go directly to your chosen university. For example, you can find a list of the University of Nottingham’s scholarship opportunities here.

Alternatively, use this site to search through the available scholarships. Make sure you keep checking because scholarships that aren’t currently on site may become available.

Still confused about what you might be eligible for? Click here for the student finance calculator.

If you’re an EU student studying in the UK, you can find information on what financial support is available to you here.


Recommended article


Top Student Offers and Freebies