How to apply for a bursary at university

In University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

When it comes to things like bursaries, the application process can often feel very confusing and sometimes even overwhelming. After all, as these forms of funding aren’t exactly standardised, it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to do during the application process.

As scary as it can seem, this article will talk you through applying for bursaries, so you know exactly what to do.

This article will give you a step-by-step guide to applying for bursaries to fund your university studies and take you through the basics of bursaries, such as which are available and who can apply, to enable you to understand what you’ll need to do to apply for one.

What kinds of bursaries are available for university students in the UK?

In order to be able to apply for a bursary, students need to have a bursary to apply for. While this can sound obvious, it does mean that we first need to introduce the main types of bursaries that students can get before actually getting into the details of applying for one. This is especially as the application process can greatly differ for each one.

As we’ve already mentioned, there are a wide range of different bursaries, which each have their own eligibility criteria and amounts that they provide students with. Due to this, we can look at what the eligibility criteria may be and how much students may be able to get in greater detail, if we look at specific kinds of bursaries available to students in the UK.

Some of the main kinds of bursary available are HEI bursaries, which are offered from your own university or alternative course provider, bursaries that are directly offered by the NHS, government-funded allowances, teacher training bursaries, travel grants and other, independent bursaries, which may come from charities, organisations or even individuals.

For more information about these types of bursaries, have a look at this page on the government website.

In the following sections, you’ll be introduced to some of these types of bursaries available in the UK and then get to see how to apply to each of these.

What is a HEI bursary?

The term HEI bursary stands for higher education institution bursary, meaning that it is a bursary that comes from the student’s own higher education course provider, which may be a university, a college, or something similar.

While there may be other bursaries offered by higher education providers, HEI bursaries are specifically ones that are offered to students from less privileged backgrounds. This is as these bursaries are aimed at increasing the accessibility of university-level education, particularly from low participation groups.

Many universities and other higher education providers offer such bursaries due to government guidelines, which increased the tuition fees cap in the UK to £9,250. Despite this, as the funding comes directly from your higher education provider, they still set their own terms and decide which students are able to receive and how much they get.

As these kinds of bursaries are considered “university and college hardship funds” by the government website, the eligibility requirements reflect this. Students will need to fall into one of the following categories to be able to be eligible for these bursaries.

  • A student with a child or children.
  • A mature student with other financials commitments.
  • Students from a low-income family, although the measurement of “low-income” varies between universities.
  • A student with a disability.
  • A student that was previously in care.
  • A student who is homeless.

You can learn more about these eligibility requirements by checking out this page on the government website.

These bursaries will generally be given either in full at the start of the academic year or at the beginning of each term. With this kind of bursary, students will often not actually need to apply as universities will often make arrangements based-off the information disclosed in your application. Although, it’s important to note that each university will differ in policy.

You can learn more about HEI bursaries by checking out this Think Student article.

How to apply for a HEI bursary

As previously mentioned, for many universities and other higher education providers, students won’t actually need to apply for the bursary. This so because your higher education provider will automatically be able to see if you are eligible for the bursary or not based on your application to student finance.

This works as your respective student finance company, whether that is Student Finance England or a different one, will means test you when you apply for your student loan. In order for the process to work, you will need to make sure that you give your consent to allow the student finance company to share your information with your university.

After this, the process will happen automatically as long as you are eligible for the loan.

If you haven’t applied for student loans, you will need to complete an online application to student finance. However, you should make sure that you are not completing the loan request form, if you do not wish to apply for student loans.

You can learn more about this by checking out this page of the Anglia Ruskin University website.

For universities that don’t have this as an automated process, how you apply will depend on the university. It is likely that you will need to fill in some kind of application form, which may be available on the university’s website, or you may need to directly contact the university to receive this.

As is the case for some of the bursaries offered by Nottingham Trent University, which you can learn more about here on their website.

What is an NHS bursary?

NHS bursaries are aimed at supporting students studying courses that are directly related to the NHS. However, even within this category, there are 3 kinds of NHS bursary.

These are the NHS Bursary, the NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF) and the NHS Social Work Bursary. Although, the NHS Learning Support Fund may also be referred to as a grant or simply a fund, we’ll count it as a bursary in this article due to how it functions and for its similarity to the actual NHS Bursary.

The main difference between these types of NHS bursary is which students they are aimed at supporting but there are also differences in what students can receive. First, let’s look at the NHS Bursary.

The NHS Bursary is for Medicine and Dentistry students, who are in their final 2 years of their course. This will either be in the 5th and 6th years of an undergraduate degree programme or in the 3rd and 4th years of a postgraduate degree programme.

Both undergraduate and postgraduate students are eligible for this bursary, as long as they meet the above requirements. Also, students will generally need to have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 3 years before starting their course. Although, there may be exceptions to this.

For more on this, have a look at this page on the government website.

For the NHS Bursary, full-time students are eligible to receive a £1,000 grant for each academic year, contributions to their tuition fees, as well as the means- tested bursary. How much you get will depend on your personal situation, although the maximum rates are as follows.

  • £2,207 if you’re living at home.
  • £3,191 if you’re studying in London.
  • £2,643 if you’re studying outside of London.

You can learn more about the NHS Bursary in this page on the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) website.

Have a look at the following sections to see more about the NHS Learning Support Fund and the NHS Social Work Bursary.

What is the NHS Learning Support Fund?

As previously mentioned, the NHS Learning Support Fund (LSF) is another kind of bursary offered to students taking courses that are directly related to the NHS. It covers a much wider range of courses in the healthcare sector. You can see which course these are in the following list.

  • Dental Therapy or Dental Hygiene (level 5/ level 6 courses)
  • Dietetics
  • Midwifery
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Operating Department Practitioner (level 5/ level 6 courses)
  • Orthoptics
  • Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • Paramedics
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry or Chiropody
  • Radiography
  • Speech and Language Therapy

Once again, the NHS LSF is available to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, as long as their specific course is counted. Although, once again, students will generally need to have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 3 years before starting their course.

For the NHS Learning Support Fund, students can get a £5,000 training grant each academic year, parental support funding if they have a child or children under 15, money back for their travel and dual accommodation expenses while on practice placement for their course and additional support if they are facing financial difficulties.

You can learn more about this by checking out this page on the NHSBSA website.

What is the NHS Social Work Bursary?

The NHS Social Work Bursary is exactly as the name suggests, as it is a bursary funded by the NHS for social work students on approved courses. For the course to be eligible for the bursary, it must not be an employment-based course and students can’t be doing a joint honours degree in Nursing and Social Work. Although, these joint honours students may be eligible for the NHS LSF bursary.

The NHS Social Work Bursary is available to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, although the amount that they can receive are different. Although, this is only as long as the student hasn’t received any social work qualification previously at level 4 or above.

The same residency requirements also apply to this bursary, meaning that students will need to have lived in the UK or other included regions for a minimum of 3 years before their course starts.

You can learn more about these eligibility requirements on this page of the NHSBSA website.

For undergraduate students, the NHS Social Work Bursary is available from the second year of their course. It is not means-tested, and students will get a portion of the bursary at the start of each term.

The basic rates for students to receive are £4,862.50 if they’re studying outside of London or £5,262.50 if they’re within London. The bursary can also contribute towards any travel costs you may have during required placement on your course.

You can learn more about this in this page on the NHSBSA website.

For postgraduate students, students can receive both the basic grant, which is not means-tested, as well as a maintenance grant, which is means-tested. They can also get a contribution to their travel costs for placement of £862.50.

For the basic grant, students can receive up to £3,362.50 if they study outside of London or up to £3,762.50 if they study in London. As well as, up to £2,721 if they study outside of London or up to £4,201 if they study in London for the means-tested maintenance grant.

You can learn more about this here on the NHSBSA website.

How to apply for an NHS bursary

To apply for these NHS bursaries, you will need to make an account for the respective bursary, which you can do by following the links on their respective webpages. From here, you will need to complete the online application, which will then enable you to apply for the bursary. This online application process may require you to submit certain documents, such as ID or even proof of income, particularly for the NHS Social Work Bursary.

If you are a returning student for the bursary, you will be sent an email that will invite you to reapply for the following year. Once again, using this, you will need to follow the steps online to apply.

You can find more about this on the respective pages of the NHSBSA website for the NHS Bursary, the NHS LSF and the NHS Social Work Bursary.

What are the government-funded allowances for university students in the UK?

Another one of the main bursary types that students can get in the UK are ones offered by the government. There are several types of these, including the one in the following list. The following are all available for English students, although similar schemes exist for other parts of the UK.

  • Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – This is a grant for students with disabilities to help cover the additional costs that they may have while at university due to their disability. This may cover things like specialist equipment, extra travel costs or other forms study support.
  • Childcare Grant- This is for full-time students, who have children under the age of 15 or under the age of 17, if they have special educational needs. Although, this is means-tested, so students will need to be making under a certain threshold in order to be able to get this funding. Students will also not be eligible for this if they are receiving a postgraduate loan or if they get help for childcare costs from the NHS.
  • Parents’ Learning Allowance – This is once again a type of bursary or allowance aimed at helping full-time students, who are parents with the costs of studying. Once again, students will need to make below a certain threshold to receive this bursary. They will also need to have a child that is financially dependent on them and be on an undergraduate course to be eligible.
  • Adult Dependant’s Learning Allowance – This bursary is to provide students with additional funding if they have another adult that is financially dependent on them. Students won’t be able to get this if they make over a certain threshold and/ or they are reviving a postgraduate loan. Moreover, the adult dependent can’t be their child, a relative that is earning over a certain amount, a partner if the student is under 25 or another student receiving student finance.

You can learn more about these bursary types by clicking on their respective links from this main page of the government website. You can check out this Think Student article for even more details on the DSA.

How to apply for government-funded student allowances in the UK

For each of these 4 types of government-funded student allowances or bursaries, you can apply at the same time as your main student finance application. For each of these, there are sections within the student finance application that you can fill out if you need to apply for this funding.

You can learn more about applying for student finance in general by checking out this Think Student article.

During these applications, you may need to provide personal information or evidence to prove your financial or personal circumstances. This may be a direct part of your application or student finance may contact you after you apply to get these.

Once again, you can find all this information on the links found from this page of the government website.

How to apply for other university bursaries in the UK

In this article, we’ve already looked at some of the main bursaries for university students in the UK, particularly government funded ones. However, there are many more available to students. Many of these are offered by independent organisations, such as charities.

The first step in apply for these kinds of bursaries is to find one that is right for you. These can be found in many ways, from searching online, asking a student or careers advisor, looking at specialised sites that have lists of these bursaries or even going through physical books with lists of these bursaries.

As each organisation is separate, I can’t give you a definite answer on how to apply for each of these. However, they should clearly set it out on their website or whatever other forms of communication they use to tell you how to apply.

You can learn more by having a look at this page on The Scholarship Hub website.

*Please note that the facts and figures included in this article are true at time of writing (February 2024) and may have changed slightly after this.  More information on bursaries in general can be found in this Think Student article.

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