What is a Bursary in the UK?

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Often, one of the main concerns for students in the UK is managing their finances. This is always a complicated topic. For many students, they have only recently started handling their own costs, making it even more confusing. However, there is always lots of support available to help you meet the costs associated with further and higher education. One big form of support offered in the UK is bursaries. Although most people have heard of these, they are often confused with things like scholarships, grants and student loans. You may be wondering – what exactly is a bursary?

A bursary is money given to certain eligible students to help fund their studies. The exact details vary depending on your individual circumstances and who is giving you the bursary. For example, some companies offer bursaries to encourage students to study certain underrepresented fields, while other bursaries are given depending on your household income and other financial information.

Keep reading to find out lots more information about bursaries, including how you can get them, and how they affect your other finances.

What are bursaries?

Often, bursaries are called ‘free money’. This is because a student bursary is money given to help you manage the financial side of university, without worrying about paying it back in the future. This can help you pay for things that are necessary for your course, such as books and equipment, and even transport to and from the university.

The word ‘bursary’ is often used interchangeably with scholarships and grants. Although this can be confusing, these three types of financial support are more or less the same thing. This Think Student article has information about the difference between bursaries, grants and scholarships.

Have a look at this article from the UCAS website for more information about bursaries, grants and scholarships, specifically designed to help low income families or households.

Although this support is often associated with university, there are other bursaries available. Have a look at this page of the government website for an overview of the 16-19 bursary fund.

The fact that bursaries do not need to be repaid is the main thing that separates them from student loans. Although loans are also meant to ensure you can meet the costs of university, once you start earning a salary, you start paying the loans back to the government.

How do you get a bursary?

While a little extra money to help you while you study sounds great, not everybody is eligible for this type of support.

The most common type of bursary is offered to students from low-income backgrounds, who may otherwise not be able to afford university. These are often offered by universities themselves. When looking at universities you may want to apply to, it is worth checking what sort of bursaries they offer that you could be eligible for.

However, low-income bursaries are not the only type. For example, teaching bursaries are available from the government for those training to be a teacher, to encourage people into this important profession. For more information, see this page from the government’s Get into Teaching initiative.

Check out this article from The Scholarship Hub for an overview of the types of bursaries available, as well as guidance on making an application.

Are bursaries taxable?

Tax is another thing that worries many students. In the UK, once you earn over the tax threshold of £12,570 a year, you start paying tax on the excess. However, bursaries are classed as non-taxable income. This means that they don’t count towards the tax threshold.

For students, the main source of taxable income is any salary from a part-time job. Even this may not reach the threshold, so is tax-free. The other main source of income for students, their student loan, is also not taxed.

However, the tax system in the UK can be difficult to understand. For a full guide as to how it works, have a look at this article from the Save the Student website.

Does a bursary count as income for universal credit?

In most cases, if you receive a bursary, this will be taken into account when calculating your universal credit eligibility. This is because both of these are money you receive to help meet your financial needs – if the bursary covers most of your costs, there is less need for extra funding in the form of universal credit.

However, there are many different types of bursaries, and everyone’s financial situation is unique. There may be cases in which your bursary does not affect universal credit eligibility, or other forms of support that you are still able to claim. For more information, check out this article from turn2us.org.uk.

Does a student bursary count as income for a mortgage?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to whether a student bursary counts as income if you are trying to get a mortgage. It will depend on the specific lender as well as your own circumstances. Some will take into account your bursary as though it was income, while others may not.

In contrast, a student loan will almost certainly not count as income if you are trying to get a mortgage. Have a look at this Think Student article for more information about how student loans affect your other finances.

Although getting a mortgage can be a complicated process, if you are a student looking into this, this article from onlinemortgageadvisor.co.uk has a full guide about what to expect.

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