What is a HEI Bursary?

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Going off to university is a big time in any student’s life and there are many challenges that go along with it. The new friends, the hard work, and living alone can make it very exciting, but also stressful to move away, especially when managing your own money for the first time. A big part of university for many students is gaining funding for their studies, including loans, scholarships, and bursaries. However, these can be confusing for new students, and hard to find information about online.

HEI stands for Higher Education Institution. A HEI bursary is a sum of money awarded to students, usually from less privileged backgrounds, to support their studies and help them access university education. It does not usually have to be applied for and will be awarded by your university based on disclosures in your application. Most students receive this as either a lump sum at the start of the year, or in smaller instalments termly. HEI stands for Higher Education Institution, as the bursary comes directly from your university instead of a third-party charity.

While this should have given you a short answer to your questions on HEI bursaries, please read on for full details including how to apply, and what amount of money you may receive.

What is a HEI bursary payment?

A bursary is an amount of money that universities can give to students to incentivise and support their studies. They are usually given with some conditions attached such as keeping your grades up or getting a job in a certain sector after leaving university.

Bursaries are given in addition to maintenance and tuition fee loans for a number of reasons, such as increasing the appeal of a certain course, or to widen participation for underrepresented groups in a sector. You can read more about bursaries in this Think Student article.

The acronym HEI stands for Higher Education Institution, meaning that a HEI bursary is awarded by your university rather than external party. The funding comes directly from your course provider, and it is up to them to set the conditions of who can receive one and what you will be paid.

More information on HEI bursaries can be found on the government website.

HEI bursaries are given by most universities as part of the conditions for charging £9,250 in tuition fees in the UK. This means they need to use some of their money to give back to students in need, such as those from lower income households.

HEI bursaries are usually given automatically rather than being applied for, however there are some exceptions to this which are explained below.

An example of a HEI bursary in action

One example of a HEI bursary is Newcastle University’s Opportunity Scholarship. All student who receive more than £4,524 per year in maintenance loans are means-tested as lower-income households.

This means-testing happens as part of applying for student funding and is based on your or your parent’s income. These students at Newcastle will be automatically reviewed and some awarded the bursary.

At Newcastle this bursary is £1,000 per year for students with incomes under £35,000 and £2,000 per year for students with incomes under £25,000. These amounts are available every year that the student is paying full fees and funded by Student Finance England or an equivalent body.

For this reason, years abroad or placement years are not usually included in the bursary award as they include a fee discount, so you will usually not receive a bursary those years.

The Office for Students (OfS) also states that students who have already achieved an honours degree or higher-level qualification cannot be considered for bursaries or scholarships, as they are considered to be a different type of student. You can find out more about student related queries at OfS here.

The same applies for students who are receiving, for example, an NHS bursary such as the final year of a medicine degree.

More information about this bursary can be found on the Newcastle University website, here.

How do you get a HEI bursary?

The process of applying for a HEI bursary depends on your specific university. The amount that you are eligible for also often changes based on your personal circumstances.

Most universities have a remarkably simple process for awarding bursaries. If you allow your student finance company to share information with your university then you can automatically receive any bursaries you are eligible for.

Each university has its own criteria for bursary eligibility. UCL, Oxford and Cambridge all offer bursaries to students with less than £42,620 household income, whereas Imperial offer to students with income of £60,000 or less.

Other universities may have higher or lower thresholds, typically based on how privileged their usual student is, and the cost of living in their area.

How often is a bursary paid?

Bursaries are usually given in the form of a lump sum at the start of the academic year or paid in instalments each term. The fact that it does not need to be repaid means that it is especially helpful to students who would not have been able to afford their studies.

A common “problem” seems to be that many students receive this bursary payment without knowing that they are eligible!

If you receive a bank transaction named “HEI Bursary Payment”, be aware that this usually means you have been made eligible for a means tested bursary from your university.

Your financial information is automatically shared with your university from UCAS, unless you opt out of this, so that your university can give you any grants or scholarships for which you are eligible.

Check out this Think Student article for information on the qualifications for bursary payment.

Bursaries are paid into your student bank account directly from the university, and they will usually inform you of how often you will receive the payment.

If you have not received this information, be sure to check, as you may be eligible to receive multiple payments, which will help you correctly budget for the year.

Do you have to repay a HEI bursary?

Bursaries are not repayable. You should check with your university to find the criteria and any terms or conditions to getting the bursary to make sure that you keep these so you can keep receiving the bursary.

One exception to this is that if you interrupt your studies and backdate this interruption to an earlier point in the year, after receiving a bursary, you may have to repay your last bursary payment. This interruption can also include suspensions or withdrawal from a course.

However, typically you will never have to repay a HEI bursary. They are given based on need and, as such, it is seen as uncharitable for universities to make you pay them back.

For more information of bursaries and other similar financial awards, check out this helpful article from Think Student.

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