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I’m studying medicine, dentistry or healthcare – what higher education funding can I get in England or Wales?

By David Malcolm

Friday 15 March 2013 Higher education

If you’re studying or want to study for a medicine, dentistry or healthcare qualification in the UK (either an undergraduate diploma or degree) you can get funding from the NHS in England or Wales to help with tuition fees and living costs.

NHS funding for medicine, dentistry and healthcare in England and Wales has changed a lot over recent years, so it’s become quite a complicated to work out what you’re entitled to. The bottom line is this: what you’re entitled to all depends on your course and when you started it. Funding might not be available until many years after your course begins, but even so, the kind of funding you get is always what you were entitled to on the day your course began.

Am I eligible for an NHS healthcare bursary?

To get any higher education support from the government in the UK, you and your course must be eligible for it, according to the general rules. However, you may be eligible for an NHS bursary even if you’ve had government funding for higher education before, and even if you’ve had an NHS bursary before you may be eligible for another one if you want to change professions.

The main criteria are that you must be considered a resident in the UK and you must be accepted for an NHS-funded place on a full- or part-time course that leads to professional registration as a:

  • doctor or dentist
  • chiropodist, podiatrist, dietician, occupational therapist, orthoptist, physiotherapist, prosthetist, orthotist, radiographer, radiotherapist, audiologist, speech and language therapist (these are called the ‘allied health professions’ or AHPs)
  • dental hygienist or dental therapist
  • nurse, midwife or operating department practitioner

For more details, see:

Now, here’s a tricky bit: the kind of course you’re taking determines where you get your NHS funding from. If you’re studying:

  • Medicine or dentistry, you get your funding from the country where you’re considered a resident, but you can use that funding to study elsewhere in the UK (eg if you’re resident in Wales you can use your funding from the NHS in Wales to study at a university in England). The following details about NHS funding for medicine and dentistry courses are for students who normally live in England or Wales.
  • A healthcare subject other than medicine or dentistry (eg nursing, midwifery, an AHP) you get your NHS funding from the country where you’re studying (eg if you’re studying in Wales you get your funding from the NHS in Wales, even if you’re usually resident in England). However, you may be able to top up your NHS funding with other support from the country where you normally live. The following details about NHS funding for healthcare courses other than medicine and dentistry are for students who normally live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland and want to study in England or Wales.

You don’t need to pay this money back. For the latest figures and more information, see NHS bursaries for England and NHS bursaries for Wales.

You can also apply for loan for living costs from whoever provides the funding where you normally live (eg Student Finance England). How much you can borrow depends on where you live and study, and you can’t borrow as much in the final year of your course. If you’re studying for a postgraduate qualification, you may be able to get a similar loan – speak to your student finance provider to find out.

If you’re studying on a standard five or six year medicine or dentistry undergraduate course, you can get the same NHS bursary and loans that are available to students studying subjects other than medicine and dentistry – however, you can only get this funding for the fifth and subsequent years of your course. For your first four years of study you’re entitled to the same support that’s available to all undergraduate level students from Student Finance England or Wales.

What extra NHS bursary funding is available?

Extra funding is available along with your NHS bursary. All students who get an NHS bursary are also entitled to:

  • An allowance to cover extra weeks of your course, if it’s longer than standard. As with the bursary, you don’t have to pay it back and you get more for studying in London or away from your parental home.
  • Reimbursement for the cost of travel between your term-time home and a practice placement site that’s not part of your university or college. Extra residential costs may be reimbursed as well (eg if you have to stay at or near the placement site).

If you’re an undergraduate medicine or dentistry student and you’re facing serious financial difficulties, you may be eligible for an NHS Hardship Grant if you’re getting an NHS bursary and you’ve taken out all the student loans you can. For more information, see:

  • England: see the NHS hardship support information
  • Wales: speak to your university or college, or your students’ union for advice

How do I apply for an NHS healthcare bursary?

You need to apply for your NHS bursary each year. For the NHS in:

  • England, apply directly to the NHS Business Services Authority within six months of the first day of the academic year.
  • Wales, when you’re offered an NHS funded place, the institution advises the NHS Wales Student Awards Unit of the offer, and the Unit sends you an application form.

Apply for other support (eg tuition fee loans, maintenance grants) to Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales.

What if I don’t have an NHS healthcare bursary?

England: if you’re a medical or dental student in the early years of your course before you can claim an NHS bursary, or you’re not eligible for one, you can get a grant to help cover the costs of travel when you’re attending a clinical placement in the UK or studying abroad.

If you’re doing a clinical placement in the UK you can apply for travel costs between your home and the hospital or facility where you’re doing your placement. If you’re studying abroad you can apply for up to three return journeys between your home and the overseas institution during a full academic year abroad, plus medical insurance, expenses and travel visas (only if essential).

If you’re a single parent, you may be able to apply for your children’s travel costs as well.

The amount you get depends on your household income (your parents’ or partner’s income plus yours).

You must be a resident in England to get the grant, and you can get it alongside other student finance (eg your maintenance grant and loan for living costs).

For more information, including details of how to apply, see Travel grants for medical and dental students (England).

This information was updated in June 2019. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.