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I’m studying social work – what higher education funding can I get in England?

By David Malcolm

Thursday 21 March 2013 Higher education

If you’re a resident in England and you’re studying for a social work qualification in the UK (either an undergraduate diploma or degree, or postgraduate qualification) you can get funding in the form of a bursary from the NHS in England to help with tuition fees and living costs.

From the 2013/2014 academic year, social work bursaries are changing. First year undergraduate students will no longer receive a bursary, and there will be cap on the total bursary numbers across undergraduate and postgraduate study. Details of the cap are still to be announced – we’ll update this page when these become available.

What funding can I get?

The NHS Business Services Authority offers a social work bursary to help you pay to study for a social work qualification. You don’t have to pay the money back. The amount you get depends on where you study, whether you’re studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification, and whether you’re studying full-time or part-time. It doesn’t depend on your household income.

If you’re studying:

  • Full-time for an undergraduate qualification after 1 September 2013, you can get a grant for living costs in the second and third years of your course, which you can use to help pay your tuition fees if you want. If you started before that date you’re guaranteed a bursary for each year of your course. The amount you get depends on where you study – up to £4,575 outside London and £4,975 in London or at the University of London. You can also apply for funding through Student Finance England in the same way as other undergraduates. See What funding is available in England for full-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK? for more information. If you’re already a graduate but you’re doing an undergraduate social work course, you can apply for the maintenance loan part of the student finance package.
  • Full-time for a postgraduate qualification, you get a grant for living costs each year (up to £3,362 for study outside London and £3,762 in London or at the University of London), and a contribution to cover your tuition fees as well (up to £3,732, which is paid directly to your university or college). You can also apply for an additional maintenance grant – the amount you get depends on your income from savings and investments, and your partner’s income if you have one. You get a bit more if you’re studying in London.
  • Part-time for an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification you get a grant for living costs each year (half the amount available for full-time study), and a contribution to cover your tuition fees as well (up to £3,732, which is paid directly to your university or college).

These figures are for 2012/2013 – rates for 2013/2014 haven’t been confirmed yet. The amounts you’re entitled to may be different if your course started before 1 September 2006.

All students also get a contribution towards travel expenses – called a Practice Learning Opportunity (PLO) – of £575 a year for full-time undergraduate students, or £862.50 for students on a full-time postgraduate course (if you’re part-time you get an amount based on the duration of your course).

If you’re disabled or you pay for childcare, you may be able to get extra funding as part of the bursary. For more information, see:

The grant for living costs part of the bursary is taken into account when you’re assessed for any social security benefits you receive, but the PLO contribution shouldn’t be taken into account.

Here’s more information about the NHS Business Services Authority social work bursary.

Am I eligible for social work funding?

To get any higher education support from the government in England, you and your course must be eligible for it, according to the general rules (see Can I get higher education funding in the UK? for more information). However, the eligibility rules for the NHS social work bursary are more relaxed if you’re a postgraduate or part-time student.

The main criteria are that you must be considered a resident in England and you must study on an approved course in the UK (see the lists of approved courses).

You can’t get a social work bursary if:

For more details, see the NHS Business Services Authority’s eligibility information.

How do I apply?

If you’re doing an undergraduate qualification, apply to Student Finance England for support, and once they’ve assessed your application and notified you, apply for the bursary directly to the NHS Business Services Authority. For postgraduate courses, you don’t need to apply to Student Finance England first. See Applying for a social work bursary.

Related topics

What higher education funding is available in England?

This information was updated in March 2013. 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.