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Scholarships, grants and bursaries – extra funding for your degree

By Karen Kennard

Monday 20 March 2017 Higher education

Karen Kennard, director of social enterprise The Scholarship Hub, which helps students find additional funding for their university studies, tells us about the different ways you can get extra funding towards your degree.

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of scholarships being offered to students and despite popular belief you do not have to be an academic genius who has grown up in poverty to be eligible. Equally, even if you did not apply or qualify for any entry scholarships, you should not stop looking while you study. There is funding out there open to first, second, third and fourth year students and postgraduates as well as prospective students.

But you have to look for it.

What is the difference between a scholarship, grant or bursary?

Scholarships are usually given as rewards for achievements, grants for things you want to do but can’t afford to do and bursaries as a bonus when you are struggling financially, but this is not a hard and fast rule and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, the basic principle of each is the same - this is money that is awarded to you which you do not have to pay back.  

This money can be awarded for many different reasons depending on the type of organisation that is awarding it. Different organisations will have different motives. 

If you understand the different types of funding that is available it will be easier for you to identify where you might fit the eligibility criteria, but bear in mind there are also some scholarships which are open to all students.

What are the different reasons scholarships, grants and bursaries are given?

  1. Academic Excellence: offered to students who achieve specified grades and they are not always the top grades as you might expect. It is worth bearing in mind that Academic Scholarships are not just offered by the Universities themselves, but quite often professional associations or institutes offer scholarships to encourage a new generation of talent in their industry.
  2. Musical Scholarships: if you are a talented musician or singer and would be happy to perform while at the university you could get a music scholarship. You do not have to be studying Music.
  3. Personal Circumstances: Scholarships that are based on things that are specific to your personal circumstances, such as where you live, if you’ve been in care, what your parents do or your religion. These might come from local authorities, religious organisations or charities.
  4. Financial Need: More traditional type of scholarships, award money to individuals who are in financial need. These are more often called grants or bursaries and can be offered either by the university or charities and trusts.
  5. Sporting achievement. If you have made outstanding achievements in sport, many universities offer scholarships to attract the best talent. You will have to compete for the university in your sport. 
  6. Company scholarships:  More and more companies are starting to offer scholarships and some include work experience as part of the offer. These are increasingly being offered to raise awareness of a particular company among their future customers and so will target students studying specific subjects. Sadly, some universities are less willing to share these types of scholarships with their students and so awareness of these is low but the plus side is that this can increase your chances significantly of winning one if you know about it.
  7. Your interests and hobbies – there are some scholarships which are based on your extra-curricular activities such as showing a commitment to social engagement or improving the lives of others.
  8. Other scholarships – increasingly there are more scholarships being offered by companies, where all students have to do is submit an essay or video – in reality they are just student competitions but the money has to be used for your tuition fees. Currently many of these are coming from America, (and the money awarded is US Dollars) where scholarships are big business and they are now opening these up to UK students. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of these scholarships as they will quite possibly be looking for some PR or be using the applicants’ contact details for further marketing but again, as long as you are aware of this, you could win large amounts of money.

Where can I find this additional funding?

All students should keep an eye on their own university website for funding opportunities. New ones are being added all the time and they are not just for prospective students, so make a regular visit to the relevant pages to check what’s available.

However, many universities will only promote scholarships which are specific to their particular university and there are many opportunities which are open to students at any university. The Scholarship Hub is a comprehensive database of all scholarship opportunities open to UK/EU students. It allows you to search for scholarships based on subject, university or for the more generic scholarships.

There are also thousands of smaller charities and trusts which offer educational grants. You can find information on these in the Guide to Educational Grants, which can be found in most reference libraries.

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