University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Wendy Price OBE

by Wendy Price OBE

Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University of Sunderland

posted on 15 May '24

What are university bursaries and scholarships – and top tips to get one!

University is one of the most popular post- 18 options. However for some students and parents/carers, costs can be a prohibiting factor. While student finance helps with university fees, student loans only stretch so far.

Universities offer additional financial support through bursaries and scholarships. Exploring these options may encourage students to think differently about their options.

What’s the difference between bursaries and scholarships?

Both terms refer to financial support that does not need to be paid back. However, there are key differences:
• Bursaries are usually based on personal circumstances such as background or location.
• Scholarships are usually based on an achievement, including academic, sport or music. They need to be applied for and are often competitive.

What are university bursaries?

Bursaries are awards offered to students who are currently under-represented in higher education. These bursaries aim to remove barriers to education and encourage students to attend university who may not have previously considered it.

Some bursaries need to be applied for and some are automatically awarded. Most universities also have hardship funds: one-off payments that help students who fall into unexpected financial hardship.

To help with budgeting, some bursaries are awarded termly over several academic years.

What are university scholarships?

Scholarships can be more competitive, they usually involve an application and are often awarded based on academic performance or excellence in certain areas. Scholarships are usually given in termly instalments and can be cash or credit based.

Our University of Sunderland flagship scholarship rewards students who have the highest increase between their GCSE grades and Level 3 qualifications. They are given credit to spend on course resources and cash to help with living costs.

There are also scholarships for specific subjects. Sometimes, scholarships are supported by philanthropic donors. For example, at the University of Sunderland we have a Creative Writing scholarship that is kindly supported by a local author and former student.

Universities may also have music and sport scholarships. These help support students with their sporting endeavours and usually go towards coaching, travel and equipment.

University bursary and scholarship deadlines

Many scholarships and bursaries have application deadlines, some even before students start university. Therefore, it’s important students look into this as they do their initial UCAS research, and make a note of any deadlines. They should also look out for emails from the universities they’ve applied to for deadline notifications.

Where to find information on scholarships and bursaries?

With many scholarships and bursaries on offer from different universities, it’s worth encouraging your students to do their research. This can be through various channels including:
• university websites, where the criteria for all their scholarships and bursaries will be displayed.
• university Open Days, where finance teams are available to talk your students through their options.
• The Scholarship Hub, which houses a large database of available funding for UK and EU students.
• the gov.uk website, which lists the government-funded awards available

The most important thing is to let your students know there is financial help available. Whether they are budding musicians or sports people, or think university isn’t for them because of their circumstances, there’s likely to be some form of financial help or guidance for them.

Prefer to listen?

Check out episode 22 of the Uni Guide Podcast - featuring expert guest, Jon Hering from Blackbullion. They also run The Scholarship Hub - which is referenced in this article.

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