Student Finance

What is a Bursary?

Becky Kleanthous  · Apr 13th 2023

When it comes to bursaries, you would be surprised just how many university students do not know what they are. Luckily, we do!


There are plenty of students who have needed them and universities plan for this every year with their own form of financial support for students of all ages and backgrounds.

University student bursary

What is a bursary?

A bursary is a non-repayable sum of money that universities can award to students to incentivise and support their studies.

Since we're talking about student bursaries, you might want to have a look at our in-depth student finance articles and learn more about how the UK student finance system works.

Student Finance England: Everything you need to know about student finance in England, you'll be an expert before you know it!

Student Finance Scotland: An in-depth rundown and expansive guide on Scottish student finance, telling you all you need to know.

Student Finance Wales: All the information you need about Welsh student finance. Here we have a detailed breakdown on the finances, payment methods and more.

Student Finance Northern Ireland: Studying in Northern Ireland? Check out our guide to Northern Ireland student finance.

What is bursary funding?

There are various pathways of funding for degrees in the UK. Most students go through their local student finance body, such as Student Finance England, for tuition fee loans and maintenance loans to cover their basic course costs and living expenses.

In addition to that, universities may offer their own financial support, such as scholarships for exceptionally gifted students, or bursaries to increase the appeal of certain courses, or to widen participation for less privileged students (such as the AMOS bursary, which supports Afro-Caribbean men who face greater unemployment levels than their white counterparts).

There are various pathways of funding for degrees in the UK.

But just what is a bursary? It’s a financial award, usually given as a lump sum at the start at the academic year, or paid in instalments each term. It does not have to be repaid, which makes it really helpful for students who might otherwise not be able to afford to study.

Now that we’ve covered bursary meaning, let’s consider some different types of student bursary and how to apply for bursary funding.

How to apply for a bursary

How to apply for student bursary funding depends on the specific university, charity or funding body. Eligibility varies from provider to provider.

Most universities offer a streamlined service to make bursary applications and payments simple and automatic. Essentially, as long as you allow your student finance company to share information with the uni, eligible students will automatically receive the bursary from the course provider.

Uni student bursary

How much is a bursary?

Every uni has its own criteria for bursary eligibility. The UCL bursary, Oxford bursary and Cambridge bursary are awarded to students on a household income of £42,620 or below, while the Imperial bursary is available to students whose household income is £60,000 or lower. Bournemouth’s BU bursary, however, is only available to students with a household income of £25,000 or lower, while the Manchester bursary and Warwick bursary use £35,000 as their threshold.

Every university has its own criteria for bursary eligibility.

As it’s so different for all universities, it’s important to check with your course provider to see what you might be eligible for. Haven’t found your perfect course or uni yet? Use our course finder to narrow down your options.

How to apply for teacher training bursary

Depending on what subject and age range you plan to teach, you could be eligible for a 'get into teaching bursary’. The teaching bursary is largest for shortage subjects such as sciences and some modern foreign languages. It’s also available for primary PGCEs, but at a lower rate, and there is no longer any teacher training bursary for FE / post compulsory PGCEs. If you’re eligible for student finance to study your PGCE, you’ll be eligible for the teacher training bursary, and you don’t even need to apply separately. Check out our complete guide to PGCE bursary, loans and funding your teacher training here.

How much is a social work bursary?

The social work bursary is an incentive to train in this important but challenging profession. There is a complex list of criteria for eligibility, but undergraduate social work students in London can get up to £5,262.50 per year. And if you’re wondering, ‘What is a bursary fund like at postgraduate level?’ postgraduate social work students are also eligible for bursaries and additional financial support. There’s a pot of money for fees, a pot for a bursary, and pot for a maintenance grant. Some of these funds are automatically granted to all social work students, and others are means tested (based on your household income). Check the NHSBSA website for full details.

How much bursary will I get at college (Scotland)?

The student bursary system is similar in Scotland, with some extra government funding. Non-repayable support includes the Young Students' Bursary, Care Experienced Students' Bursary, Independent Students' Bursary, Lone Parents' Grant, Dependants’ Grant, Care Experienced Accommodation Grant and Nursing and Midwifery Bursary. Eligibility is based on your place of residence, life circumstances, and course type, so be sure to check your bursary Scotland entitlement with the Student Awards Agency Scotland to get specific SAAS bursary info. Additionally, Scottish universities often offer their own bursaries and scholarships, so you should do your research with course providers too. Find universities here.

Applying for a bursary: what to write

In the ‘How do I apply for a bursary?’ section, we explained that many HEI bursaries are automatically assigned when you apply for a student loan. However, if you’re looking for funding from an independent charity or body, then you might need to write an application stating your case for a student finance bursary.

When writing an application, set out your barriers to education and explain how increased finance can help you overcome these barriers.

When writing an application, set out your barriers to education and explain how increased finance can help you overcome these barriers. Clearly state how achieving a degree is going to be of benefit to you and others: how will it change your life and career, and what will you contribute to society and industry as a result of being able to study?

Student bursary

What is HEI bursary?

A HEI bursary is a Higher Education Institution bursary. It’s funding that comes directly from the course provider, rather than a third party charity or other funding body.

College bursary

Sixth form college students require a slightly different answer to the question, ‘What is a student bursary?’. A college bursary, properly called the 16-19 bursary, is a fund to help pay for course materials, transport etc. for the most vulnerable groups of 16 to 19 year olds in further education, such as young people living alone, or in the care system. Speak to your college to discuss college bursaries further.

What is NHS bursary?

The rest of this guide focuses on NHS bursaries, answering questions including: What is a bursary payment? How much bursary will I get? What happened to the nursing bursary? How do you apply for NHS bursary? How much is the NHS social work bursary?

How much is the NHS bursary?

An NHS student bursary is separate to the £1000 non-means-tested (NMT) grant that all NHS bursary recipients are entitled to. The bursary is means-tested, however, so the amount awarded will depend on your personal circumstances. It goes up to £3,191, plus £1000 grant, and extra help for childcare, disabled students and expenses.

NHS means-testing: how does a bursary work?

Your household income, area of residence and the length of your course all have an impact on how much of the bursary you’re entitled to. Scroll down to ‘NHS bursary: how much will I get?’ for more help.

How much bursary will I get for nursing?

The nursing bursary has been abolished, unfortunately. Government changes to healthcare and education funding in 2017 meant that NHS student bursaries in England are now only available for students training to be a doctor or dentist. Student Finance support (tuition fees and maintenance loans) are still available to students who no longer receive the NHS student bursary, though, including: nursing, speech therapy, orthoptics, occupational therapy, midwifery, dietetics, radiography, physiotherapy, orthotics and prosthetics, podiatry, and operating department practitioners.


How to apply for NHS bursary

For every year of study, you need to reapply through NHS bursary BOSS (Bursary Online Support System). As well as an NHS bursary log in, you’ll need your course information, plus two forms of ID.

When to apply for NHS bursary

Once you’ve got an offer of a place on a course, then you can use your NHS bursary login to access the BOSS NHS bursary system. This system is where you can submit your NHS bursary application.

What about the NHS bursary Wales, NI and Scotland?

If you apply for NHS Wales bursary funding, the funding is broadly similar to the English system, but you must commit to working in Wales for two years after graduation.

Students from Northern Ireland can apply for a non-income-assessed bursary.

Students from Northern Ireland can apply for a non-income-assessed bursary.

In Scotland, healthcare students are better off than their English bursary NHS counterparts. The Scottish healthcare bursary is not means tested, so all students receive £8,100 per year for their first three years of study, with £6,075 in the fourth year. There’s an array of extra support too, including expenses, childcare, dependents, single parents and disability allowances.

NHS bursary: how much will I get?

So, how much bursary do you get? Try using the NHS bursary calculator to get an estimate, or contact the NHS bursary folk directly for advice. The NHS bursary contact number is 0300 330 1345.

Thinking of applying for a medical degree? We’ve got medicine personal statement examples and nursing personal statement advice over here!

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.