Bursaries, scholarships and grants explained

Are you looking for information about bursaries, scholarships and grants and want to know what the difference between them is? We’re here to explain what these words mean and how they could support you with funding your university education. All three of these types of funding are available on top of your tuition and maintenance loans and won’t affect your Student Finance.

What are bursaries, grants and scholarships?

The great thing about bursaries, scholarships, and grants is that you don’t have to repay them, they’re essentially free money, but they do often come with entry requirements. By the end of this blog, you’ll understand what these three types of support are, how you can apply or search for them and what’s available to students at Birmingham City University (BCU).

What is a bursary?

A bursary is a type of financial support given to students based on financial need. These are often given to people who will find university particularly challenging from a financial perspective, or from specific socioeconomic backgrounds. They’re normally offered directly by universities.  

Each bursary is different, and you’ll need to check directly with the university providing it to see if you’re eligible. Generally, they consider things like household income, academic performance, and specific circumstances.

Bursaries are given as non-repayable funds to cover a range of different expenses like living costs, textbooks, or travel. They provide essential support to students who might struggle to afford the cost of attending university and can make a big difference in their opportunities to access higher education.

What is a scholarship?

 A scholarship is similar to a bursary in that you won’t need to repay it. They differ in that they’re normally awarded based on academic achievement or excellence, although they might be given based on other criteria like fields of study or personal circumstances. They’re still awarded by universities but also by private organisations and charities.

As they’re based on achievements, scholarships can be more competitive and have more thorough application processes. This isn’t always the case though and, just as with bursaries, it’s important to check the individual requirements of each scholarship.

You can apply for scholarships to cover a wide range of university expenses from living costs to studying abroad.

What is a grant?

 A grant is like a bursary or scholarship as it’s also free money to cover costs while studying. What sets grants apart is that they’re more often given by government organisations, charities, or trusts. They’re awarded based on lots of different criteria from academic achievement and field of study, to where you live or your background. These grants can be very specific, for example, there’s a grant from the Vegetarian Society for young vegetarians and vegans!

Grants are also given to cover a very broad range of expenses from tuition fees to project funding. You might come across these more often in postgraduate study or research. The process for applying for grants can be rigorous and you may even need to attend an interview. But this isn’t always the case, and you may find that a generous person has left a trust to support people from their local area into higher education. These can often just require an application letter stating why you’re applying and how this money will help you in your studies, it could be covering any textbooks you need to buy, travel or other essential expenses.

Which one would be best for me?

 The common theme here is that each bursary, scholarship, and grant is unique. They all have their own eligibility criteria and application processes and are available to cover specific costs. This will all be communicated on the listing so you can make the decision that’s right for you.

If you’re still deciding what area you’d like to study in, it’s worth researching whether there are any scholarships or bursaries which will fully fund your studies.

Where to find more information and apply 

The first place you should start your research into bursaries and scholarships is directly with the universities you’re thinking about applying for. Most universities will offer a variety of bursaries and scholarships based on different criteria. For example, BCU offers two different scholarships – one based on personal circumstances and one based on academic achievement. 

To search for what grants might be available, you can use Turn2us. Enter information about your situation to find if any pots of money are available based on where you live, what subject you’re planning to study or more. It also shows you how to apply and how you qualify. If you’re already at BCU you can use the free search tool Open 4 Learning or have a chat with Student Support.

You can also use websites like The Scholarship Hub or Blackbullion to search for funding. Narrow your search by subject, where you want to study and more.

What bursaries are available for teaching, nursing, or social work?

If you’re planning to study teaching, nursing or social work at BCU you could be eligible for bursaries from the government or NHS. The UK government offers scholarships and bursaries for people looking to go into teaching, but only for specific subjects. You can find out more about this on the Get Into Teaching website. Bursaries are also available from the NHS for social work and nursing, midwifery, and allied health professions through the Learning Support Fund. Head to student services for more information.

What bursaries or scholarships are available at BCU?

Our scholarships for students starting in 2024 include the High Achiever Scholarship and the Accelerate Scholarship.

There are also lots of bursaries, scholarships and grants you can only apply for once you’ve started university. Once you’ve started your journey at BCU, be sure to get in touch with the Student Support team or your faculty leads, who can signpost you to what’s available.  

Now you know everything there is to know about bursaries, scholarships and grants and where to search for them. There are lots of extra funding opportunities available, particularly to break down barriers which have prevented people from applying to university in the past. Many are aimed at widening representation in higher education. Use the tools in this blog to search for opportunities that are right for you.

Current student?

Looking for information about what financial support is available while you're studying at BCU? 

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