How to get university funding

  • Emma Finamore
  • 01 Dec 2015

There's more help out there than you might think. 


In just over 10 years, annual university fees have increased by nine times in most cases, and students from less privileged backgrounds are faced with the choice of between taking on extreme debt before they’ve even begun their adult lives, or a lack of higher education.

This year, the expected student debt is set to increase to an average of £30,000, an increase of almost 50% compared to 2014.

Despite this, UCAS figures have shown that more teenagers from poorer families applied to attend university this September than ever before.

And crucially, last year low-income students contributed a 10% increase to the largest number of overall admissions ever recorded

The vast majority of poorer students relying solely on government gifted grants, which have now been cut by chancellor George Osborne.

The Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation lives by the motto “Education is the Foundation” – they’ve put together a handy list outlining alternative ways you can access funding for university.

1. Grants

There are a number of other grants you could be eligible for other than maintenance, including special support grants and travel grants.

Travel grants are afforded to those who need to travel or study abroad for at least 50% of term time, or if you’re on a medical course and need to travel regularly to a hospital as part of it.

Both special support and travel grants can be applied for alongside your normal application for student finance at

2. Bursaries

Bursary criteria varies from place to place, but can be provided by a wide variety of educational establishments including colleges and universities.

Bursaries aren’t included in your overall debt, as they are awarded for free and don’t need to be repaid.

To find out if you could be eligible, speak to the university or college you plan on attending, as they will supply you with the funding direct.

3. Charities

There are a number of not-for-profit organisations operating across the UK that are dedicated to the provision and facilitation of education.

Again, criteria varies depending on the charity, as each is likely to focus on a specific age group, region or sector to allow for more tailored support.

The Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation, for instance, offers bespoke financial aid to the dependents of Merchant Navy, Fishing Fleet and RNLI seafaring families at any stage of educational development, including higher education, career training and apprenticeships.

4. Sponsorships & school leaver programmes

Some employers offer sponsored degrees - to sponsorship a student through their degree, with a view to offering them a job at the end of it.

Check out our listings for sponsored degrees and school leaver programmes, which can often involve study at university paid for by a company.

5. Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

If you have a disability, you are eligible to apply for a DSA. The amount of funding and support you receive depends on the condition(s) you have, but covers a wide range of physical illnesses, mental health issues and leaning difficulties such as dyslexia.

To download the right forms, and for further details on how to apply, visit the dedicated page.

6. The NHS

Whether you’re studying for a degree in medicine or social work, chances are you could be entitled to a bursary from the NHS, which could be up over £5,000 in some cases.

How much money you receive is dependent on where you’re studying at, where you are living and how many contact hours you have per week.

To apply for this type of bursary, head to the Bursary Online Support System (BOSS) on the NHS website.



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