Educational Grants

Comprehensive guide to student finance

Everything you need to know about educational grants

Entering the world of further or higher education is an exciting time but it can also be an expensive one – as well as the fees paid to the university or college you’re attending there are many other things to consider, like where you will live, if you’re studying away from home, and how you will support yourself during your time at college or university. There are three main ways people can pay for their studies – self funded, either from personal savings or family, through loans, which have to be paid back, by obtaining a grant or a scholarship, bursary or award. Here we take a look at the options to make sure you know exactly what’s available when you’re looking at ways to fund your time as a student.


Student loans have become the norm for most people going to study at university. There are two types of loan available – tuition fee loans and maintenance loans. Both will need to be paid back in the future.

Tuition fee loans

  • Designed, as the name suggests, to pay your tuition fees.
  • Available to full and part time students.
  • Paid directly to the university or college you’re studying at.
  • Many students need to use these loans just to be able to afford to do their course.
  • Repayments start when you’re earning £21,000 a year or more.

Maintenance loans

  • Generally only available to full time students.
  • Used to cover the cost of living while you are a student – to help with food, accommodation, travel, study materials etc.
  • How much you can borrow will depend on your circumstances and your household income.
  • As with a tuition fee loan, you will start paying a maintenance loan back when you earn over £21,000.


A grant is like a loan only you don’t pay it back. Many people don’t realise they are eligible for grants and each year many thousands of pounds go unclaimed, simply because people don’t know the money is available to them. Here’s a quick guide to the types of grant available.

Maintenance Grants

  • Available to full time students only.
  • Household income must be less than £42,611.
  • Need to be studying a recognised higher education qualification – i.e. BS, BA, BEd, foundation degrees, HND, HNC’s, DipHE, PGCE and ITT courses.
  • Must be a British citizen and have lived in the UK for the last three years.
  • Available to people studying a publicly, not privately, funded course. The majority of university courses are publicly funded but it’s worth checking with your college/university to make sure.
  • Does not need to be paid back.

If you fit the criteria for a Maintenance Grant you could be receiving up to £3,354 per year. It’s worth noting that, if you are awarded a Maintenance Grant, it will affect the amount you are allowed to borrow through a Maintenance Loan.

Special Support Grants

  • Works in the same way that the Maintenance Grant does, but, unlike the Maintenance Grant, it won’t affect the amount you can borrow through a Maintenance Loan.
  • Special Support Grants are available to people who qualify for Income Support or Housing Benefit.
  • Like a Maintenance Grant, you wouldn’t have to pay a Special Support Grant back.

Bursaries, Scholarships and Awards

Another avenue to explore when looking for options to fund your studies is through a Bursary, Scholarship or Award. In practice, universities use these three terms interchangeably – they are essentially the same thing. Here are they key things you need to know about Bursaries, Scholarships and Awards.

  • They can come in many forms but generally mean that you don’t have any tuition fees to pay. They can also provide a small income during your time on the course, to help with the costs of studying.
  • They are sometimes offered by the establishment themselves, perhaps sponsored by a famous alumni, or can be obtained through a private company. For example, an engineering firm may offer a scholarship for someone to do an engineering degree at a certain university, with the promise of a job opportunity or internship at the end.
  • You will normally have to complete an extensive application to apply for a bursary, scholarship or award.
  • They are awarded for a variety of reasons – the student’s experience, talent, expertise or background may be factors taken into account.
  • Your time studying will not be any different to a ‘normal’ student – you will attend the same classes and complete the same assessments as everyone else.
  • You might, however, have certain criteria to fulfil as part of an agreement signed when you accept the bursary, scholarship or award. For example, the sponsor may wish to see evidence of your attendance on the course, or require you to achieve certain grades.
  • There are many of these funding opportunities available, through government schemes, universities and colleges, and private companies, but finding the right one for you can be tricky as they aren’t all advertised in the same place. The best advice is to do a lot of searching around and research, to find an opportunity that would work for you.

See the Educational section of the blog for further information.

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