How to fund your university studies

Going to university can be an expensive time in your life. Natalie Stanton looks at some of the ways to cut down on the costs.

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A bursary is one way to cut down on the costs of university

If you're trying to cut the cost of university for yourself or your child, one option may be to apply for a bursary, sponsorship, or grant to help meet living expenses. Here's a brief guide to what types of awards are available.

A bursary is a form of financial help funded by universities, trusts, charities, or even individuals. The government also provides bursaries for some vocational courses. Bursaries are usually dependent on income. Some have a fairly broad remit, while others are for a very specific group only.

For example, the Merchant Venturers bursary provides up to £3,000 for students living in a Bristol postcode with an "enthusiasm for engineering". Contact your school careers department and local authority for tips on accessing community funds and scour university websites for opportunities. Aim to apply the autumn before your course begins.

Sponsorship schemes involve your degree being partly or wholly funded by a company or organisation. These programmes may require you to work part-time during your studies, and you're likely to be offered either a job or a spot on a graduate training scheme once you finish. Many accountancy and law firms offer these types of sponsorship programmes, as do firms such as Asda, Nestl and Harrods, as well as the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force.

Scholarships are awarded for particular achievements from outstanding A-level grades, to sporting accomplishments, or even demonstrating a commitment to a particular interest or hobby. Check out the handy databases at The Scholarship Huband Scholarship Searchto search for grants that may be a good fit for you.

State-funded maintenance grants are no longer available to new students in England (they've been replaced by maintenance loans, which you will need to pay back). However, those from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may still be eligible for grants to help with their living costs. Most universities also offer hardship grants to students facing unexpected financial difficulties.

Topping up your income

Whether you're receiving a bursary or scholarship or not, you may also need to consider getting a part-time job while studying to make ends meet. If so, think carefully about the type of work you take. A university job can help to boost your CV in particular areas and showcase your skills to future employers. But remember that flexibility is crucial a job may be demanding, and your studies need to come first.

The first stop on your job hunt should be your university careers service: this should have information on jobs available on and off campus, as well as being a source of employment advice. Young people doing part-time or casual work are easily exploited by unscrupulous employers, so make sure you know your rights. Check that the job pays at least the minimum wage (£5.30 per hour for those aged 18-20, £6.70 for those aged 21-24, and £7.20 for those aged 25 and over). There are also laws governing holiday entitlement, working hours and rest breaks, and safety at work.

If you're offered a job, you'll need to provide your National Insurance number (you should have received this when you turned 16) to your employer for tax purposes. You'll also have to show certain documents usually your passport so that your employer can verify that you have the right to work in the UK. Each time you're paid you'll receive a pay slip. Keep these safe: you'll need them if you've been put in the wrong tax band and need to claim tax back, or need to complete a tax return.

Should you buy mobile-phone insurance?

The new iPhone, which went on sale last week, is the most expensive yet, costing up to £919 if bought directly from Apple. So if you're planning to upgrade your mobile, you may want to think about whether you should take out insurance against it getting lost, destroyed or stolen, writes Ruth Jackson.

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Retailers and third-party insurers are keen to sell mobile insurances policies because they know that the majority of people will never claim on them. So first consider whether you have enough savings to cover the cost of a new handset and would rather risk dipping into them than paying out for insurance you may never use.

Next, check if your phone is already insured. Many home insurance policies will cover your phone if it is lost in a burglary or fire. Some also cover accidents if it is damaged at home. Many will also allow an add-on to cover your phone when it is outside your home. These will cost you an extra £25-£40 a year.

However, if you make a claim you could lose your no-claims bonus, have to pay a hefty excess, and it could take a while for your phone to be replaced so make sure you read the small print. You might also have cover if you have a "packaged" bank account, where you pay a monthly account fee in order to fund extras such as insurance (though these accounts are often poor value overall).

However, if you often lose or break your phone, consider a specialist insurance policy. These can offer good value for the clumsy or unlucky, as repeated claims don't tend to bump up the premiums. Weigh up the insurance against the excess you'll pay if you make a claim. Protect Your Bubble offers plans from £6.99 with a low excess of £50, whereas other cheaper plans for £4 a month can have excess costs of £100 or more.

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