Don’t miss out on university bursaries

There are plenty of university bursaries, scholarships and grants available to everyone, regardless of background.


Musicians need to start young if they aim to apply for bursaries or grants

There are plenty of university scholarships, bursaries and grantsavailable to everyone, regardless of background.

Tuition fees went up considerably a few years ago, yet organisations are still struggling to find applicants for scholarship schemes. So if your child is approaching university age, you have options beyond either funding their course yourself or watching them rack up debt.

The number of available scholarships, grants and bursaries is rising each year, yet most people aren't aware of them, says Karen Kennard, founder of The Scholarship Hub, a database. These terms are often used interchangeably, but generally scholarships are awarded for academic merit; bursaries for financial need; and grants come from charities.

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As it stands, there are more than 3,000 scholarships and bursaries available at UK universities, worth more than £150m. These offer financial support that can cover much of the cost of your child's tuition and, unlike a student loan, they don't need to be repaid.

However, only 40% of students apply for this money. Even if people are aware of the funding, they often assume they're not eligible. But many schemes are opento anyone, regardless of background.

For example, the RAF offers £6,000 a year to students studying a foreign-language degree. These "intelligence bursaries" also give students the promise of a job on graduation working as an intelligence analyst. GCHQ, the government communications agency, offers scholarships worth £4,000 a year to students studying sciences, technology, engineering or maths.

In addition to funding for students with excellent academic records, there are also bursaries and grants for students with particular interests or ambitions, or who are especially gifted at sports or music. Students who want to break into television can apply for a bursary worth up to £3,000 from the Royal Television Society (note that a maximum household income applies here). Students could also be eligible for help if they are the first in the family to go to university, or if their extra-curricular activities such as community work make them eligible.

To find out what help is available, start by asking the universities your child has applied to, and search for grants via the charity Turn2us. The Scholarship Hub website has an extensive database of funding schemes too.

Consider an accelerated course

Another way to save on university fees could be to encourage your child to opt for an accelerated course. This month, MPs passed legislation declaring that from September universities can offer intensive courses that last two years rather than three. Fees could be up to £11,000 a year, but you'll save around 20% compared with fees for a traditional three-year course (a maximum of £9,250 per year). There will be savings on living costs too. The drawback is that the same content will be fitted into two years rather than three, meaning shorter holidays, and the first year would now count towards students' overall grades.

If your child is heading for a three-year degree without financial aid, and you can afford to pay their fees, don't rush to do so. It may make more sense to take out a student loan. That's because 77% of students who take out loans will never pay them back in full, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The student-loan system requires graduates toreach a certain salary level before repayments kick in, and student debt is written off after 30 years. So, many graduates will never earn enough quickly enough to repay the loan in full. See here, here and here for more.

Regulator analyses how banks use our data

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City regulator, is monitoring the way in which banks are using customers' data to make money, says James Coney in The Sunday Times. Data is a valuable commodity for banks, and some British institutions have access to a huge amount of information about us. For example, Lloyds controls more than a quarter of the current-account market and also has a giant credit-card arm that includes MBNA, while Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland each hold 18% of the market.

The FCA has raised concerns that the big banks controlling the most data could identify those customers who do not move their money when interest rates drop, making them easy to exploit. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Christopher Woolard of the FCA expressed concern about how banks use the data available to them.

"One issue is the ethics of data and how it is applied," he said. "We can look at how data is used, but whether the way they use it is ethical is a debate that we have to have with the industry. Just because something can be done doesn't mean that it is a desirable outcome" for customers.

Lloyds, the UK's biggest lender, is set to offer 100% mortgages to first-time buyers in a return to the type of lending last seen before the financial crash, says Patrick Collinson in The Guardian. The bank's new "lend-a-hand" deal will offer first-time buyers up to £500,000 for a new house with no deposit necessary. However, note that a family member will have to put a sum equal to 10% of the value of the property into a Lloyds savings account for a buyer to get the mortgage.

"A war of words between Britain's biggest chain of undertakers and a specialist price-comparison site has shattered the peace of the sombre world of funeral directors," says Nick Craven in The Mail on Sunday. The website Beyond.Life has accused funeral directors Dignity of "profiteering" from grief and lacking price transparency. In response, Dignity has threatened Beyond.Life with the Advertising Standards Authority. The row began ten days ago, when Dignity's commercial director Steve Wallis wrote a 48-page letter to Beyond.Life formally requesting it to remove "misleading statements" on its site. Beyond.Life boss Ian Strang responded with a letter stating: "I can only imagine that the production of this rainforest-threatening tome was an act of revenge for dissecting Dignity and its decades-long profiteering".

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.