Find out about different types of scholarships available to study in the UK and how to improve your chances of winning one.
Attending a top-ranked university and obtaining a globally recognised qualification is something most individuals dream of. No doubt such a move will be a good investment that is likely to secure your future. It’ll be a heavy investment too, especially if you have to move abroad to study.
Studying in a foreign country can be affordable, provided of course everything is planned out well in advance. As an international student, you will have several funding options available to help meet the costs.
In this blog post, you will find enough information about getting a scholarship to study in the UK, one of the world’s top study destinations.
Benefits of studying in the UK
For centuries now, the United Kingdom has been a leader in academia, attracting international students from around the globe. Whether it is their world-recognised universities, innovative teaching approach or the innovative minds that deliver courses, the UK can offer everything you need to unlock your potential and achieve success.
As well as being a great place to study, the UK is also the ideal place to prepare for a career in your chosen field. Work placements, internships and volunteering positions help international students like you acquire new skills, make new contacts and apply your learning in a real-world environment. On successfully completing your course in the UK, you can apply to stay and work, or look for work, for up to two years via the Graduate Route.
Finally, did you know that one in four world leaders has studied in the UK? So, if you are fiercely ambitious, then a UK education will go a long way towards helping you achieve your dreams, however big they are!
Eligibility to apply for a UK scholarship
International students can apply for various types of financial aid in order to fund their studies in the UK. While some scholarships offer partial funding (e.g. cover a certain percentage of your tuition fees), there are others that meet your entire expenses, including tuition fees, living expenses and flight tickets.
It is worth remembering at this point that every scholarship sets its own eligibility criteria. That said, here are some common requirements that you may have to meet:
- Academic merit
While the key consideration for awarding someone an academic scholarship is proof that they’ve had consistently good academic scores, some other types of scholarships also take into account your grades from previous study.
- Eligible work experience
In order to apply, some scholarships require you to have eligible work experience, whether it is full-time employment, part-time employment, voluntary work or paid/unpaid internship. In most cases, you will be allowed to include experience from different employment periods in order to meet the requirement. If you progress to the interview stage, you may be asked to expand on the employment information you provided at the time of applying for the scholarship.
- Extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities, such as involvement in sports clubs or various societies, help you learn more about yourself as an individual. Besides, such activities also give you the perfect opportunity to build new skills and broaden your knowledge in different contexts. Naturally, many scholarship programmes ask for this information, as it will provide some insight into the type of person you are. Use it to your advantage!
- Future plans / long-term goals
Scholarship applications often ask you to detail your plans for the future, usually in the form of an essay. Among other things, this allows you to show your level of enthusiasm for your chosen field of study, explain why you deserve the scholarship, and demonstrate that you have set clear goals for the future.
- English language requirement
To be considered for scholarships, you may have to meet the English language requirement set by the respective awarding body. This can usually be done by taking an international English language test such as IELTS. Apart from helping with filtering out applicants who may be unsuitable, a language test can also provide proof that you are ready to begin studying in an English-speaking environment.
Scholarships from the UK government
International students wanting to study in the UK can apply for a variety of scholarship programmes run by the UK government. Given below are the three main scholarship programmes:
Chevening offers fully-funded scholarships (including flights, accommodation and course fees) to undertake any master’s course at any university in the UK. These scholarships are generally awarded to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential and strong academic backgrounds. As well as getting a UK education, it is also a unique opportunity for the next generation of leaders, influencers and decision-makers to develop lasting positive relationships with the UK. Since its inception in 1983, Chevening has enabled over 50,000 remarkable professionals to live and study in the UK, helping them develop professionally and academically. If you would like more information, please visit the official website of Chevening Scholarships.
Jointly funded by the UK government’s GREAT Britain Campaign and the British Council, along with participating UK higher education institutions, the GREAT Scholarships programme aims to significantly increase the number of opportunities for students from a specific group of countries: Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
In 2021, the programme offered 309 scholarships in partnership with 43 higher education institutions across the UK. Winners receive a minimum of £10,000 towards their tuition fees for a wide range of postgraduate courses lasting a year. You can find more information about GREAT Scholarships on our Study UK website.
If you are a citizen or a permanent resident of a Commonwealth country who cannot afford to study in the UK without financial aid, you are eligible to apply for the Commonwealth Scholarships. The programme, designed to attract outstanding talent to UK universities, offers a broad range of awards:
- Commonwealth PhD Scholarships (for least developed countries and fragile states)
- Commonwealth Split-site Scholarships (for low and middle-income countries)
- Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships
- Commonwealth Shared Scholarships
- Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships
- Commonwealth PhD Scholarships (for high income countries)
- Commonwealth Medical Fellowships
- Commonwealth Professional Fellowships
Most of the Commonwealth Scholarships are fully funded, so apart from covering your tuition fees, you’ll also receive your airfare to and from the UK, and living expenses for the time of your stay. To find out how to apply for one of these scholarships, please visit the CSC apply page.
The UK government also offers hundreds of scholarships, bursaries and additional financial support to international students like you. To learn more about what help is available, visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.
Scholarships from educational institutions in the UK
Many higher education institutions in the UK run their own scholarship programmes. Apart from attracting exceptional talents, these scholarships also aim to create once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for students who lack the financial means to study in the UK.
Universities and colleges in the UK award scholarships to international students on the basis of different factors. To help you understand, here’s a broad categorisation:
|Category||Who is it for?|
|Academic, merit and excellence scholarships||Individuals with a strong academic background|
|Performance-based scholarships||Individuals who exhibit exceptional ability in an extracurricular activity (e.g. sports, music, drama, dance)|
|Subject-specific scholarships||Individuals who want to study a particular course or subject (e.g. law, architecture, biology)|
|Equal access or sanctuary scholarships||Individuals who have had to flee their home countries and have taken refuge, or sought asylum, in the UK|
|Disability scholarships||Individuals with a disability, long-term mental health condition, learning difficulty, or other special needs|
If you are interested in studying at a specific college or university in the UK, it’s best to visit their website to know what financial support is on offer. For instance, the official website of the University of Cambridge, lists various sources of financial support available to its students: financial support for undergraduate international students; funding support for postgraduate students; scholarships awarded by the Cambridge Commonwealth, European & International Trust; Gates Cambridge scholarships; and financial support for disabled students.
Global scholarships to study in the UK
While some scholarships target prospective students from specific countries, there are others which are more accessible to international students. Here are some global scholarships that will provide you with financial assistance to get a UK education:
Global Wales Scholarships for International Students
International students looking to go to university in Wales are eligible for any of the four scholarship programmes offered by Global Wales. At the moment, students from North America, India, Vietnam and EU countries can apply.
To learn more, please click here.
British Council scholarships for women in STEM
Are you a woman with a degree or PhD in a STEM subject (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) who is passionate about your field of study? This could well be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for! This scholarship programme is open to women from the Americas, South Asia, South East Asia, Egypt, Turkey and Ukraine.
To learn more, please click here.
A.S. Hornby Trust Scholarship
If you are an experienced English language teacher seeking further professional development, the Hornby Scholarships can help you complete a Masters in TESOL at the University of Warwick in the UK. What’s more, the scholarship covers all costs in the UK; including a monthly stipend to cover accommodation and living expenses; tuition fees; and return air tickets, visa and language test costs. The Hornby Trust accepts applications from countries listed in the DAC List, which has over 130 names.
To learn more, please click here.
Scotland’s Saltire Scholarships
This programme of scholarships is run by the Scottish Government in collaboration with Scottish universities and colleges. It is ideal for anyone looking to do a postgraduate Masters programme at any of Scotland’s higher education institutions. The programme offers up to 50 awards, each worth £8000, towards tuition fees for any one year of full-time study. It’s open to students from Canada, China (including Hong Kong), India, Japan, Pakistan and the USA.
To learn more, please click here.
Scholarships for undergraduate studies in the UK
It is true that scholarship and bursaries for undergraduate studies in the UK are fewer in number than they are for postgraduate studies. However, it does not mean that they are hard to come by; you just need to know where to look for them.
If you are hoping to do an undergraduate course in the UK and need financial assistance, your best bet is to look for two categories of scholarships: those offered by higher education institutions in the UK and those offered by third parties, such as the government or an organisation, in your home country. To identify scholarships offered by UK entities, a good place to start would be the official website of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK.
Top tips on how to win a UK scholarship
Winning a scholarship is not exactly rocket science; however, be willing to invest the time and effort necessary to make it happen. Follow these tips, and you’ll have improved your chances of being awarded a scholarship to study in the UK.
- Do your homework
It’s most unlikely that you’ll find a single source that has all the information you need about UK scholarships. So, see to it that you do enough research in order to identify all funding options you may be able to access as an international student. It might be a good idea to do a thorough search online: check out your local British Council website, websites of organisations in your home country that offer scholarships, and websites of higher education institutions in the UK. It’s worth casting your net wide when looking for funding to study abroad.
- Check the eligibility criteria thoroughly
Before deciding to apply, it’s important that you look through the eligibility criteria of each scholarship carefully to confirm you fit the scholar profile. Ideally, you should only spend time applying for scholarships that you’re eligible for and have a good chance of getting.
- Tailor your application
Generally speaking, no two scholarship applications are the same – you may have to answer different questions and meet different requirements. Naturally, the last thing you want to do is copy and paste content. Instead, make a real effort to tailor each scholarship application you submit so that it fully satisfies the requirements set by the awarding body. Be honest about your reasons for wanting to study a specific course at a particular institution. Of course, this may consume a lot of your time, but then who said applying for scholarships was going to be quick!
- Meet deadlines
Becoming an international student invariably entails having to meet a set of deadlines. Whether it is applying for scholarships, a language test or your visa, make sure you stay on top of deadlines. Remember, failing to meet a deadline could very well end your dream of studying in the UK. Being organised is the key here.
- Ask for help
It is always good to have another person go through your scholarship application before you submit it. It could be a friend, sibling or former tutor – anyone with enough skills to proofread your application and give objective feedback should do. If you lack that kind of support network, go on social media and reach out to current/former scholars from universities you’re applying to. You’d be surprised to know how many of them are actually willing to help!
IELTS for the UK
For university, scholarship or visa applications, you may need to prove your English ability by passing a secure English language test (SELT). The IELTS for UKVI Academic test is ideal if you need to support your visa application to study in the UK. As well as being trusted by higher education institutions in the UK, it is also the test of choice for organisations there that award scholarships to international students.
When you book IELTS for UKVI with the British Council, you receive extensive support to prepare for your test. It includes free access to GEL IELTS Prep, our brand new IELTS for UKVI preparation package.
Living and studying in the UK is an exciting prospect that will involve you investing a considerable amount of money. So, if you are in two minds about taking the plunge, do think about how this transformative experience is bound to improve your employability and present you with unique opportunities in the future. A UK education is good value for money, especially when you consider that the average costs there are less than in countries such as the USA and Australia.
Winning a scholarship, fully-funded or otherwise, should give you the confidence to embark on this life-changing journey. Remember, you won’t know if you’ll succeed in getting funding unless you give it a shot, so go for it. Good luck!