Completing a study or work placement abroad can be a life-changing experience, and give you an impressive edge over other graduates. Learn about travel grants, funding schemes like Erasmus, and where to find scholarships and bursaries.

This guide covers UK students who enrol at a UK university, and go on to study a year of their undergraduate degree or complete a placement year at a university overseas. This information does not apply to UK students studying their whole undergraduate degree abroad.

UK students studying in a European Union (EU) country – the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and has entered an 11-month transition period. Any information in this guide regarding these students reflects what has been confirmed as of March/April 2020. We will update this guide as we learn more. 

Why should you do a year abroad?

Students can gain many academic, personal, and professional benefits by doing a year at a partner university, or completing a placement abroad.

  • Get university experience that most students don’t get.
  • Enjoy a change of scene after studying in the UK for all of your academic career so far.
  • Meet new people and make friends for life – you can visit them again.
  • Learn about different cultural, social, political, and/or economic perspectives.
  • Discover a new sense of confidence by stepping outside your comfort zone.
  • Pick up desirable skills and experiences for employers, such as language skills, working with different nationalities, and adapting to new situations.
  • Broaden your career prospects and professional circles (especially if you’re on placement).
  • Travel to places that you wouldn’t otherwise get to visit.

Student finance for study abroad, by region

Make sure you’re clear on what tuition fees you’ll be charged, and what support you’ll receive from your student finance body during your year abroad. If your circumstances change – for example, you change your mind about going abroad, or you change your study destination – let them know as soon as possible.

How do tuition fees and student loans work where you live, including repayments and interest? Explore our complete guides to undergraduate finance in EnglandScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.

University scholarships, grants, and bursaries for study abroad

Your university’s study abroad department should be your first port of call to learn what funding they offer students on a study or work placement overseas – namely scholarships, grants, and bursaries donated by alumni, employers, or organisations. This might be a good topic to ask about on an open day.

Your university likely has partnerships with universities around the world. You might get the chance to connect with students who’ve returned from where you’re going, to ask them questions.

Also, your university can tell you about external funding opportunities open to all students, such as Erasmus.

Examples of study abroad scholarships, bursaries, and grants offered by universities

As you can see from the examples below, what’s on offer varies by university:

  • Example 1: £1,000 for students with a household income below £20,000.
  • Example 2: £1,000 for those studying in China, or abroad for a year, with a household income of £25,000 and who meet the university’s widening participation criteria.
  • Example 3: £750 for students with a household income of £25,000 or less.
  • Example 4: £1,000 for those studying or working abroad outside of Europe as part of their degree.
  • Example 5: up to £6,000 for students studying abroad, ‘allocated on the basis of the student’s individual need and the nature of their plans'.

Your university or college may offer free travel insurance coverage for the duration of your time abroad too.

To find what extra funding your UCAS choices offer, visit their websites, or contact them. There will be some work involved for you, but the rewards are well worth it.

Eligibility

While eligibility will vary from one university to another, and depend on the award itself, criteria will often revolve around one or more of the following elements:

  • your nationality/fee status you’re a UK student and paying home fees
  • your course or subject year and study mode
  • whether your study or work abroad plans are a compulsory or optional element of your course
  • your destination – funding may be limited to partner universities, or certain countries or continents
  • minimum length of time abroad – year of study and date you plan to go abroad
  • your household income
  • eligibility for other funding – for example, one university sets out that you can’t apply for their study abroad grant if you’re eligible for Erasmus Plus
  • academic performance (previous or predicted) – for example,  applicants for one university’s scholarshipat must achieve 60% in their first year

Your eligibility shouldn’t be affected by any other scholarships you receive, such as widening participation (WP) or low income scholarships. In fact, many universities have extra provisions for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, whether it’s prioritising them for certain awards, or topping up what they receive elsewhere.

How to apply

The application process for a study abroad award may depend on how competitive or popular it is, as well as the original purpose behind its creation.

Bursaries are usually awarded automatically based on financial need, which a university can assess based on your student finance information. Often they’ll reach out to you to let you know if you’re eligible. At the very least, be prepared to complete some paperwork that covers some basic information about you and your study plans.

Competitive scholarships may set some sort of essay task where applicants have to explain their motivations to study abroad.

Search, compare, and shortlist universities and colleges using our search tool

Travel awards

Universities offer travel awards to support students’ travel plans. This travel doesn't necessarily have to be tied to your degree course, although it usually has to contribute to your understanding of, or engagement with, your subject. This can include undertaking further research at a university or location overseas.

You can combine work with pleasure. Explore the possibility for an overseas research project somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. Even if it’s not the exact location, a travel fund could help you get close enough to continue your travels on your own dime.

Eligibility and applying

Travel awards are available to both current students and recent graduates at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Because they’re meant to assist students in further research, specific awards will be limited to those studying – or graduating from – a particular course or subject.

A key difference from other types of funding applications is that you must complete a research proposal outlining what you intend to study and its importance, plus how an award would help you, including estimated costs. One university says that theyCambridge look for ‘quality, originality, and individuality’ in travel fund proposals.

Financial background and academic record may also be considered.

Other external funding

While Erasmus is arguably the most well known source of funding for overseas study and work experience, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more scholarships, grants, and bursaries offered by, or in collaboration between:

  • governments
  • employers
  • charities
  • professional bodies
  • educational and cultural organisations
  • special interest groups

They’re set up for various reasons, including:

  • to promote international education, including mobility and collaboration
  • to encourage cultural exchange
  • to promote a particular destination, including education and learning there
  • to nurture young talent in a particular subject, field, or industry
  • to foster positive relations between countries

Erasmus and the British Universities Transnational Exchange (BUTEX) tick some of these categories. BUTEX offers a number of scholarships worth £500 every year. Like Erasmus, your university needs to be a BUTEX member.

Our guide to additional funding covers the wide variety of criteria that scholarships and bursaries are decided on, including some very niche ones – from having a particular surname, to being a vegetarian. Similarly, study abroad funding may be awarded under specific circumstances, or as a result of partnerships you’d never expect.

One Welsh university has a partnership with eight institutions in Texas, while The Scottish-Italian Scholarship – founded by the Comitato di Coordinamento delle Associazioni Italo-Scozzesi – aims to ‘promote friendly relations between the students of Scotland and Italy’ by facilitating exchanges.

Got your eye on a particular country? There are specific scholarships for UK students wishing to study in some countries. Look online to see what funding there is to study or complete a work placement there – simply start with a quick Google search. If you do this early on, it may even guide your UCAS choices.

Eligibility and applying

Because external funding like this is offered by a variety of providers, it’s tough to neatly sum up what you need to do to be eligible, and to apply.

Always read the eligibility criteria for a specific award you’re interested in, carefully. This may involve one or more of the following:

  • your age
  • your nationality, residence, and fee status – i.e. you live in the UK, and qualify for home fee status
  • your course or subject, including year of course and study mode
  • your study or work placement qualifies, and it’s a compulsory or optional element of your course
  • your destination – funding may be limited to partner universities, or certain countries or continents
  • minimum length of time abroad – year of study and the date you plan to go abroad
  • your eligibility for other funding – for example, BUTEX applicants can’t be eligible for an Erasmus grant
  • academic performance (previous or predicted) – for example, Generation UK China applicants must have or be on track to get a 2:1 classification
  • relevant skills or experience – for example, John Speak Trust applicants must have a basic knowledge of a foreign language (GCSE or equivalent)

Provided you meet the necessary criteria, you’ll have to complete an application. There could be other stages to the process, where you explain or demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • why you want to go abroad – your plans, destination choice
  • why you deserve the award – achievements, circumstances you’ve overcome
  • how an award will benefit you
  • your goals or future ambitions

This is usually an essay, but could involve completing a relevant project, attending an interview, or giving a presentation. For example, BUTEX scholarship applicants have the option to design a poster that promotes study abroad, and present this in lieu of an essay.

Also, watch out for any terms and conditions, particularly with a scholarship. A common one is providing some sort of update on your time overseas – like a blog, a quote, or photos – that can be used online.

Open day questions for study abroad scholarships

  • How does student finance work for the year students are abroad? What tuition fees do you charge?
  • Are you registered with Erasmus, or other similar schemes?
  • What scholarships, bursaries, or grants do you offer students who wish to spend a year abroad, as part of a study or work placement?
  • What criteria or conditions do students have to meet for these?
  • Where in the world can students go? Do you have partnerships with universities in these countries?
  • Will a student’s chances of successfully applying for or being eligible for a study abroad scholarship, bursary, or grant be affected by any other funding they might receive?
  • How many awards are available for a particular award?
  • Does household income impact a student’s chances when applying for study abroad funding? Do you prioritise these students?
  • Is there extra funding available for students from disadvantaged or widening participation backgrounds, such as living in care or coming from a low socio-economic background?
  • What’s involved in the application process for study abroad funding?
  • When do applications need to be in by?
  • Where have previous students gone, and what did they get to do?
  • Do you offer free travel insurance coverage while students are abroad?
  • What other, non-financial benefits can students get?
  • Do you offer travel funds or travel awards?

Learn about other additional funding available, including sport, music, and low household income scholarships.