Music scholarships, grants, and bursaries are awarded to undergraduate students on the basis of their musical talent, whether as a vocalist or playing an instrument. Unlike student loans, these don’t have to be repaid.
Plus, you don’t need to study a music degree course to receive a music scholarship or bursary – many universities and colleges offer them to students of all subjects. So if you’re a budding biologist who can rattle off the best of Bach, you may still be in luck.
Why universities and colleges offer music scholarships
As well as financially supporting students whose personal circumstances might prevent them from pursuing higher education, universities and colleges provide this type of funding to:
- encourage and nurture students’ musical ability (especially when this can become a demand on students’ time and budget)
- cultivate an active musical community beyond those studying it as part of their course
- enlist a wide range of musicians to perform and represent the university/college at campus and external events, especially for disciplines or instruments that traditionally attract low numbers
Music scholarships can offer other benefits to students, on top of the financial incentive, such as:
- access to world-class experts, equipment, and resources
- extra paid opportunities to perform at events
- the chance to perform on trips and tours (including overseas)
- complimentary tickets to shows and performances
- assistance with related fees or expenses
If you’re interested in a music scholarship, bursary, or grant, you’ll be expected to demonstrate your raw ability as part of your application, including how you’ve applied this at an advanced level. For example, have you performed at school, in your local community, or in competitions?
A university or college will also want to hear how you plan to use this to contribute to its musical community – we go into more detail about the responsibilities that successful recipients must undertake, below.
How much money will you need to live on at your chosen university? Use our student budget calculator to get a rough picture of your living costs.
Like other additional funding, this can either be a one-time payment or a series of payments over the duration of your studies, to help with living costs (some scholarships may reduce your tuition fees too).
That said, some music scholarships have a strong focus on helping students develop their musical ability, rather than topping up their bank balance. As such, you may find that some financial awards come with restrictions. For example, one university’s Choir Award can only go towards vocal lessons, or where recipients are music students, to additional lessons.
Some awards may be an incentive equal to a certain cash value – a bit like a store gift card. A common example is a set number of hours of private tuition or coaching that would otherwise cost you a pretty penny.
Others may offer ad hoc help, like funding examination fees or relevant equipment.
This can be a real asset if music will continue to play a big role in your life once you get to university. But if you want to take a break from performing, or are unsure how it will fit into your routine, it might be best to leave this to students who will get the most from it.
Examples of music scholarships, grants, and bursaries offered by universities
As you can see from the examples below, what’s on offer varies by university:
- Example 1: £500 per year, paid in two instalments.
- Example 2: musical tuition with a cash value of £1,000 per year/£3,000 over the lifetime of the award.
- Example 3: £400 scholarship for one year.
- Example 4: £1,000 grant for initial year for accommodation costs or student loans for tuition fees, opportunities to participate in campus music activities and events, and access to selected concerts and careers events.
- Example 5: £200 cash prize plus free tuition or mentoring for the year.
- Example 6: Up to £1,200 per year of study, plus support and guidance from the Director of Music.
As well as some basic criteria, eligibility for a music scholarship tends to involve the following:
- A minimum grade level for your instrument/voice – many look for Grade 8.
- A music qualification at A level, Scottish Higher or equivalent, with a minimum grade.
- A written reference from a relevant individual talking about your musical abilities – for example, your music teacher, instrumental/vocal coach, ensemble conductor.
- You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
- You’ve accepted an offer for a full-timefor full-time undergraduate course at that university – you may have to accept this as your firm choice too.
- You meet the grade requirements and conditions that come with your offer.
Household income isn’t normally a factor when it comes to music scholarships, although there may be cases where priority is given to students from low income backgrounds.
In fact, specialist colleges might be your best bet for additional funding based on personal circumstances, given that all applicants would be expected to be of a high musical calibre.
Funding may be subject to review throughout your studies. By accepting a music scholarship, bursary, or grant, recipients often agree to performing at regular events, like religious services, recitals, and other university events.
Some universities include an academic performance caveat too. This means you need to achieve a minimum grade at the end of each year of your course, to receive subsequent scholarship payments.
Scholarships may be withdrawn if you fail to stick to what’s been agreed (and you may be required to give back any financial award paid to you up to that point). In fact, this might be something to ask about on an open day.
While applications to music scholarships will vary depending on the provider, they usually consist of:
- an online application, with a few short essay-style questions about your interests, experiences, and ambitions
- an in-person audition where you perform for an individual or small panel who make the ultimate decision
- an interview with faculty members – one university refers to this as a ‘brief conversation,’ if that helps your nerves
The second two usually take place on the same day, and could involve performing with other applicants. Some scholarship opportunities may stretch into the start of term once students have enrolled.
- How many awards are there per scholarship/grant/bursary?
- What level/grade do applicants have to be at for a particular instrument?
- Who do you accept musical references from?
- Do applicants have to have studied a music qualification at school/college?
- Do you subsidise travel costs for auditions and interviews for students from low household incomes?
- What happens at an audition?
- Are there any requirements for what pieces applicants can or can’t perform at an audition?
- Do applicants audition with other applicants?
- Do vocalists have to provide their own music or can they request an accompanist?
- How long after an audition will applicants know if they’ve been successful?
- Could an award be at risk or withdrawn if a students’ grades slip once at university?
- What roles or responsibilities do students have to commit to if they receive a scholarship? Is there a minimum number of events that students must perform at each year?
- Practise, practise, practise – just like applying to university in general, you may be caught off-guard by the stiff level of competition you now face. Plus, you’ll want to factor in any audition day nerves.
- Apply to as many scholarships as possible – don’t pin your hopes on just one award. You shouldn’t be limited to how many you can apply to, even at the same university.
- Check for any terms and conditions – what commitments are you signing up for in exchange for an award? Make sure you’re willing to fulfil these once you get to university.
- Get started on your application early – finding grade certificates in the loft, filming and uploading video/audio clips, waiting for references… These all take time, on top of any application forms or essays you have to complete.
- Look up who’ll decide your fate – can you tailor your application, audition, or interview answers in a way that’ll resonate with them, such as performing a particular piece or genre?