Scholarships, grants, and bursaries: Arts

Studying fine art, design, photography, dance, or another arts subject? Discover what arts scholarships, grants, and bursaries are available to help with the cost of course materials, plus general living expenses and tuition fees.

What’s an arts scholarship, grant or bursary?

There are a number of extra funding sources for students studying an undergraduate degree in an arts subject.

The arts covers a broad range of subjects, courses, and disciplines including:

  • theatre
  • dance
  • music
  • art history
  • fine art
  • design
  • photography
  • filmmaking
  • architecture
  • fashion
  • textiles
  • creative writing
  • English literature

Arts scholarships, bursaries, and grants may be offered by a university, college, or specialist art school, or in collaboration with an employer, organisation, or trust

This type of funding doesn’t have to be paid back either – unlike student loans that you apply for through student finance, and repay once you graduate.

Given the practical nature of these subjects, you may find yourself spending a lot on expensive materials and equipment for your course – this may include instruments, paintbrushes, canvases, camera accessories, fabrics, dance gear, and even tickets to relevant exhibitions, shows or performances.

This is in addition to your general living and study expenses.

It all adds up, so it’s worth exploring what extra financial support is up for grabs.

What can you get?

Scholarships, bursaries, and grants for arts students consist of cash awards to help with day-to-day costs – including the pricey course costs we mention above – or a reduction in annual tuition fees.

What’s available can really vary from one university, college or school, to another – especially since this covers so many different subjects. Usually awards are aimed at students of a specific course, but there may be funding for those studying a subject area at a university.

A lot of arts scholarships and bursaries are donated by companies and organisations. These can lead to further opportunities for students, such as work experience and internships. Even if these aren’t part of the package though, it’s a foot in the door.

Plus, getting a scholarship from a highly regarded, recognisable name looks great on a CV. This can help you stand out in competitive graduate fields, like fashion and film.

Examples of arts scholarships offered by universities 

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

  • Example 1: £2,500 towards living costs.
  • Example 2: £3,000 tuition fee reduction, per year (up to three years).
  • Example 3: £500 one-off cash scholarship.
  • Example 4: £9,000 cash bursary, paid across three years.
  • Example 5: £3,000 towards living costs for 2nd and 3rd year students.
  • Example 6: £2,500 towards living costs, ‘and access to additional or extracurricular activities’
  • Example 7: Either a tuition fee reduction or grant payment, worth £9,000.

We’ve spotted one arts specialist university that provides all students with a bursary for material costs. If you’re applying somewhere with a high proportion of practical courses, find out if they offer something similar.

How does student finance work where you live? Explore our complete guides to undergraduate finance in EnglandScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.

Eligibility criteria

While awards vary, your eligibility for an arts scholarship, bursary or grant will be based on the following criteria:

  • Your household income – based on the examples above, this should be below either £25,000 or £30,000.
  • You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
  • You’ve accepted an offer for a qualifying, 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.

Your achieved or predicted grades may be used as an indicator of your ability and potential, in the same way that academic scholarships consider these.

Your UCAS or student finance applications may contain all the information a university needs. Alternatively, some arts awards will have a separate application to complete.

While music and sports scholarships recipients commit to specific roles and responsibilities once they get to university, this doesn’t tend to apply to arts scholarship recipients. However, there may be other terms, especially when an award is donated by a third party. For example, you might have to update an award donor on how you’ve benefited from their award.          

Your award may be reviewed throughout your course. For example, you may have to achieve a minimum grade at the end of each year, or maintain a strong record of attendance.    

How to apply

If required to complete an application form for an arts scholarship, bursary, or grant, you can download or complete this online.

Your application will be used to determine whether you’re the right candidate for that award, usually through a few short, essay-style questions about your future plans, course choice, or how you’ll benefit from receiving that award.      

Read up on any awards you apply to, including the donor and why they created that award. This way you can tailor your answers to what a panel might be looking for. You might have to provide a reference from a relevant individual, such as an art teacher.

That said, there may be awards that don’t involve any extra work, and where eligibility is determined by what you’ve already done as part of your university application:

  • your UCAS application
  • your student finance application
  • portfolios or work you’ve submitted
  • an audition
  • an interview you’ve attended, where you talk through your portfolio and interests.      

You’ll be notified if you’re successful, usually around the time you receive an offer – remember, you may have to accept this before you’re formally awarded a scholarship or bursary.

If you’re unsuccessful, a university, college or school may let you know about other funding opportunities, now they have a full picture of you and your circumstances based on what you’ve provided.

But don’t wait to be approached. Explore what financial support is available as soon as possible – ideally when you begin researching different universities, or earlier – including what the application process involves. You can find this information online, or ask about this at an open day.

Open day questions for arts scholarships

  • What scholarship, bursaries, or grants do you offer for arts subjects?
  • If a student receives other extra funding, like a sports scholarship, will this affect their chances of getting an academic scholarship?
  • What’s the application process for funding? Is this based on applicants’ UCAS and student finance applications, or is there a separate application to complete?
  • Do students need to submit a specific portfolio as part of their scholarship application, or will the university look at the portfolio submitted as part of a student’s UCAS application? Are there any requirements for submitting portfolios?
  • Do students need to attend an interview or audition as part of a scholarship application? What format do these take?
  • Does an applicant’s household income or current academic performance affect their eligibility for funding?
  • What kind of conditions do awards come with? For example, do recipients have to maintain a certain academic grade?
  • Does a student have to accept an offer as part of their eligibility for an award?
  • Does funding come with any further, non-financial benefits, such as opportunities to showcase work, or attend exhibitions or performances?

Top tips to get an arts scholarship, grant or bursary

  • Get your portfolio in order preparing a portfolio can take time, especially if you have a lot of different work to choose from, or you want to adapt yours for each application. Start putting this together as soon as possible. How can you tailor your portfolio towards a particular course or scholarship? How should you order it? Are there any requirements, such as the format this should be provided in?
  • Talking about your work while your raw ability is important, admissions tutors and scholarship panels want to hear from you too. Be prepared to talk about your work – something to think about when assembling your portfolio. This might include artists or genres you were influenced by, or the process involved. Get a teacher involved, so you can practise talking through it with them, and get tips. Like your personal statement, this is where you can stand out from the rest of the pack.
  • Broaden your horizons the arts covers a lot of different subjects, and unless you’re applying to a university, college, or school that specialises in yours, there may be limited funding available for you. Going directly to employers, organisations, charities and trusts in your area or field, and seeing what financial support they offer students and emerging talent, may throw up more possibilities.

Learn about other additional funding available, including academic, widening participation, and low household income scholarships