Scholarships, grants, and bursaries: Specific subjects

Scholarships are available for students studying a specific subject at university. Learn more about them, including what you can do to help your chances of getting one.

What subject-specific scholarships, grants or bursaries can you get?

Scholarships are available for students studying specific subjects at a university, to support those who demonstrate high academic ability or potential – particularly those from low income households.

They’re similar to academic scholarships, and can be an excellent motivator when you’re revising for your final school exams – especially if you get an unconditional offer, and are tempted to put your feet up.

Often these are sponsored by an external organisation, like a commercial organisation or local employer with whom the university has an ongoing relationship, or donated by an individual linked to that university, such as an alumni or former professor. Awards may also be donated in memory of an individual.

These are usually administered by the appropriate department or school at a university, in collaboration with the donor/sponsor.

Usually an award will be a one-off payment, or series of payments, to contribute towards your general living and study costs. These don’t have to be repaid, unlike traditional student loans.

Recipients may get additional benefits on top of the financial incentive, especially when a scholarship is awarded by an organisation in that field or industry. For example, it can open doors to internship or work experience placements. Plus, being able to say you received a scholarship from company x looks impressive on a CV, or in a graduate job interview.

Not every university or college will have dedicated subject-specific scholarships. This might be something worth asking about at an open day.

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

Examples of subject-specific scholarships offered by universities

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

  • Example 1: £2,000 per year across three years of study.
  • Example 2: £1,500 per year.
  • Example 3: £6,000, paid in instalments for three years.
  • Example 4: An award of £1,000 paid in two instalments across the third year of study.
  • Example 5: An award of £1,000 for first year only.

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 criteria

The criteria you need to satisfy for a subject-specific scholarship usually involves the following:

  • You’ve accepted an offer for a qualifying, full-time undergraduate course for that subject, at that university – you may need to accept this as your first choice too.
  • You meet the grade requirements and conditions that come with your offer – there may be minimum grades to be eligible for a scholarship too.
  • Your wider academic performance – some universities may consider this too, alongside your grades.
  • Your household income – this may have to be below a certain threshold, or priority may be given to those from low income households.
  • You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
  • Other funding you receive – while student finance won’t impact your eligibility, you may not qualify if you receive other external scholarships from other organisations.

A scholarship donor or sponsor may set specific criteria or conditions too. This may reflect an organisation’s key values or objectives; or where an award is given by, or in memory of, an individual, to support those from a similar background. For example, one university’s medicine scholarship is specifically aimed at those from state funded schools in the North East of England, with priority given to mature students.

Another looks for business students ‘who are able to demonstrate a significant contribution and commitment to social responsibility’.

Extra conditions

Like academic scholarships, many subject-specific awards are subject to your performance once you arrive at university, especially those paid in instalments over the course of your degree.

You may need to achieve a minimum grade at the end of each year, or keep up a strong attendance record.

Also, you may not receive a payment for any years you’re on a work placement, or exchange year abroad.

How to apply

This will depend on the award you’re applying for. Most require you to complete an application, where you’ll answer a few questions to test how well you meet the award criteria. You may need to write a short personal statement style essay too. Perhaps look at what you’ve written in your UCAS personal statement, to help you shape what you write here.

Also, check when you need to apply by. Some have early deadlines, while others may wait until results have been released.

Other awards will simply be based on your household income information, which you provide when applying for student finance – but this will only be possible if you opt in for this to be shared with your UCAS choices. If you’re eligible, a university will automatically get in touch with you.

Open day questions for subject-specific scholarships

  • What scholarships and other awards are available for different subjects? Who has provided these? What do recipients receive?
  • Do students receive payment for an exchange or placement year?
  • Is there an application to complete, or are they automatically awarded to eligible students?
  • What’s the eligibility criteria for a subject-specific scholarship?
  • Do you only consider applicants who’ve made the university their first choice?
  • Are there any other benefits on top of the financial award, like a reduction in tuition fees, help with course costs, or work experience opportunities?
  • Is priority given to those from low income households during the selection process?
  • Do recipients get to meet the award sponsors/donors? Do they have to keep them updated on their progress while studying?
  • Can awards be withdrawn? Are there any conditions students must meet once they arrive at university?

Tips to get a subject-specific scholarship, grant or bursary

  • Do your research while you’ll get some information about a particular award upfront, read up to see what more you can learn about the donor/sponsor, or the purpose behind the award. Then, tailor your answers in your application accordingly.
    • Have you overcome certain struggles, or do you have particular ambitions that would resonate with the organisation or individual behind that award?
    • Going that extra mile shows initiative, and that you’re serious about both the scholarship and your subject, which will impress those reviewing your application.
  • Agree to share your student finance details this is the easiest way you can find out whether you’re eligible for any scholarship, grant or bursary. All you have to do is tick a box when completing your student finance application. Some scholarships and bursaries may not require anything else from you.
    • Don’t forget to apply each year of your course, and keep your finance body updated regarding any significant changes to your studies or personal circumstances.
  • Stay engaged with your subject – hopefully you’re passionate about the subject you’re applying to study at university, and already developing your understanding ahead of starting your degree. Maybe you’re building your own website, listening to architecture podcasts, going to theatre performances, or volunteering with young children?

Whatever you’re doing, you may be able to incorporate this into your application for a scholarship or bursary tied to your subject. So keep learning , and picking up new knowledge and skills. You never know when you might get the chance to show it off.

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