International Student Funding

British university education continues to offer good value for money – the quality of teaching is high, as is the international status of British qualifications. Some students who come to study in the UK pay for their courses privately, but study can be costly and many students need to apply for scholarships or grants.

The British government and other UK organisations provide a number of scholarships and awards to help international students to study in the UK.

Where do I start?

You may first wish to contact your own Ministry of Education or Education Department, as they should have details of scholarship opportunities for students wishing to study overseas. They will also be able to advise you on your own government’s conditions for studying abroad. You may also contact your nearest British Council office, which should have details of British scholarship schemes. The British Council will be able to give you information about educational and training courses and about living in the UK, including how much it costs to study. If there is no British Council office, then contact your nearest British Embassy or High Commission.

You should not travel to the UK or begin a course of study without making sure that you have enough money to cover all your academic fees and living expenses. It is virtually impossible to make arrangements for financial support once you have left your own country. Also, the immigration authorities will not normally allow you into the UK unless you have evidence that you can cover the costs of your proposed study.

How do I apply for a scholarship?

The competition for scholarships and grants to study in the UK is very strong. Most grant-making organisations will insist that you meet some very strict requirements. If you do not meet all the requirements for a grant, then your application will not be considered.

When you apply for a grant remember:

  • You must apply for your grant at least one year before your course starts. Deadlines vary, so you must check that you know what the deadline is before applying.
  • Your application should be clear and concise. You should use the grant-making body’s application form if it has one.
  • The majority of the grant-making bodies will only give small amounts of money, which will not cover the full cost of a course.

What about undergraduate scholarships?

Most scholarships for study in the UK are for postgraduate courses. In special circumstances, applications for undergraduate study may be considered under the following schemes:

Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP)

Funded by the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. You may be eligible for a Commonwealth Scholarship if you are a citizen of either a Commonwealth country (not the Commonwealth of Independent States) or a British dependent territory. As the scholarships are for postgraduate study or research, you must have a university degree or equivalent qualification. If there are no undergraduate courses in a particular subject in your own country or regional university, it may sometimes be possible for you to apply to do a first degree course under this scheme.

Grants are for one to three years and usually cover the cost of travel, tuition fees and living expenses. In some cases additional allowances may be available for help with books or clothes. An allowance may be paid to help you with the cost of maintaining your spouse.

Contact the Commonwealth Scholarship Agency in your own country.

DFID Shared Scholarship Scheme

Funded jointly by the Department for International Development and participating universities in the UK

This scheme assists academically able students from developing Commonwealth countries who would benefit from higher education in Britain, to the developmental advantage of their home countries, but who for financial reasons are unable to study in the UK and are outside the scope of other British government support schemes.

You should be of high academic calibre and should be intending to study subjects of developmental relevance.

You must normally be under thirty-five years old at the time your course is due to start and you must be able to speak English fluently when you apply. You must not be employed by your government or by an international organization and you must be resident in a developing Commonwealth country. Successful candidates must return to their home country on completion of their awards.

Awards are for taught courses at postgraduate level. Very exceptionally, awards for undergraduate study may be made available where the course of training satisfies the conditions of the scheme but is not available in the your home country or at a nearby regional institution.

Contact the participating British institution. These vary from year to year. An up-to-date list of institutions is normally available from December onwards from the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)), the Department for International Development, the British High Commission and British Council offices in the countries concerned.

Are there any other scholarships for which I could apply?

European Union (EU) schemes The European Union (EU) provides some grants to promote the exchange of students and academic staff within Europe, such as the SOCRATES and LEONARDO Programmes. The European Commission (EC) also makes some awards to students from developing countries.

Contact the EC office in your own country or write to the European Commission, Directorate General III, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium.

International agencies

Some international organisations such as UNESCO and WHO operate schemes, usually for developing countries.

Contact your own government’s Ministry of Education.

Voluntary organisations

Voluntary organisations such as religious bodies and charities sometimes award scholarships, though they can be limited in size and scope.

Contact the appropriate organisations in your own country.

UK colleges and universities

Many UK institutions have a limited number of scholarships for international students. However, they may be restricted to students studying particular subjects or from certain countries. Contact the institution you are studying at to see if you are eligible.

What are the special provisions for nationals of the European Economic Area?

The European Economic Area (EEA) consists of the EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the UK), plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you are an EU national or the child of an EU national who has been ordinarily resident in the EEA for the three years before the course, and not wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education, the educational institution will probably charge you the lower ‘home’ fee.If you are taking all of a course which is normally designated for mandatory award purposes, you might also be eligible for a fees-only award from the UK government, which would cover some or all of your tuition fees. You should apply not later than four months after the beginning of your course, depending on where you are studying, as follows:

  • In England and Wales, the local education authority in the area in which your institution is situated;
  • In Scotland, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS);
  • In Northern Ireland, the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI).

If you are a student from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway (the non-EU EEA) you will not qualify for ‘home’ fee status, unless you are a migrant worker in Britain, or the child or spouse of a migrant worker, and you satisfy residence requirements in the EEA.

If you, your parent or spouse are an EEA migrant worker in the UK, and you have been ordinarily resident in the EEA for the three years before the course, you may also qualify for a full mandatory award, which contributes towards fees and includes a means-tested element for living expenses.

Is there anything else I should know?

Remember that even if you are able to obtain a scholarship, you still need to be sure that it is enough to meet all of your costs.

Once you are in the UK, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain extra funds, and you will not be able to pay for your study by working in the UK. Be especially careful if you only have a partial scholarship or if you intend to bring your family.

The local British Council office should have up-to-date guidance on the cost of living in Britain. The institution you will be attending should provide you with details of local costs. Check the conditions of the scholarship carefully and be sure that they fulfil your needs.

Some are only for certain courses and for a fixed period of time. Once you have accepted a scholarship and begun studying, it is very unlikely you will be able to change your course or extend your scholarship.

In the United Kingdom (UK) we warmly welcome international students and are aware of the educational, commercial, political and developmental benefits they bring. In return, students will benefit from their studies in the UK, and pass on this benefit to their home countries.

Information supplied by:

This information has been produced jointly by the British Council, UKCOSA: The Council for International Education and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). It is intended as a basic guide to possible sources of funding for international students who want to study in the UK, and is reproduced with kind permission of TransWorld Education Magazine.



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