Students holding tablets and phone talk in university lobby

Finding a scholarship

Scholarships are one of the main ways of helping international students meet the costs of their study in the UK

Scholarships come under many different names (eg sponsorship, awards, studentships, bursaries and, of course, scholarships), but they will all do pretty much the same thing: pay some or all of the cost of studying in the UK. It is important to remember that only some will meet all fees and living costs; most will only cover part of them.

Because the cost of being an overseas or international student in the UK can appear daunting and difficult to meet, finding a scholarship to help pay for it all can be as an important consideration as finding the right UK programme and institution. But don’t despair: because your own government will usually want to encourage its best students to study abroad and the UK government and educational institutions will want to take them, there will be a wide range of funding options on offer.

Most scholarships available for UK study are aimed at higher-education students.

Undergraduate level

Formal scholarships, bursaries and awards for study at this level are not often offered, so you will have to look for them.

The main sources will be your own government and the UK institutions themselves. Other types of financial award offered by UK institutions include:

  • ‘loyalty bursaries’ for students who stay on at an institution to take or complete an undergraduate degree course after an international foundation year, HND or foundation degree
  • reduced course fees for students who recommend their institution to others from their country
  • scholarships for good results at pre-university level.
  • You can find out more about all these from your country’s educational authorities, the prospectuses and websites of UK institutions, and your local British Council office.

Postgraduate level

Most awards and scholarships are offered for study at this level because the skills, knowledge and abilities that postgraduate students offer are highly valued. There are many sources as a result:

From your own country

  • Government: Your government will often have scholarships for overseas study as part of a plan to develop your country’s skills base and economy.
  • Businesses: Scholarships are often offered as part of companies’ training programmes, and so only open to those already employed by them, usually with a requirement to return to work for them after the course.
  • Charities: Scholarships are often offered as part of educational or development programmes, which will often mean these will be strictly limited to specific backgrounds (eg low income) or subject areas (eg teaching, healthcare etc).
  • Regional/local: Many local organisations or charities offer scholarships to students from a specific locality (ie town or city), educational institution or faith organisation.

To find out more about these sources of funding, contact the relevant bodies and organisations. Your current educational institution’s careers service and your local British Council office are other useful sources of information.

From international organisations

Some organisations, like the European Union (EU) and United Nations, do offer scholarships, often to encourage studies in specific areas (ie education or development) and also often targeted at students from specific countries or regions.

From the UK

  • The UK Government: The Government wants to make the UK a major educational destination for international postgraduate students, and operates a number of scholarship schemes to encourage this. Over 20,000 international students benefit from UK Government-funding scholarships each year.
  • The UK research councils: The seven UK research councils are the bodies that fund postgraduate studies, research and training across the whole range of academic disciplines in the UK as part of the British Government’s strategic plans for science and innovation. As part of this, the research councils offer scholarships schemes, but these are only open to UK and EU postgraduate students.
    Businesses: As with businesses in your own country, scholarships offered by UK businesses are usually for their employees, but those that are multinational in their operations may offer them to non-UK students, possibly for study in the UK.
  • Charities: UK charities may offer scholarships to international students as part of their programmes; for some, aiding international students is a key aim.
  • UK universities: An important source of scholarships for international students are those offered by individual UK universities and even academic departments, who not only want to encourage the best students to come and study with them, but also see them as an important way of marketing themselves.
  • Professional associations: Scholarships are sometimes given to international students by UK professional associations, particularly those with international links, but remember that these will be specific to the field covered by the association offering it.

More can be found out by going to the websites of the bodies mentioned above, as well as using the careers service at your current educational institution careers service and local British Council office.

Getting funding

This is, it has to be said, not guaranteed, as competition for scholarships is usually fierce. This means you have to take extra care with any application you make in order to improve your chances.

You will have to make a formal application, which will involve filling in a form, and then undergoing a selection process by the body providing the scholarship or award.

Successful candidates are usually those with the best academic achievement, although this will depend on the nature of the scholarship, as some will be focused on giving funding to specific types of candidates – for instance, those from particular backgrounds (eg low income) or countries/regions, or who want to study specific subject areas or have particular abilities/talents (eg in music).

Scholarship search tips

  • Approach the education authorities in your own country for information about any awards, scholarships, or financial assistance on offer to students who wish to study internationally.
  • If you are applying for an award offered by a UK body, contact your local British Council office, British Embassy or High Commission for further information. They will also be able to tell you about scholarships available from international organisations, voluntary organisations and EU schemes.
  • Contact UK institutions directly for details of their own award schemes. You can check their websites or call their international offices.
    Applying for a scholarship
  • When applying for scholarships, it is very important to find out the deadline and which academic year it refers to, as they can be some way in the future. Other tips for success include researching the criteria fully and making sure you qualify, as applications that are sent in hope never succeed.
  • Remember that the awarding body is not just giving out money, but is also buying influence with the next generation of experts and intellectual leaders. Applying for a scholarship is therefore more like a job application than it is an appeal for financial support, and you should treat it with the same clarity of purpose. Be clear about who you are and concise about what you want to achieve with your course of study. If they specify a number of words, you must stick to it.
  • Finally, remember to ‘sell’ yourself – there will be plenty of other students applying for the same scholarships as you!

Further information

Scholarships and funding for students from:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • CIS states
  • East Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • South Asia
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • Middle East
  • United States and Canada
  • Latin America and the Caribbean