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Article: Sponsorships and Scholarships


This article looks at sources of funding available for students in addition to, or instead of, a loan.


Sponsorship is when an employer (or prospective employer) pays annual sums of money to a student on a degree, or in some cases, other higher education courses, such as Higher National Diplomas.

Some employers give enough money to support a student through university, while others offer an additional form of funding. Sponsored students might receive training and work experience as well as financial help while they are studying.

Because of the introduction of increased fees, a sponsorship can provide much needed funding for your study.

More than this, it can be a good way to start your career. Sponsorships provide paid work experience and, in some cases, future work with the sponsoring employer.

Sponsorships are mainly available directly from:

  • government departments
  • public sector bodies like the National Health Service
  • the armed forces
  • professional bodies

They are also available from some large companies, such as those working in areas like pharmaceuticals, engineering, information technology, construction and manufacturing. Some sponsorships might be available through universities themselves on behalf of employers.

When should you apply?

If you want sponsorship for the whole of your course, you should apply at the same time as you send in your degree or diploma course application.

Many sponsors want you to study at a university or college approved by them and will send you a list of these. If this is the case, you should name the course or courses on your UCAS application.

The closing date for most schemes is before Christmas in the year before you are due to start your course.

Types of sponsorship

Some employers treat their students as employees and pay them a full salary during their course. This is the least common kind of sponsorship.

An example is an armed forces cadetship. This is for students who want to make a commitment to a career in the armed forces; they receive a full salary, a bursary or a considerable grant while at university.

Some sponsors, like the NHS, might offer an amount of money called a bursary in each year of the course.

Some employers give a bursary during term time and pay a salary during any holiday periods that the student spends working for them. Some sponsor final-year students only.


Most sponsors expect to have a say in where you study; this is because they have established relationships with certain universities and colleges of higher education.

In most cases, an employer will expect you to work with them for at least eight weeks each year, usually during your summer holiday.

Many sponsorships are for sandwich courses. This works well because sandwich courses combine academic study with a period of work experience in industry.

Can anyone get a sponsorship?

There are very few schemes that are open to students in any subject. Most sponsorships come from employers in areas such as engineering, information technology, science, business studies and construction.

How much money would you get?

Bursaries and sponsorships vary quite widely; check with prospective employers. You are likely to earn more as a final year undergraduate than you would in your first year of university, or if you went on a placement between leaving school/college and starting your higher education course.

How do you find a sponsor?

Some employers prefer to sponsor local students only. They might prefer to advertise in the local press and inform schools and careers offices.

Others prefer to recruit through higher education departments. They either offer sponsorships to new students on particular courses or sponsor students from their second or third year onwards.

You could try an internet search for 'sponsorship' and 'bursary' and the area you're interested in.

Why do employers sponsor students?

  • employers see sponsorship as an investment for the future; they want to recruit the best graduates
  • sponsorships can give employers an advantage over their competitors. For example, sometimes only a few students graduate in a particular subject - this means there is a skills shortage in that area.
  • sponsorship helps the employer to attract new staff by showing them the advantages of working in their organisation
  • employers want talented students to stay, despite competition from rival companies. They use sponsorship to develop bright students from an early stage.
  • employers develop close links with universities; this allows them to find out about course contents and possibly contribute ideas on the most relevant things that students need to learn


A scholarship is a financial award, designed to help you while you are studying. Unlike sponsorships, they do not involve work experience placements in industry.

Professional associations give scholarships to help fund students, often on work-related courses. You might receive a scholarship to help you with a specific part of your studies, including travel and study abroad, or research into a specific topic.

Some universities and colleges give their own scholarships. These might be available to all students, or restricted to people studying certain subjects or coming from the local area. Institutions often award them on a competitive basis, either to students with the best grades at A level or equivalent, or through an entrance examination. You might be able to find details in prospectuses or on display on school and college notice boards.

Since the increase in tuition fees, many more universities are offering entry scholarships, bursaries and grants in a variety of subjects. Courses shown on the UCAS website have details of fees and financial support, including any bursaries that are available.

Some of the art and music academies have funds to help students who are unable to find other financial support.

A number of universities give sports scholarships to outstanding players and athletes. Although these awards mainly help with coaching and travelling expenses, some also contribute to general living costs.

Charitable trusts and associations

Some educational trusts, charities and associations award small grants to students on further and higher education courses.

They rarely award more than a few hundred pounds, to buy books and equipment, although there are exceptions, and a few provide more.

You shouldn't think of this type of grant as a source of total funding, but rather as a supplement. The major exceptions to this are trusts that fund postgraduate study. They often provide enough to pay tuition fees and make a contribution to living expenses.

What is a trust?

A trust is set up when an individual or organisation donates a sum of money (or leaves it in a will) for the benefit of another person.

Trustees administer the fund and decide how to award the money. They have to follow the wishes of the donor, and do not have the authority to alter the terms of the trust in any way.

Scholarships and bursaries made by trusts and associations come into several categories. They might:

  • help with the payment of tuition fees or with living expenses
  • provide funding for special purposes, for example, to help music students to buy instruments, to enable medical students to spend an elective (an additional part of the course) in an overseas country, or a Geographer to undertake a field trip that would otherwise not be possible
  • help students on any type of course with the cost of books and equipment

Sometimes, trusts exist to help specific groups of people, for example, women, people of particular religious denominations or ethnic groups, or people from certain towns or districts. Other trusts help students with disabilities or students who study certain subjects.

There are normally strict closing dates for applications because trustees usually meet only once or twice a year.

Further Information


Address: Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ

Tel: 0871 4680468



Scholarship Search


Funding Postgraduate Study

Publisher: Prospects


The Guide to Educational Grants 2013/14

Author: Lucy Lernelius-Tonks Publisher: Directory of Social Change


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