What is the difference between a scholarship, grant and bursary?

understanding the difference between scholarships, grants & bursaries

What is the difference between a scholarship, grant and bursary?
You will often find the terms scholarship, grant and bursary used interchangeably and in principle, they are the same thing – money that is given to you which you do not need to pay back. Where the difference often lies is the reasons why they are awarded, but even then, the lines are not clear cut.

Does it matter?
Not really, is the simple answer. The important thing is to look at is the eligibility criteria (the reasons why the award is given) for each award and decide if you are eligible. If you believe that all scholarships are given for academic merit and all bursaries for financial need, you could be missing out on opportunities that do not fit that criteria.
However, in order to give you a better idea about the different types of awards, here is our quick guide.

Scholarships
Scholarships cover the widest range of awards. They can be given for all sorts of reasons and by many different types of organisations. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • Academic merit
  • Financial need
  • Sporting achievement
  • Musical talent
  • Personal circumstances – where you live, what your parents do, your extra-curricular activities/interests, your career aspirations
  • A company wants to promote themselves to students – often all these scholarships will require you to do is submit and essay on a subject related to their business.

Bursaries
Bursaries tend more often to be given for financial need and by organisations which want to support students from low income households or under represented groups. Here are some examples of different types of bursaries

Royal Television Society Bursaries – awarded to students studying either journalism, broadcast media or technology subjects who are keen to build a career in the television industry. Whilst a minimum household income threshold does apply, you also need to be able to demonstrate your interest in a career in television

Social Work Bursaries – offered to students studying to become a Social Worker, who are ordinarily resident in the UK. There are no financial need criteria attached to these bursaries.

Amos Bursary - A programme to support British students of African and Caribbean descent, who have excelled at school and have not allowed their environments, personal circumstances, or the pressures of living in London, to cloud their vision or to hamper their dreams.

Grants
Grants are usually given by charitable organisations and can be given for any number of reasons. Usually the charity or trust has been established to support people from specific groups, for example people from a particular area, social or religious background, disabilities or those suffering hardship.

There are literally thousands of charities and trusts in the UK giving grants all with different charitable objectives and you will need to check out the eligibility criteria of each to see whether you are eligible to apply. You can find a list of these in the Guide to Educational Grants, which is a book published by the Directory of Social Change available in most larger reference libraries, or you can access it online with our member benefits.

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