Education Grants & Courses

Cash to help with your education

government funded education grants

Whether you're a teenager thinking of going to university or an adult wanting to retrain, there may be a grant or loan to help fund your learning.

Loads of grants and bursaries go unclaimed each year in the UK. We've created this guide so you can bag the cash you're entitled to.

The top education grants

Check the following to see if you might be eligible for a financial boost.

Hidden scholarships and funding

If you're going to uni, there are loads of hidden pots of cash available. They're often less about academic ability and more about factors such as religion, where you live or what your parents do for a living.

  • Family Action's Educational Grants Programme: This service offers students, especially disadvantaged ones, over the age of 14 the chance to get grants of £200 to £300 to start or continue their education. Find if you're eligible for a grant.

  • Postgraduate funding: New master's students are able to get a master's loan of up to £10,906. Doctoral level students are eligible to apply for the doctoral loan of up to £25,700. See our Postgraduate Student Loans guide for more.

  • Scholarships and bursaries: There are nifty search tools on the Scholarship Search and Scholarship Hub websites – you'll be surprised at what's available. Some are very specific and are aimed at students from various backgrounds.

  • Study in Europe: If you want to study abroad for a year at one of 33 participating European universities, grants are available from the British Council as part of the Erasmus scheme.

    Here are some examples of grants to give you inspiration...

I managed to get a journalism course funded through a New Deal adviser at the Jobcentre after I was turned down for another grant. It was a long process and I had to prove that the course would lead to gainful employment, but I was persistent and got a grant for £3,000. It's worth asking the Jobcentre "is there any way I can get help to pay for this course?"

I was sponsored £1,000 towards the cost of a legal studies course by a small charity. Just need to find the rest now...

Who can apply? Varies.
What's the maximum award? Varies.
What does it cover? Help towards tuition fees and/or general funding to help you be able to study.

16 to 19 Bursary Fund

If you're aged between 16 and 19, you could be eligible for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund to help with education-related costs. You'll need to be studying at a school or college in England (not a university), or on an unpaid training course. If eligible, you could get up to £1,200.

There are two ways to qualify:

  • Vulnerable student bursary. If you're in local authority care or have recently left it, if you receive income support or universal credit, or if you are disabled and receive both employment support allowance (ESA) and disability living allowance (DLA) or universal credit, or you get personal independence payment (PIP), you could be eligible for this.

  • Discretionary bursary. If you don't qualify for the vulnerable student bursary, you may qualify for this. Your education or training provider will set their own criteria for this and will look at family income among other things.

If you think you might qualify for the bursary you will need to apply to your school, college or training provider.

If you're in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, then the scheme's slightly different – you need to apply for the Education Maintenance Allowance.

Who can apply? Those aged 16-19 studying at school, college or on an unpaid training course who meet the criteria listed above.
What's the maximum award? £1,200.
What does it cover? Education-related costs.

Standard student MoneySaving

No-one in the UK should be put off studying because of potential student debt. Done right, it's very different to normal debt. It's only repaid when you finish studying, and if you don't earn enough when you leave (and of course one reason for studying is to enable you to earn more), you don't have to pay for it.

Types of funding are as follows:

  • Student loans: Most UK higher education students are eligible for a student loan. The tuition fee loan can cover tuition fees up to £9,250 (for the 2019/20 academic year).

  • Maintenance loan: Students are also eligible for a loan of up to £11,672 (for the 2019/20 academic year) to help with living costs, depending on circumstances. More information can be found in our Student Loan Mythbusting guide.

    Who can apply? Those going to university.
    What's the maximum award? Up to £11,672.
    What does it cover? Living and/or studying costs.

Fee-free tuition for Scottish students

If you live in Scotland and decide to study at a university in Scotland, you won't have to pay anything towards tuition fees, as you'll be guaranteed to get a maintenance loan and may be eligible for a bursary. But if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you'll still have to pay up to £9,250 a year to study in Scotland.

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) offers the Young Students' Bursary, which covers day-to-day living costs if your family's household income is less than £34,000 a year. Those on an income of less than £20,999 will get the full bursary of £2,000.

Anyone who applies through SAAS will be eligible for a loan of at least £4,750 if their household income is £34,000 or above, while others will receive £5,750.

There's also an Independent Students' Bursary and student loan for those who are 25 or over, are married or living with a partner, or responsible for a child. Here, you'll get a bursary of £1,000 if your household income is under £20,999.

Loans work in the same way for mature students – you'll get at least £4,750 if your household income is over £34,000, while those with an income under £19,000 can borrow up to £6,750.

Who can apply? Loans: Everyone. Bursary: Households earning under £34,000 a year.
What's the maximum award? £2,000 for bursary. Can borrow more with a loan.  
What does it cover? Living or studying costs.

Tuition loans for students aged 19+ in England

An advanced learner loan can help with college or training tuition costs in England.

How much you get depends on what you're studying and what you're charged in tuition fees. The minimum loan is £300 and it'll be paid directly to your college or training provider.

The maximum you can get depends on your course. You might get less from the loan than your college or training provider charges – if so you'll have to pay the difference yourself.

The eligibility criteria varies depending on when you started studying.

If your course started before 1 August 2016. You must have been 24 or over when you started your course, and studying on a Level 3 (for example, A-levels) or Level 4 course (eg, a higher national certificate HNC) at an approved English college or training provider.

You can apply for up to four loans, but you can only get one at a time.

You can't take a loan for the same level as one you have already done. For example, if you have studied a course in Italian, you can't get another loan for a course in French at the same level.

If your course started after 1 August 2016. You must be 19 or over when you start your course, and studying a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 course – these include A-levels and honours degrees.

How you can use the loan:

  • You can apply for up to four loans and can get all of them at the same time.
  • You can get another loan to take the same level of a course.
  • If you are studying A-levels, you can take out multiple loans at the same time for up to four subjects.
  • You can only apply once for an access to higher education course.

You can get three more loans for non A-level courses either before or after your A-levels course.

Other criteria and repayments. Regardless of when your course started, to be eligible for the loan, you must have been living in the UK for the past three years and at the time your course started to be eligible.

There's no credit check to get it, and it doesn't depend on your household income.

You pay back 9% of your earnings above £25,725 a year. Interest is charged at RPI + 3% while you're studying, then at RPI + up to 3% depending on your earnings.

You can get help from the bursary fund. There's also an advanced learner loan bursary fund, which you can apply to if you need learning help, or to cover childcare or residential costs. It could be paid directly to you or to your landlord or your childcare provider.

Apply directly to your college or training facility.

Who can apply? Anyone over the age of 24 (if your course started before 1 August 2016) studying a Level 3 or 4 course – or anyone over the age of 19 (if your course started after 1 August 2016) studying a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 course.
What's the maximum award? £300 upwards.
What does it cover? Tuition fees/training costs.

Individual Training Accounts for Scottish adults

If you live in Scotland, you could get some funding from World of Work.

An individual training account can give you up to £200 towards a single course or training episode per year. If your course costs more, you must make up the difference yourself.

There's some eligibility criteria you need to meet to be able to apply:

  • You must be aged 16 or over.
  • You can't be in education or in any other SDS-funded programme.
  • You must be unemployed and looking for work, or employed and earning less than £22,000 per year.
  • You must be living in Scotland.

Who can apply? Over 16s in Scotland who meet the above criteria.
What's the maximum award? £200.
What does it cover? Learning costs.

Discretionary Learner Support

You can apply for Discretionary Learner Support from your education provider if you're 19 or over, studying for a further education course and facing financial hardship. This money can go towards childcare, accommodation, travel or course materials and equipment.

Your school or college decides how much you'll get, and which scheme you'll be put on, ie, it could be a direct payment (which you don't have to pay back), a loan, or paid directly to your landlord.

Who can apply? Anyone over 19.
How much can you get? Varies.
What does it cover? Any costs associated with studying, eg, accommodation, travel and childcare.

Care to Learn

There is help for those who have to bear the cost of course fees and childcare through the Government's Care to Learn scheme. You must be under 20 at the start of your course to be eligible for the scheme, and be the main carer for your child. This is not suitable for those studying a higher education course at university.

The sum covers childcare, deposit and registration fees, travel costs for taking your child to the provider, and keeping your childcare place over the holidays. Childcare providers must be registered with Ofsted.

Payments of £160 per child, per week (£175 if you live in London) will stop if you stop studying, you finish the course, or your child stops attending childcare.

Who can apply? Aged under 20, studying on a publicly-funded course in England.
How much can you get? £160 or £175 per child per week.
What does it cover? Childcare costs.

Local council grants

Your local council may offer grants to advance your education. As councils can assign funding to different areas, search for local training providers using the Gov.uk website.

Who can apply? Varies.
What's the maximum award? Varies.
What does it cover? Depends on the type of grant available.

Free short courses

If you're not looking to take an in-depth or long-term course, there are thousands of short courses happening all over the UK. Many free courses can depend on where you live, but there are a few schemes that run throughout the country.

Personal finance course by The Open University

Puzzled about pensions and muddled by mortgages?

The Open University's 'Managing my money' course runs over the course of eight weeks and covers topics such as budgeting, saving, spending, debt, mortgages, pensions and insurance. It's all done online, but you'll need to dedicate three hours a week to it.

The content is broken down into short steps with tests and quizzes along the way to test your knowledge. There are two ways to take part:

OpenLearn: This can be started at any time of the year, but doesn't have a tutor there to guide your learning. Link: Managing my money.

FutureLearn: These courses only take place several times a year, but there is access to a tutor who'll answer any questions you have. Link: Managing my money.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? Personal finance skills relevant to day-to-day money management covered over eight weeks.

Free online courses in almost any topic

Love learning about anything and everything?

Many organisations and universities across the world offer free online courses in topics such as business, culture, literature, history, health, teaching, law and more.

FutureLearn (owned by The Open University) and Coursera both offer access to 100s of free online courses, which each last anything from one week to 12 or more. You'll complete modules each week, sometimes followed by a short quiz and there's sometimes opportunities to get or purchase a completion certificate at the end of the course.

An alternative e-learning provider is ALISON, with over 750 free online courses in a huge variety of topics from financial literacy to fitness and nutrition. Although there is an option to purchase a certificate upon course completion. You can also download a 'Learner Record' for free.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? A huge range of topics.

Free Level 2 qualifications

A Level 2 qualification is equivalent to an A*-C grade GCSE.

Vision2learn offers free (Government-funded) online Level 2 courses in topics such as customer service, nutrition and health, and essential IT skills. Most of the courses require a minimum of 10 hours study per week, but you'll be assigned a dedicated tutor and will have access to telephone and online support. Upon successful completion, you'll get a nationally-accredited Level 2 certificate.

To be eligible, you must be aged 19 or older, a UK or EU national or have settled status, live in England and have lived in the EU for at least three years.

Who can apply? Anyone 19+, now living in England, UK or EU resident for 3+ years.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? 13 different Level 2 qualifications, equivalent to an A*-C grade GCSE.

Want to improve your maths and English skills?

If you've ever wanted to improve your maths and English skills, many colleges around the country offer free courses to help you, from basic literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level. Check on the National Careers Service website or call 0800 100 900 for classes in your area.

To learn at home, try the interactive online lessons from The Excellence Gateway or play the range of English and maths games on the BBC SkillsWise site.

You can also take the free National Numeracy Challenge to see how you can improve your everyday maths skills in bite-sized steps.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? Free daytime and evening classes in maths and English (reading, writing).

Need help getting started online?

If you or your friends and family would like to learn more about using a computer or the internet, the Learn My Way website hosts a free short course called Online Basics. You can do the course at home, or at a local UK Online centre.

Local libraries often offer cheap or free internet classes as well as free internet access. Find your local library here.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? Free online courses to help you start on the web.

Setting up an online business?

Thinking of setting up your own digital business? The Government-funded Digital Business Academy offers 11 free online courses to help you create and nurse your infant business idea.

You don't need any previous qualifications, and although the courses are designed for those 18+, there's no restriction on who can sign up.

If you complete the courses you'll get a certificate, and each course also opens up business opportunities including internships and free desk space.

You should expect each course to take you about 15 to 18 hours.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? Free online courses to help set up a digital business.

Want to learn how to code?

We live in a modern world and knowing how to code (the 'language' that makes up software, websites and apps) is becoming useful for more and more jobs.

Codecademy offers free and fun online coding courses that are perfect for beginners or those a little more experienced.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A. 
What does it cover? Free online courses to help you learn to code.

Want to learn a language?

There are plenty of places which will teach you a language for a fee, yet you needn't pay a penny. There's a host of completely free websites and online tools which cater for every language and learning style, and many now also have apps so you can learn on the go too. We've found the following sites to be decent:

  • Duolingo: Offers 23 languages, including Spanish, German, Dutch, Hebrew and Swahili. You learn online and also get feedback on your answers. Also has Android, iPhone and Windows Phone apps.
  • Memrise: Offers 21 official language courses, including Norwegian, Japanese, Arabic and Russian, as well as user generated courses. You learn online and can get help through its community. Also has Android or iPhone apps.
  • Busuu: An online resource for 12 languages, including English, French, Arabic, Russian, Mandarin and Polish. You learn online, plus there's also a community where you can try out your language skills with native speakers of the language you're learning. Also has Android and iPhone apps.
  • FSI Language Courses: The website design is basic and there's no bells and whistles, but these language courses were developed by the US government to teach language skills to civil servants going on overseas placements. Emphasis is on spoken language, though each course has a text backing it up. Has the widest range of languages.

Who can apply? Anyone.
What's the maximum award? N/A.
What does it cover? Learning foreign languages.

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