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University scholarships: What, why and how – part three

University scholarships: What, why and how – part three

Scholarships in the UK

With the price tag that comes with a university education, particularly in the US, it’s no wonder that a scholarship is in high demand with students from all walks of life. Being aware of what is available, why universities offer scholarships and how you can maximize your chances of receiving one will help you navigate this area of the university application and acceptance process.

In this three-part blog post series, we’ve broken down scholarships. Our previous two posts in this series focused on the processes in the US and what a student needs to do in order to qualify for merit scholarships and athletic scholarships. Now we’re moving onto the UK, where scholarships are handled differently.

How does the scholarship process work in the UK?

Generally speaking, universities in the UK don’t normally include large scholarships in their offers for university. If they’re offering one, it’s done one of two ways. Students typically apply for one after they’ve received an offer and accepted that university as their firm choice. The other option is that universities allocate the scholarship based on known personal details like nationality and examination results once these are available.

In some cases, a scholarship will be used as an incentive to encourage a student to accept a particular school as their first choice and in these cases, the scholarship may be included in the offer terms. Historically speaking, there is a limited number of scholarships available because there were no UK university tuition fees. But the number of scholarships are increasing and there are now several being offered in the UK.

What if I’m an international student?

UK schools are interested in giving scholarships to students from a myriad of different countries in order to boost the diversity of their student bodies. This practice isn’t as common elsewhere – in the US for example, you’d need to get a scholarship due to merits or some other kind of athletic ability. Students from Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia can often benefit from these types of scholarships. Generally speaking, the value is relatively low and can be between £1000-£3000 per year discounted from the tuition fee.

Does the type of degree make a difference?

The type of degree doesn’t make as much of a difference when it comes to UK scholarships. However, you can often see a trend towards offering scholarships to postgraduate students, for example, and a few less for students in their undergraduate years.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs says: “Scholarships are normally limited in number and have specific target groups. They are also normally highly competitive and most, though not all, are aimed at postgraduate level students. For undergraduate studies, scholarships (which include bursaries and partial fee waivers) are rarer.”

Are there any merit-based scholarships?

Some universities do offer merit-based scholarships which are directed to students who have already begun their education at the university. These scholarships are based on a student’s grades in their first year. For example, if a student earned very good grades in their first year at university, that particular school might offer them a merit scholarship for their second year, or later years.

Athletic scholarships in the UK

The culture of university admissions in the UK focuses on academic attainment and applicants are expected to meet the academic entry requirements for their chosen university even if they are outstanding athletes. While there is a greater emphasis on athletics in the US compared to the UK, the UK’s elite sporting infrastructure is growing rapidly. A number of universities such as Bath, Exeter, Loughborough, Stirling, and Swansea place a major emphasis on high-level sports, with facilities to match.

In the US, athletic scholarships are offered to students before they have accepted their place at university. But in the UK, a student will have to apply for an athletic scholarship themselves and they can only do this after they’ve applied to the course and university through UCAS. Athletic scholarships in the UK are also typically focused on providing financial help with equipment and events instead of the major tuition fees that such scholarships cover in the US.

How can EF Academy help?

“At EF Academy Oxford, we direct our students to various sources of information about scholarship opportunities and once they have decided to which universities they will apply, we remind them to check those websites to find out what scholarships are on offer,” Dr. Mark Zumbuhl, Director of University Guidance at EF Academy Oxford, said.

Where students are invited to apply for competitive scholarships through something like an essay writing process, EF Academy will support applicants with appropriate advice and guidance. EF Academy also supports students with general information about the UK scholarships scene and about finance and budgeting information generally.

Many of the scholarships require a fairly simple application with additional information coming from the UCAS form. A smaller number of scholarships require personal statements, letters of motivation or essays. University guidance counselors, like the ones at EF Academy, can help students with these if they wish to apply for them.

“Universities vary widely as to how simple this process is – some do it online, some require paper documents. A very small number of scholarships – as compared with the US or Canada – require a separate recommendation letter from the school, and in such cases, we would supply that as well,” Dr. Zumbuhl explained.


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