How to find extra funding at university

Ruth Bushi

Ruth Bushi writes about student money and university life. She's the author of several editions of The Student Money Manual.

Making ends meet may feel especially challenging right now. There are things that can help. This page explains where to find extra funding for living costs.

For many students, managing money at university can be an uphill battle. Lots of costs may be more expensive than you were expecting, especially because of coronavirus.

Don’t worry. By the end of this article, you’ll know where to look for support, advice or extra funding for living costs. Even better, much of this money is free: you won’t have to repay it, unless you leave your course early.

Remember, what you can claim will depend if you’re a UK, EU or international student, and whether you study full or part time. Contact your university if you need help understanding your eligibility.

Try these first

It’s really worth making a budget. This shows how you’re coping financially, and can help identify ways to make ends meet. Some funders will ask to see your budget, so doing it now could speed things up.

Other things to do:

  • Keep bank statements, ID, student finance paperwork or details about household income (yours or your parents') to hand.
  • If you’re eligible, consider taking the full government student loan. Some funders ask you to do this before applying for support.
  • Check if you can get a 0% student overdraft. Some hardship funds expect you to try this first. Learn how to use overdrafts safely.

Other than the special options mentioned on this page, avoid borrowing if you’re struggling with money or already juggling debts.

Talk to your university

Universities offer a mix of their own support funds. Each sets their own rules, so contact yours to see what’s on offer and apply.

Coronavirus funds

Most universities have emergency support for difficulties or extra costs caused by coronavirus. In some cases, this is separate to hardship funds, while for others, it replaces it.

Whatever it’s called, consider applying now, even if you don’t need the cash yet. And don’t write off funds if deadlines have closed – more money may become available later.

Hardship funds

Sometimes called Access to Learning funds, these are for UK (and sometimes EU) students facing unexpected financial difficulty.

Check if your uni has a separate pot to coronavirus funds, as you may need support from both.

You may be offered non-repayable grants or special interest-free loans. Some universities have limited funds, so be ready to try other options on this page as well.

Scholarships, bursaries and grants

These are types of non-repayable support. Some are open to international as well as UK and EU students.

You usually apply when you start your course. If you didn’t, check what’s available as you may be able to get help now or for later years.

  • Scholarships used to reward academic, sporting or musical achievement. But now many offer blanket support to all students, or those from specific backgrounds.
  • Bursaries and grants are usually means-tested, so are linked to household income. If your funding depends on your parents’ income, and they’ve lost earnings because of coronavirus, this might increase the support you get. Ask your uni.

There may also be targeted help, including for students with disabilities or those who have left care. Mention anything you think could be relevant.

Apply for extra Student Finance

If you’re eligible for the maintenance loan, you may be able to get extra support. These funds are non-repayable, though some are means-tested on household income:

Many of these are calculated automatically when you apply for your course. But if your circumstances have changed (for instance, because your household income has dropped), you may now be eligible or due extra help.

This applies to the maintenance loan, too. Just remember that payouts may be slow, so try other options at the same time.

Contact your student finance organisation for more details.

Look for charity funds

Some universities compile funding sources for all students, not just their own. These resources from LSE and St George’s Medical School are a good start.

The Turn2Us grant finder can find funding by region or circumstance (including gender, age, low income and nationality)

Trusted resource

Turn2Us

Use the Turn2Us grant finder to see if there are any charity funds you’re eligible for.

Search locally

This can turn up sources you might otherwise miss. Remember to check options where you live while studying as well as your home address:

  • Contact the local council
  • Search the web for ‘student grants’ plus your county. This can dig up lesser known funds from local charities and businesses.

Check everything else

Even more options to look for funding:

  • Professional organisations and societies connected to your subject or career path
  • Professional bodies or unions your parents are connected to
  • Some students use crowd-funding sites (i.e., asking others to help you meet costs)
  • If you’re struggling with rent, tuition fees or other costs, get more advice on tackling money problems.

Hopefully the sheer range of options should reassure you that support is out there. Often, turning up funding is a matter of persistence and patience. But if you’re worried or unsure what to do, help is here whenever you need it.