Writing by Annabel Wilde. Illustration by Antonia Popescu. (@amp_aesthetics on insta)
As one of the most expensive cities for student living in the UK, Edinburgh students know it is vital to save money wherever possible. Especially for students from low income households or difficult home circumstances, financial pressures can be detrimental to the experience of University as a whole, which means that funding in the forms of grants, bursaries and scholarships can be a lifeline. Without financial support, these students would otherwise be left in difficult situations - possibly working multiple jobs alongside their studies, putting their family under serious financial strain, or even not able to go to university at all, despite the government student loan service.
The 93% Club Edinburgh is a recently founded social mobility society. The main aims for the club are to promote access and opportunity for state school students at the university. When I first started talks with the rest of the 93% Club committee about what we wanted to prioritise promoting in order to support these students, I was reminded of myself as a prospective undergraduate. I searched through the maze of the university website for hours over the summer before I was due to start uni, to find financial funding I was eligible for - most of which was tucked away through multiple links which I then could never relocate when I visited for a second time. Budgeting was a huge source of stress for me, and though some scholarships are assessed and awarded automatically through student finance applications, knowing what money I would be receiving and when really took a weight off my shoulders. If I hadn’t done such extensive research myself, I never would have known that I was going to qualify for the generous bursary I do, as Edinburgh University don’t let you know what you automatically qualify for until the semester has already begun. So, for the last few days I have been going back through ed.ac.uk, finding all of the funding information I possibly could to attempt a comprehensive and accessible guide to financial support for current and prospective students who really need it.
Alongside several merit-based scholarships provided by individual schools, financial aid is available to students in need without the requirement of additional academic work. The University of Edinburgh Scholarship for UK students can see English and Northern Irish students in receipt of up to £8,500 per academic year, with up to £5,546 for Welsh students. The scholarship is based on annual household income, and is automatically assessed from information from student finance applications - just make sure you allow the university to have access to the income information you input. The university usually only confirms your eligibility for the scholarship about a week before Semester 1 begins, so it is helpful to plan ahead and check the amount you are eligible for on the website a while beforehand if your household income falls below £42,600. Similarly, for Scottish students there are the Young Students’ Bursary and the Scottish Scholarship, both of which are considered automatically through SAAS. A Young Students’ Bursary can amount to £2,000 per year, and Edinburgh’s Scottish Scholarship award matches this amount when household income is under £21,000.
For anyone joining university, high membership fees for societies and sports’ teams (which can be over £100 per year) can be off-putting. As a consequence of this, students miss out on social opportunities which would enrich their university experience in order to save money. The Participation Award for anyone who qualifies for the above bursaries is a grant of up to £200 to cover membership costs, gym fees, travel costs or kit expenses. This aid means that students are able to afford to join clubs in which they make new social connections and develop skills, and are no longer missing out on an important part of university life because they can’t afford it. This award is given after an application form is filled out around December of each year, so unfortunately initial costs have to be paid before the university refunds the finances.
Go Abroad funds are available for everybody. If anyone is in need of extra funds to finance a trip abroad which would in some way benefit them academically, then they are eligible to apply for the Go Abroad funds. Santander have a total of 20 awards of £1,000 to give away to Widening Participation students only, and the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund has an unlimited amount of £750 awards to give away to all students. Widening Participation students qualify for the full amount of the Principal’s fund; any non-widening participation students qualify for a smaller amount. This fund can be applied for online, and the form is usually emailed to students to be completed by March of each year.
Networking opportunities are scarce for students who attended state schools. Therefore, schemes such as Lloyds Scholars, ICAS Foundation and Global Insights provide valuable experience, not only financial aid. The Lloyds Scholars Program must be applied for before the start of a degree; this is not available to current undergrad students. However, for any prospective students who may consider it, the program offers a financial fund of £6,000 for the entirety of your degree course, as well as two 10 week summer internships, one of which is salaried. Applicants’ household income must be less than £25,000 to be eligible. The ICAS Foundation is for Scottish accounting and finance students only, and can be applied for online. There are five awards available of £1,000 - £2,500 each, as well as mentoring and networking opportunities, and eligible students must ‘have financial or personal circumstances that might otherwise inhibit that progression.’ Edinburgh’s Global Insights is a way for Edinburgh alumni to host current students in their places of work. They host networking events and workshops in soft skills for Widening Participation students who have not had the opportunity to learn these skills and are therefore less prepared for working as a graduate. The program funds eligible students to go for a period of time to the host alumni’s city, wherever that may be, and covers costs of travel, accommodation and spending money whilst there. Invitations to the Global Insights are usually emailed to students who qualify around Autumn of each year.
For students who are care-experienced or estranged from their families, Unite Students offers free accommodation for 3 years, for 52 weeks of the year, in the Old Printworks student accommodation. This is especially helpful for students with an unstable home environment, as privately renting can require a guarantor and large deposit, to which many don’t have access. Eligible students must be under 25 years old, an undergraduate, and can apply directly through the foundation’s website.
For students with a child dependant, funding is available for childcare. UK students who are full-time undergrads, or postgrads who qualify for SAAS, qualify for the Scottish government’s childcare grant. For Scottish students, there are also the Lone Parents’ Grant and the Lone Parents’ Childcare Grant, worth up to £1,305 and £1,215 each. These both require an online application which can be found through the university website, and can help with the costs of childcare, living essentials and accommodation for students with a child dependent, so that these students can focus on their studies whilst also caring for a child. Disabled students’ funding is also available to assist with equipment costs, travel costs for those with restricted mobility and general maintenance allowances. Disabled students who believe they qualify for extra funding should contact the disabled students’ officer for their school.
Within this article I have covered just 14 of the bursaries offered by the University of Edinburgh and external groups who work in collaboration with the university. There are so many more out there to be found. With the possibility of doubling the amount of a maintenance loan without the need for additional academic work, it is vital that young people from low income backgrounds are made aware of the financial support available from the University of Edinburgh, so that they can start to view university as a viable option for their futures.