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Scholarship options for international students in the UK

The UK with its world-class universities, a rich academic culture and an excellent student support system is a great place for people from abroad who wish to get high-quality higher education. And although university education in the UK is not cheap, there is plenty of funding options for international students, including financial assistance which covers programme fees, living expenses, and even return flights to the UK.

Depending on the country they are from, international students can be eligible for a wide array of scholarships and grants from institutions and universities as well as the financial support provided by the UK government.

Universities offer the following types of scholarships:

Academic, merit and excellence scholarships

They are sometimes also called scholarships for academic achievement. These scholarships are awarded to students with a strong academic background. It means that eligible students achieved high final grades (they don't always have to be straight A*s!) in their qualifications, which they apply to university with.

According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), it's relatively easier to get these scholarships in comparison to other types. Usually, universities award them based on one's A levels grades (or equivalent). Nevertheless, the competition can be fierce, and additional criteria like other qualifications (for example, GCSEs), extra-curricular projects and activities and personal circumstances of a particular student come into play, too.

Academic, merit and excellence scholarships are usually financial awards that cover part of the cost of living and/or tuition fees.

There are also subject-specific scholarships that are offered by individual departments to students who excel in a specific subject. To get this type of scholarship, a student might need to have relevant work experience, complete a subject-specific task or project, give a presentation on a topic, or provide a portfolio of work.

Examples of academic, merit and excellence scholarships:

Cambridge Trust Scholarship (for international students): covers part of tuition fees.

Aston University Vice-Chancellor's International Scholarship: up to £17,500 to help with tuition fees.

Performance-based scholarships

These scholarships are awarded to those who have exceptional ability in an extracurricular activity, such as sports, music, or performing arts like dance or drama. They cover part of the cost of living and/or tuition fees to help students develop their skills or talent.

For example, to get a music scholarship, bursary, or grant, you might need to provide evidence of your skill as part of your application (it can be a school performance or successful participation in the competition) and go through an audition process.

Examples of such scholarships:

University of Kent Music Performance Scholarship: up to £2,000 to new students whose musical talents can contribute to its musical community.

University of Birmingham Sport Scholarship: offered to student-athletes competing at junior international level and above and covers the cost of training, competitions and general living costs.

Equal access or sanctuary scholarships

These scholarships are offered to refugees and asylum seekers who have fled persecution in their home country. They can be in the form of a tuition fee reduction or waiver, or a maintenance award. Eligibility criteria vary from university to university.

Examples of such scholarships:

University of York Equal Access Scholarships: £12,300 living costs plus a full fee waiver for undergraduate students who are seeking refuge in the UK.

Disability scholarships

These scholarships are aimed at supporting students with a disability, long-term mental health condition, learning difficulty, or other special needs.

Examples of such scholarships:

The Snowdon Award Scheme: grants of up to £5,000 to pay for disability-related study costs at UK Universities.

Want to know more about what it's like to study as an international student in the UK and how to become one? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for entry to universities in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at


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