Good Bye Student Debt; Hello Bursary Bonanza



Three years ago Myles Jardine turned down the chance to go to university because he didn’t fancy getting £50,000 into debt. Luckily for the nation’s students he then did a rather public-spirited thing: he spent thousands of hours compiling a database of every scholarship and grant he could find.

Now aged 21, Jardine is releasing the results on an app called GrantFairy — and they are eye-popping. The app lists grants worth just shy of £1bn, with 120,000 individual awards ranging from “nice to have” payouts of a few hundred pounds to life-changing sums that could convince those wavering about university to take the plunge.

Jardine, who said he turned down a place to study creative writing at Winchester University, said it was only while he was in China, pondering what to do with his life, that he stumbled across the scale of support available.

“I had been unaware — and I believe that is the case for almost all students in the UK,” he said. “We have a general misconception about scholarships that they are available only for severely disadvantaged students or extreme high-flyers.”

The app, which went live yesterday, is aimed at students who have received offers to take up places this autumn. Users must fill in the name of their university, course and other personal details — and pay a fee of £4.99 a month or £23.99 for a year.While most scholarships are based on financial need, some use criteria such as academic or musical merit and sporting achievement. Many are tied to personal circumstances, such as where you live, what your parents do for a living, your religion or social background — or even your surname.

Others are linked to career plans and aspirations, or may require proof of entrepreneurial or community spirit. Some simply require an essay or video by way of application.

Jardine calculates the total funding available is £935m across 4,500 different funds offering scholarships for 120,000 individuals. He says the 500 subscribers who have started using the Cambridge-based service since its soft launch in October have already been alerted to £50m of grants for which they are eligible.

The range is extensive. The Tony Warren bursary, named after the Coronation Street creator and worth £45,000 over three years, is linked to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art, Manchester School of Theatre and Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. Applicants must be from the northwest of England.

The Bank of England offers three African-Caribbean scholarships worth up to £30,000 over the course of an undergraduate degree at a British university, starting in the autumn. The successful applicant, who must come from “black or mixed African or Caribbean backgrounds”, receives two summer internships as well as support throughout their time at university. The closing date for applications is tomorrow.

The Global Study awards, worth up to £10,000 a year, are for those wishing to study overseas and with a “sincere interest in increasing intercultural understanding and exchange”. Backers include the British Council IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

London Business School offers scholarships worth more than £1m in total to female MBA students.

One of the largest scholarships in the GrantFairy database is from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and is worth £105,000. Up to 15 grants are awarded to Canadian and foreign doctoral candidates pursuing subjects including human rights and people and their natural environment.

Sheffield University offers a small number of prize scholarships for the best PhD applicants, covering full tuition fees and providing an annual £20,000 tax-free maintenance stipend, as well as an annual training grant worth £2,500 a year. The closing date is Wednesday.

At Westminster University, you can get half your tuition fees paid if you are the wife of a diplomat from a developing country, while Royal Central School of Speech & Drama offers scholarships including the £5,000 Harold Pinter award for young writers.

There are quirky scholarships too. Exeter University offers £3,000 a year for singing in the choir; the Vegetarian Society offers up to £500 to vegetarians and vegans under the age of 26; and the Association of Jewish Libraries offers $1,000 (£720) to those interested in Judaica librarianship. Glasgow students with the surname Graham are eligible for a grant of £500, while members of the Menzies clan can get £800.

Jardine has received mentoring and business advice from the Prince’s Trust in setting up his app, which will be offered free to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. David Ivell, chief information officer at the trust, said he intended to offer it to 10,000 members of Prince’s Trust Online by April, rising to 25,000 by the end of next year and 50,000 by the end of 2020.

Applicants for grants may find the odds on landing one can be better than they expect.

Karen Kennard runs the Scholarship Hub, which lists grants worth a total of about £110m. She has surveyed a range of 20 grant-making charities, trusts, companies and professional associations offering payouts worth from £798 to £25,000 — and found 14 of them said many universities won’t promote external scholarships. Only two said they were overwhelmed with applications, while 10 said they had to extend their deadlines and work hard to attract sufficient applicants.

The funds are provided for a variety of reasons: while eight of the 20 offer scholarships for charitable purposes, seven do so to nurture new talent in their industries and three as a marketing tool.

For now, Jardine is focused on making GrantFairy a success but says he has not ruled out going to university in future. “At 17 I was encouraged by my teachers to ‘follow your heart’ — a fine sentiment, but not necessarily a financially savvy way to approach a career and a 30-year debt,” he said. “If I were to go to university now, I’d probably want to study business.”

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