Finding a Scholarship

“I’m an international student who wishes to study in the UK, but I can’t afford it. How can I get a scholarship to study in the UK?", "Is it difficult to get a UK scholarship?", "How do I apply for a scholarship?”

These are common questions we receive at Student Central, which is not surprising as finding the right funding scheme and applying for it can be a daunting challenge.

We’ve learnt that one of the reasons why so many talented students miss opportunities is because they have no access to right and/or accurate information, so we’ll try to provide an insight into the UK scholarship system with the hopes that it’ll help any prospective international students interested in applying for a master’s course.

**For a start, let’s introduce ourselves: hi everyone! **

I am Nevena from Serbia and I read MSc Contemporary Chinese Studies at The University of Oxford. Having completed my BA in Chinese at The University of Belgrade, Serbia, I am also an international student who was able to secure private funding from a company, and the funding-related challenges are well-known to me indeed.

My name is Annet. I am a Ugandan, and I am currently doing my master’s degree in Radiation Biology at the University of Oxford. I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Tsukuba (Japan), which I left last year to join Oxford. My experiences of studying abroad have been n the best stages of development in my life. I have met many great people, learnt a lot, and most importantly, obtained various transferable skills.

There are various ways of getting funding to study but getting the right information from the right person can also be challenging sometimes. To go to Japan, I first got the Ashinaga scholarship that covered my flights, tuition, and stipend for four years. Then, I got the Commonwealth Scholarship to study my master’s degree in the UK.

Now, with regards to scholarships, the UK offers a range of scholarships and funding options to international students, including the postgraduate taught ones. These are distributed both centrally, i.e. by certain organisations, charities, companies etc. (external scholarships), and institutionally, i.e. by the universities themselves (internal scholarships).

The eligibility criteria for scholarships varies between universities and organisations, but there are some common points that could be applied to all of them:

a. An offer of admission – numerous scholarships are awarded only after a student has been offered a place at the university for the chosen course. Do bear in mind, however, that the offer itself is not a guarantee the student will receive any financial help as the competition for scholarships is extremely high;

b. The deadlines are clearly and strictly set, which means that no additional applications are accepted after it has passed – the deadline can coincide with the course deadline (Oxbridge deadlines in December/January), be in early/middle spring (e.g., Durham, Manchester) or be well before even applying for the chosen course (Chevening and Oxford’s Rhodes Scholarships). Whenever the deadline is, they must be met or the applications submitted after it will not be considered at all.

c. Separate application process – as much as the Oxbridge applicants are automatically considered for the large number of scholarships when they apply for the course of interest, there are some who require a separate application, and this applies to other UK universities as well. Examples of this are the Gates Cambridge scholarships and the Chevening scholarship;

d. Conditions – depending on the award, there may be certain terms and conditions the applicant must agree to fulfil should they receive the financial award, namely obtaining certain minimal grade following the completion of the studies, or returning to the home country and working there for a certain number of years;

e. Types of scholarships – there are full and partial scholarships. Full scholarships cover course fees completely, and partial scholarships do so partially. They may or may not cover living costs, so the prospective students should carefully read about the scholarship they are applying for.

What scholarships are actually being offered? Only a few of the UK’s well-known funding options that are available to the overseas applicants applying to any UK university will be mentioned here as the list is endless:

a. Chevening scholarships: ‘enables outstanding emerging leaders from all over the world to pursue one-year master’s degrees in the UK’. Some of the requirements are as follows: candidates must have at least two years of work experience, obtain an undergraduate degree equivalent to an upper second-class 2:1 honours degree and return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the award has ended. The deadline was in November 2020 for 2021 entry.

b. Marshall Scholarships: ‘finances young Americans of high ability to study for a graduate degree in the United Kingdom.’ The applicants must hold a first degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the United States with a minimum GPA of 3.7.

c. Snowdon Masters Scholarships: - The Snowdon Trust and Global Disability Innovation Hub invest in inspirational disabled home and international students. With the funding up to £30,000 per student, successful candidates will receive £15,000 towards fees for a UK Masters course, and a £15,000 allowance while studying. Deadline is in spring 2021 for the 2021 entry.

d. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Scholarships: - UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The organisation brings together seven disciplinary research councils and is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in the UK. UKRI has confirmed that research councils will be able to award postgraduate studentships to both home and international students, now including EU, from 2021/22. These schemes include various masters + PhD funding, depending on the university, department and the subject.

Applying for scholarships is tough since there are so many people who need financial help. You need to invest significant time on understanding the requirements of any scholarships you are planning to apply for.

Additionally, we advise you to have some people who really understand you and your goals, to act as your referees. References are a crucial part of an application so getting the wrong people to act as your referees can easily fail you. Lastly, start the application on time to be able to get some feedback from some people and not to miss out any documents.

Beware that one of the most difficult parts of the application is writing a solid piece on your developmental goals. Since the words are limited, selecting the vital information takes time and continuous practice. Before you give out your information for proofreading, make sure the proofreader knows about the course you are applying for and the selection criteria for that scholarship.

Finally, try to look for the information by yourself as you make notes. Do not wait for other people to do it for you, better get the information “from the horse’s mouth” (in other words: direct from the scholarship organisations). There is a wide variety of scholarships, but all these have different requirements, so we advise you to first know if you are eligible before you apply to any scholarship. To help you with that, we offer other useful resources for the scholarships search:

British Council

The Scholarship Hub


While you’re eagerly waiting for the outcome of your funding application, please remember that some scholarships do not have specific dates for result announcements, but they can say at the end of a certain month. Having an idea about this period allows you to focus on other opportunities that can be grabbed at different times.

If you’re unsuccessful at obtaining any type of financial award, please remember that you’re not unworthy or undeserving of studying at university, otherwise you wouldn’t have received your offer in the first place!

There are way more amazing candidates than funding awards available, and the awarding organisations simply cannot afford to financially support all of them. Even applying and being considered for one is already a massive success.

Share this page
Annet Nakkazi and Nevena Skobic
Master's students at the University of Oxford
Published on 29 March 2021
Create your Student Central Profile today