With its world-renowned universities and rich cultural heritage, the UK is one of the most popular destinations for students from all over the world. In 2020 alone, 44,300 students from overseas started their studies at a British university. However, tuition fees for international students are significantly higher than domestic ones. As an international student, you must expect expenses of over 20,000£ per academic year. Additionally, there are relatively high living costs, which you will have to cover. One way you can experience university in the UK despite these costs are university scholarships for international students.

What are international scholarships?

Scholarships – which we explain here – are the most common way for international students to fund their studies in the UK. Depending on the scholarship, they can help you with living costs or reduce your tuition fees. There are even scholarships which cover the entirety of your expenses for tuition! Normally, scholarships are limited in number and are awarded by certain criteria such as an academic achievement or extraordinary ability in other areas (e.g. sport). Contrary to bursaries and grants, they do not have to be paid back, which makes them an attractive option for funding your studies. However, because of this, they are highly competitive, especially among undergraduate students. But do not let that discourage you; there still is a wide range of options you can explore.

What types of scholarships are there?

Depending on your situation, you might be eligible for different types of scholarships. There are academic scholarships, which are usually awarded by academic performance. Some of these are specific for a particular course or subject, while others are open for students of any degree programme. However, if you do not have the grades to meet the academic criteria, there are still lots of other scholarships you can apply for. For example, there are performance-based scholarships which require their applicants to show exceptional abilities in extracurricular activities. Usually, this includes outstanding performances in sports, music or performing arts. While they are not necessarily bound to a certain degree, they may require you to take on responsibilities, such as playing on a team. There are also scholarships for students with disabilities and equal access scholarships which are available for refugees and asylum seekers. All of these are either offered by a particular university or by third parties, such as governments and charitable organizations.


For most scholarships, you need to satisfy specific criteria, such as getting certain grades. However, there are some additional criteria for international scholarships that applicants must meet. These often include citizenship of specific countries, accepted offers for full-time courses at a British university and no support from other institutions for funding your studies.

Scholarships by the UK government

There are multiple scholarships provided by the government of the UK, which can be viewed on the website of the British council. The most popular ones are:

Chevening Scholarships

Available for international postgraduate students, these scholarships cover the majority of your tuition fees as well as provide a living allowance and money for your travel to the UK. To be eligible, you must have applied to at least three university courses in the UK, and you need to have at least two years of work experience.

Commonwealth Masters Scholarships

These scholarships are open to international postgraduate students from a Commonwealth country. They pay for tuition and exam fees as well as provide a personal maintenance allowance and an arrival allowance.

Scholarships by individual universities

Most universities in the UK offer financial aid for international students. To find out which scholarships are available to you, you should check the university website.


The application process varies depending on the type of award and the provider. For university-funded scholarships, you usually have to apply at your university. Applicants for external scholarships apply directly with the providers. A typical application includes an online form and the submission of additional, translated documents. These may include evidence of immigration status, references and a portfolio. Because of that, it is important that you give yourself enough time to complete the application. Do not leave it to the last minute!

As you can see, there is a wide variety of scholarships available for international students in the UK. This might seem intimidating, but with a little effort, you can find the perfect scholarship for you. Then, nothing will stand between you and your unique experience of studying abroad in the UK.