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Policy Guide
National Scholarship Programme - NSP

Who is eligible?

The national rules for the programme are quite broad. Students can be considered for an award if: 

  • they ordinarily live in England, or they are an EU national
  • the income for the household where they live is £25,000 or less
  • they are applying to study as an undergraduate either full-time or part-time in higher education in England (if part-time, students must be studying for more than 25 per cent of the full-time equivalent.)

But please be aware that each university and college has its own rules beyond these broad criteria. The university or college should make the rules for their particular scheme clear on their web-site.

NSP awards are not available to students who ordinarily live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. 

The awards are also not available to students on further education courses (that is, at level 3 or below), or to students at private universities or colleges (those which don’t receive HEFCE funding).

How do you apply?

Students apply for the NSP through their chosen university or college. Institutions’ web-sites should have more information on their criteria and application or selection process. 

How to contact us

If you have a query about an individual university or college’s NSP awards and how to apply, it’s best to contact them directly.

To contact HEFCE about the National Scholarship Programme, please e-mail nsp@hefce.ac.uk.

If you work at a university or college, you can also call 0117 931 7410.

If you are a student, parent/carer or other enquirer, you can also call 0117 931 7333.


These web pages provide information for institutions, students and their parents or carers on the current National Scholarship Programme, which will continue to deliver funding to new undergraduate entrants in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The programme aims to help individual students from low-income backgrounds as they enter higher education (HE). 

We administer the programme on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which sets the overall policy and funding level.

Changes for 2014-15

The Government has announced a change in the level of government funding for the programme for 2014-15. This will affect how institutions deliver the programme:

  • The minimum award per student for 2014-15 entrants will reduce from £3,000 to £2000 (full-time and pro rata part-time to a minimum intensity of 25 per cent).
  • There will also be a change in the amount of funding which can be awarded as cash, so that for 2014-15 entrants there will be no cash limit.

The other rules of the programme which institutions need to follow remain unchanged.

Future of the programme

Following the spending review in June 2013, the Government announced that the National Scholarship programme will cease as an undergraduate programme from 2015-16 and instead it will be realigned to support postgraduate students.  No funding for undergraduates will be allocated beyond this point. 

Allocations for institutions will continue to be made in 2013-14 and 2014-15 meaning that the programme will be available to undergraduate student entrants in those years. 

The Government has asked HEFCE to administer a new programme to support postgraduate students.  This will refocus £50 million of funding and come into effect in 2015-16.

What is the National Scholarship Programme?

The programme has the following features:

  • It is for new entrants to undergraduate programmes in England.
  • It provides direct financial benefit to individual, eligible students.
  • For 2012-13 and 2013-14 each eligible student receives an award of not less than £3,000 (full-time and pro rata part-time to a minimum intensity of 25 per cent). In 2014-15, each eligible student receives an award of not less than £2,000 (full-time and pro rata part-time to a minimum intensity of 25 per cent). This is a one-year benefit. It is not annual.
  • In 2012-13 and 2013-14, no more than £1,000 (pro rata) of the overall award is to be provided as a cash bursary. For 2014-15, this limit is removed.

How does it work in practice?

The Government rules for the programme broadly indicate who is eligible to be considered for an award. But individual universities and colleges make decisions on which of their eligible students receive an award.

Government’s role

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills sets the overall national eligibility criteria for the programme and provides funding.

According to the criteria, students are eligible to be considered for an award if their household income is less than £25,000. Meeting this criterion alone does not mean that students will receive a scholarship.

The Government's contribution to the programme is £50 million in financial year 2012-13, £100 million in 2013-14 and £50 million in 2014-15.

HEFCE’s role

We administer the programme and deliver the government funding to universities and colleges. We issue guidance and carry out monitoring to ensure that universities and colleges are delivering the funding within the rules of the scheme. We have also commissioned an evaluation of the scheme, which aims to help us understand what works best and why.

The role of universities and colleges

Individual universities and colleges allocate the funding to students. They also have their own rules about eligibility. These rules work within the broad rules that the Government sets nationally. This means that the university or college ultimately decides which students receive an award. It also means they devise and run their own application or selection processes.

Universities and colleges match fund the government contribution, so that more money is available through the scheme for students.

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