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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. 

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

To contact HEFCE about the National Scholarship Programme, please e-mail nsp@hefce.ac.uk or telephone 0117 931 7410.

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


The National Scholarship Programme (NSP) aims to help individual students from low-income backgrounds as they enter higher education (HE). It applies to students entering HE in or after autumn 2012.

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

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.
  • 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). This is a one-year benefit. It is not annual.
  • No more than £1,000 (pro rata) of the overall award is to be provided as a cash bursary.

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 £150 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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