Guidance

Advice for young people: 16 to 19 Bursary Fund guide

Guidance for young people about the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund in the 2018 to 2019 academic year.

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund is money the government has given to local authorities, schools, colleges and other education and training providers (education institutions) to support students who need financial help to stay in education.

There are 2 types of 16 to 19 bursaries:

  • bursaries for defined vulnerable groups of up to £1,200 a year
  • discretionary bursaries which institutions award to meet individual needs, for example, help with the cost of transport, meals, books and equipment

Your education institution is responsible for managing both types of bursary.

Finding out if you are eligible for help from the bursary fund

To get either of the 2 bursaries in the 2018 to 2019 academic year you must meet the conditions for your age and residency. Your study must also meet some conditions.

Your age

You must be aged 16 or over but under 19 at 31 August 2018.

If you’re aged 19 or over you will only be eligible to receive a discretionary bursary if you are continuing on a study programme you began aged 16 to 18 (‘19+ continuers’) or have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Other students aged over 19 may be able to get other support for older/adult students. Your education institution will tell you what you can apply for.

No students aged 19 or over are eligible for bursaries for vulnerable groups.

Your residency

You must meet the residency conditions to get a bursary. Your institution will check this.

Your study

You must be enrolled on a study programme that’s publicly funded and inspected by a public body that assures quality (like Ofsted). Your institution will check if your study programme meets the conditions.

If you’re on an apprenticeship programme, or any waged training, you’re classed as being employed, rather than in education and aren’t eligible for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.

You can be studying full or part time. Your institution will look at the amount of time you’re studying when they’re deciding if you will get a payment and how much you will get.

If you’re studying on a publicly funded distance learning course you will probably not have the kind of costs the bursary fund is designed to cover, like transport, equipment and uniforms. If you do want to apply, you should talk to your education institution. They will look at your individual case and let you know if you might be eligible for help.

If you go to an independent institution that charges fees, you won’t normally get a bursary. However, if your local authority has referred you to the institution and they pay your fees, you may be able to apply. You should talk to your education institution about this.

Finding out if you are eligible for the bursary for vulnerable groups

If you are in one of the groups below, you can apply for a vulnerable bursary:

  • in care
  • care leavers
  • getting Income Support, or Universal Credit because you’re financially supporting yourself or are financially supporting yourself and someone who is dependent on you and living with you, for example, your child or your partner
  • getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments and Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit. You must be getting both benefits in your own right

It’s important to understand that your institution may decide that even though you may be eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups because you’re in one or more of the defined groups you don’t actually need help from the scheme.

The bursary fund is to provide help with costs so you can participate in education. If you don’t have any actual financial need, for example, because your local authority is already meeting your costs or because you’re on a distance learning programme and don’t have any travel or uniform costs; your institution may decide not to award you a bursary, or to award you a lower amount of bursary. If this the case, they will explain their decision to you.

Providing proof that you’re eligible for the bursary for vulnerable groups

Your institution will need proof that you’re eligible. They will tell you what they need from you. For example:

  • for students who are in care or a care leaver, written confirmation from the local authority that looks after you or provides your leaving care services
  • for students getting Income Support or Universal Credit, a copy of your Income Support or Universal Credit award notice (you must be entitled to the benefits in your own right). The evidence must confirm that you can be in further education or training. If you’re getting Universal Credit your institution will also need to see a tenancy agreement in your name, a child benefit receipt, children’s birth certificates, utility bills etc
  • for students getting Universal Credit (UC)/Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments, a copy of your UC claim that confirms which ESA group you’ve been placed in. You will also need to provide evidence that you’re receiving Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment

Finding out if you are eligible for the discretionary bursary

If you aren’t in one of the defined vulnerable groups, but you need financial help to stay in education, you can apply for a discretionary bursary from your education institution.

Your education institution is responsible for setting the criteria they use for discretionary bursaries. The criteria they use will focus on making sure bursary funds are targeted at students who need the most help to stay in education.

Their criteria might be based on your family’s income; if your parents get benefits or if you currently receive free school meals or have had them in the past. Each institution has their own 16 to 19 Bursary Fund policy that they publish on their website or can give to you.

Your institution may ask for evidence of your family’s household income when you apply. Examples of what they might ask for include a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions showing receipt of benefits, a P60, a Tax Credit Award Notice or 3 months’ worth of pay slips or bank account statements

Applying

You need to contact student services or your tutor at your education institution to apply. They will tell you what to do. Most institutions put information about the bursary fund on their website and on posters around school or college; all of these should tell you how to apply, including if there’s any particular date they’ve set for looking at applications.

You should apply as soon as you know where you’re going to study. The sooner you apply, the sooner your support can start. Some institutions may have limited funds available and may allocate funding on a first come first served basis.

It’s important to understand that your bursary application is a legal document. If you or your parents or carers give false or incomplete information on your application you may be committing fraud.

If your institution thinks this is the case they may pass details of your application to the Department for Education or the police. You and your parents or carers could be prosecuted and your institution will ask you to pay back any bursary payments you should not have had.

How much you will be paid if you’re eligible

If you’re eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups, you could get up to £1,200 if you study full time for a minimum of 30 weeks. If your course is only for a few hours a week or less than 30 weeks, you will get less.

It’s important to remember you won’t necessarily get £1,200 if you’re in one of the specific vulnerable groups if your institution assesses you don’t have any actual financial need. This might be because your costs are already covered from another source or because you have no costs. Your institution will consider your circumstances when you apply and will explain any decision they make to you.

Your institution will decide how much discretionary bursary they award you, depending on your household income and your circumstances. The criteria they apply should be set out in the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund policy.

Institutions can pay bursaries in-kind rather than cash. This means they may give you a travel pass, voucher or credits for meals, required books and required equipment.

Your institution can specify that you must return books and equipment at the end of your study programme so they can be used again by other students. They can also say what you can spend the bursary on.

Rules and conditions for payment

Education institutions usually set conditions on your bursary payments. These are rules you need to stick to so you can carry on getting support from the bursary fund. The conditions they set can cover attendance or standards of behaviour. If you don’t stick to the rules the institution may stop your payments. Some institutions will ask you to sign a form to confirm that you’ve understood the rules they’ve set and what will happen if you break them.

If you’re ill or are absent from your institution for another reason this may affect your payments. Your education institution will give you more information about this.

Who will know I get a bursary

Your application is confidential and our education institution should make sure you’re not singled out as getting a bursary.

If you’re worried, talk to student support services or your tutor.

Other help to stay in education

Some institutions keep some bursary funds for students who need emergency help or different types of help during the year because their circumstances have changed. Others provide one-off support through separate funds that aren’t connected to the bursary.

If your circumstances change and you think you need more help speak to your education institution straight away. They will be able to tell you what to do.

If you’re a young parent you can apply for a bursary and for help from Care to Learn for help with childcare costs whilst you study. If you have to move away from home to get the main qualification you’re studying for, you may be able to get help with residential costs. You should ask your tutor or student support team for more information and advice.

Young carers

As a young carer you won’t get a bursary for vulnerable groups, unless you fall into one of the specific vulnerable groups.

You can apply for help for a discretionary bursary. Your education institution will use the information you give them confidentially so you can talk to them about your caring responsibilities when you’re applying for help.

Young offenders

If you’re a young offender you can apply for a bursary if:

  • you’re serving a non-custodial sentence
  • you’ve been released early from a custodial sentence (except on temporary licence)
  • you’ve been remanded to a non secure institution

If you’re eligible, institutions will usually provide you with in-kind support like a travel pass, course material or a meal instead of money.

You can’t apply if:

  • you’re serving a custodial sentence
  • you’ve been released from a custodial sentence on temporary licence
  • you’ve been remanded to a secure institution

Impact on DWP benefits

Bursary fund payments don’t affect your right to Department of Works and Pensions income-related benefits (like Income Support or Universal Credit for example).

However, if you’re getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments and Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit, your parents can’t get certain benefits (like child benefit) for you.

I live in Scotland – am I eligible?

If you live in Scotland and travel to England to study, you should contact your home local authority in Scotland to apply for Scottish EMA. You can’t get the bursary fund.

If you live in England and travel to Scotland to study, you should contact your home local authority in England to apply for a bursary. You can’t get Scottish EMA.

I live in Wales – am I eligible?

If you live in Wales and travel to England to study, you should contact the local authority where you live to apply for Welsh EMA. You may also apply to your institution for a discretionary bursary. You can’t get a vulnerable bursary.

All students who live in England and travel to Wales to study and who meet the criteria for the bursary for vulnerable groups can apply. If you think this applies to you, you should contact your local authority in England to apply.

Complaints or questions about the bursary

If you’ve any problems with how the bursary is paid, how much money you get or other general questions, you should talk to your education institution because they manage the funds.

If you think your institution isn’t managing the bursary fund correctly, you should talk to student support services or your tutor. If they can’t help, you can make a formal complaint, by using your institution’s formal complaints procedure. This is usually available on your institution’s website.

Data Protection

For the purposes of the Data Protection Act (DPA), the Department for Education is the data controller for any personal data you supply to us. This personal data will be processed in accordance with the DPA, only used for the purpose(s) for which you have supplied it to us and only shared with third parties where it is necessary for us to do so and the law allows it.

For more detailed information on how we handle your personal information see the ESFA: privacy notice.

Published 2 March 2017
Last updated 14 March 2018 + show all updates
  1. Page updated for the 2018 to 2019 academic year.
  2. First published.