what is the difference between a bursary and a scholarship


A bursary and a scholarship are both forms of financial assistance offered to students to help them fund their education. While they serve a similar purpose, there are some key differences between the two. This article aims to explore the distinctions between bursaries and scholarships, helping students understand the options available to them for financial support.

Definition and Purpose

A bursary is a monetary grant provided to students based on financial need. It is typically awarded to individuals who demonstrate limited financial resources, allowing them to access education that might otherwise be unaffordable. Bursaries are designed to help students cover the cost of tuition, books, accommodation, and other related expenses.

A scholarship, on the other hand, is an award given to students based on merit, talent, or other specific criteria, such as academic achievements, athletic abilities, or leadership qualities. Scholarships are often granted to recognize exceptional skills or accomplishments and are aimed at supporting individuals who display outstanding potential in their chosen field of study.

what is the difference between a bursary and a scholarship

Selection Process

The process of selecting recipients for bursaries primarily revolves around assessing the financial circumstances of applicants. Students are typically required to provide detailed information about their income, assets, and expenses, often accompanied by supporting documents such as bank statements or tax returns. Selection committees evaluate these applications and grant bursaries to students who demonstrate the highest level of financial need.

In contrast, scholarships prioritize merit-based criteria for selection. Academic performance, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and specific talents are often considered when awarding scholarships. Selection committees may request academic transcripts, recommendation letters, or evidence of achievements to determine the most deserving candidates.

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Funding Sources

Bursaries are often funded by universities, government organizations, or private institutions with a focus on supporting students in need. These funding sources allocate funds to create bursary programs to assist students who would otherwise lack the financial means to pursue education.

Scholarships, on the other hand, are usually sponsored by a wide range of organizations, including universities, corporations, foundations, or non-profit organizations. These entities offer scholarships to encourage students with exceptional abilities to pursue their educational goals.

Conditions and Obligations

While the financial support provided through bursaries and scholarships is generally offered without any repayment expectations, there may be certain conditions or obligations associated with each.

Bursaries may require recipients to maintain a specific grade average throughout their studies or reside in a certain geographical area. Some bursaries may also involve mandatory community service, where recipients are expected to give back to society in some capacity.

Scholarships often have additional requirements, such as maintaining a minimum grade point average or participating in specific activities related to the scholarship’s purpose. For example, recipients of an athletic scholarship might be expected to represent their institution in sports competitions.

Access and Application

Both bursaries and scholarships require students to apply for consideration. The application process may involve providing personal information, academic records, reference letters, and essays or statements describing the applicant’s goals and aspirations.

To apply for a bursary, students typically complete an application form and submit the required documents to the bursary provider. These forms are often available on the university’s website or through the financial aid office.

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Scholarship applications vary based on the sponsoring organization’s requirements. Some may have online application forms, while others may require physical submission. Students are advised to research and gather all the necessary information about scholarships they wish to apply for, adhering to any specified deadlines.


While bursaries and scholarships both offer financial assistance to students, they differ in terms of selection criteria, funding sources, conditions, and obligations. Bursaries primarily consider financial need, while scholarships focus on merit and achievement. Understanding these distinctions can help students identify the most suitable option for their circumstances and aspirations, making higher education more accessible and affordable for all.

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