Blog 🍎 School 23rd April 2021

Funding an International Education: An Introduction to the Scholarship Options Available to Your Students

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James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

An overview of the different financial aid and scholarship opportunities in the most popular university destination countries.

As you know, we are huge advocates for the benefits of choosing to study at an international university, and the opportunities it can bring for students.

But funding an international education can be costly, and we know that for many students, the question of affordability is one that comes up a lot.

In some countries, the cost of studying towards a degree can feel prohibitively expensive, and some of your students may feel that certain university pathways are out of their reach for this reason.

However, it’s worth noting that universities are eager to open up higher education opportunities to students like yours. There are numerous financial aid packages and scholarships to help students bear the cost of studying an undergraduate degree overseas.

Sadly we can’t give you an exhaustive list of every major scholarship and financial aid opportunity (if we did, this blog post would be longer than a Charles Dickens novel!).

Instead, we’ll look at how financial aid and scholarships work in various countries around the world, and where your students should start looking.


The United States is still one of the most popular destinations for international students. Unfortunately it’s also one of the most expensive destinations. 

We’ll be honest. There aren’t as many financial aid opportunities in the United States for international students as there are for domestic students. This means that, when US universities do offer financial aid for international students, it is often much more competitive.

Types of US scholarships

Merit-based scholarships

Universities will offer merit-based scholarships for students who are academically gifted, or who have special abilities or skills. There are a number of merit-based scholarships that are offered to international students but they are often very competitive. Different universities have very different eligibility criteria so it’s important to check these carefully.

Needs-based scholarships

Needs-based scholarships are offered based on students’ financial need, and obviously students would need to demonstrate financial need when applying.

Need blind & full need met scholarships

These are very rare for international students, but it’s worth quickly covering them anyway. Need blind scholarships are when universities do not consider applicants’ ability to pay when they offer students a place. 

Alongside their need-blind admission policies, a small handful of US universities will offer to meet the full financial need of students offered a place – this is known as ‘full need met’. However, we need to stress that many universities won’t, and students will still be expected to contribute towards the cost of their studies. 

Sports scholarships

Sports scholarships are technically a form of merit-based scholarships, but it’s worth quickly covering them in a bit more detail. 

Sports scholarships are governed by several organisations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). The NCAA’s website has a number of resources for international students who want to learn more about opportunities for aspiring athletes. 

Private scholarships, grants & loans

There are many private companies and non-governmental organisations that offer scholarships and grants for international students. 

It’s worth noting that, if your students do apply for a private loan, these will often have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment options.

Scholarships & financial aid by country

Some US students will be able to access scholarships based on their country of origin. For example, there are a number of scholarships especially tailored to students from Asian countries. Here’s just two examples: 


If universities offer to cover international students’ fees for the entirety of their study, this is known as a ‘full-ride’ scholarship. There are few US universities that will offer full-ride scholarships to international students, but our colleagues over at PrepScholar have put together a handy guide to the universities that do.

How to find scholarships in the USA

We’ve already outlined a number of different financial aid options for international students, and some students may feel overwhelmed by some of the options on offer. They may come to you with no clue as to how they should start looking. 

Luckily, there are a number of different organisations that can help students get started with their search. Below are just a few examples: 


This organisation is supported by the US State Department. Their website has a really useful database of international scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

Institute of International Education

The IIE has an online scholarship database that allows students to research and find international scholarship opportunities by their region and country of origin.

The College Board

The College Board’s Big Future website has a really handy scholarship database with a number of in-depth filters to help students structure their research.

University & college websites

Don’t forget that many US universities and colleges will have their own section on their websites, outlining any financial aid for international students they may offer.

The UK

Student finance in the UK is a bit easier to understand than the US, though there are going to be some changes to tuition fees for international students now that the UK has left the European Union.

The cost of applying to the UK

EU/EEA students in 2020-21

2020-21 is the last year that EU/EEA students will be able to claim ‘home fee’ status – i.e. paying the same tuition fees as UK domestic students (up to £9,250).

International students from the EU and EEA can take advantage of tuition fee loans to help cover the cost of their fees. However, EU/EEA students aren’t eligible for maintenance loans to help them with their living costs. 

EU/EEA students in Scotland don’t have to pay tuition fees, with their fees covered by the Scottish Awards Agency. However, once again, they will still have to pay their own living costs.

International students from outside the EU & European students after 2021

After 2021, EU/EEA students will lose their home fee status and will have to pay the same fees as international students from outside the European Economic Area. 

International student finance in the UK will vary depending on the course your students are thinking of applying for. UK university degrees start at £9,000 and can go up to nearly £26,000 for degrees such as Medicine. There are a few things worth bearing in mind for students thinking of applying to the UK. 

  • Lecture-based degrees in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences will often cost less than degrees such as science or medical degrees, which will often involve the use of laboratories and more expensive equipment. 
  • Longer degrees (Medicine and Architecture for example) are likely to take longer to complete, and as such the cost of study will be higher. 

Living costs in the UK

For your non-EU students applying to university in the UK, they will need to prove that they are able to support themselves when studying as an undergraduate. 

Specifically, in order to qualify for a tier 4 student visa, UK university applicants will need to prove that they have £1,015 per month in their bank account when studying. Because an academic year in the UK lasts for about 9 months, your UK applicants will need over £9,000 to support themselves through their course. 

Types of UK scholarships

If your students are looking at financial support for university in the UK, then there are two main types of scholarship that it’s worth knowing about.

Merit-based scholarships 

These are scholarships or financial support for students who may excel academically or, in some cases, demonstrate a talent for a particular sport. It’s worth looking to see what different individual universities have on offer. 

Needs-based scholarships

These are scholarships that will be awarded based on a student’s financial need. Again, many universities will offer these so it’s worth students checking the websites of their shortlisted UK universities. 

A number of different organisations, including the UK government, will award scholarships and financial assistance to students. 

How to find UK university scholarships

University scholarships

Many individual universities will offer scholarships for international students. It’s worth students researching their preferred UK university. Many will have information about scholarships and financial aid on their own website. Here are a few examples:

Bristol University – Think Big! Scholarships

Bristol University offers these scholarships to overseas students. Bristol applicants can apply for bursaries worth between £5,000 and £20,000. 

President’s Undergraduate Scholarships – Imperial College London 

This is an example of a university scholarship awarded to someone who can demonstrate academic excellence. Imperial College awards 112 of these scholarships a year. 

This is one example of a scholarship that has no formal application process – instead, students are nominated by the university’s academic department if they believe the applicant has demonstrated sufficient ability. 

The University of Manchester 

The University of Manchester is an example of a university where students would have to check with an individual faculty or school within the university. Because Manchester is one of the largest universities in the UK, different departments and faculties will treat scholarships slightly differently

The University of Westminster Undergraduate Scholarships for Developing Country Students 

This is a very specific scholarship for students of specific nationalities. As you may have guessed, these are full scholarships for international students from developing countries. If you visit the university’s website, they will give you a list of developed countries. If your students’ country is not on this list, they would be considered eligible. 

University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor’s International Attainment Scholarship

This is a good example of a scholarship for non-EU international students. It’s worth noting that this scholarship is only available to students who are applying for non-clinical undergraduate degrees. This scholarship is only available in the first year of study and students will receive the following financial support. 

  • £2,500 deducted from their fees if they achieve a minimum A*AA grades in their A-levels (or the equivalent grade in an international qualification)
  • £2,000 deducted from their fees if they achieve AAB grades or above in their A-levels or equivalent international qualification. 

Government-funded scholarships

As well as scholarships offered by universities, the UK government also offers some financial aid options for international students. These are:

GREAT Scholarships 

These scholarships are jointly funded by the UK government and certain UK institutions. GREAT scholarships are aimed at students in six countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey. 

Some countries in the GREAT scholarship scheme will only offer postgraduate financial aid to international students. If your students are applying as a citizen of any of these countries, they should check the requirements carefully. 

The British Council

If your students are thinking of studying in the UK, it’s worth checking the British Council website for their country of origin. Each website will have scholarship and student finance information for students wishing to take up a university place in the UK. 


Tuition fees at universities in Canada will vary depending on the institution and the course, ranging from $1,500 to $20,000. As a general rule, humanities courses tend to be less expensive than a course in medicine, engineering or dentistry.

Types of Canadian scholarship

There are a number of places that international students can look for scholarships when applying to Canada. We can’t go into all of them in great depth, but below is a brief overview of where to start looking.

University scholarships

Almost every university in Canada will offer some kind of financial aid for students. A useful exercise for both counselors/advisers and students is to take a look at university financial aid options when students start researching and shortlisting universities. 

Many universities, such as the The University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta, offer what are known as entrance scholarships, where they will offset either all, or part of, the cost of tuition fees. 

These scholarships will be awarded based on academic merit, and students may require minimum grades/GPA in order to be eligible. 

Needs-based scholarships

As the title suggests, these are scholarships that are awarded to international students on the basis of financial need.

Merit-based scholarships

These scholarships are typically aimed at students who are either academically gifted, or excel at sports/athletics. The university entrance scholarships we discussed above are often a form of merit based scholarship.

Country-based scholarships

Canadian universities will offer scholarships to students from specific countries around the world. So if your school is based in a qualifying country, it’s worth seeing what financial aid is on offer. 

Government-funded scholarships

The Canadian government offers a number of scholarships for international students.

Privately-funded scholarships

Some private companies and organisations may offer scholarships for international students. They are likely to be targeted at students from specific countries, or from minority backgrounds.

How to find Canadian university scholarships

As well as checking their chosen universities’ websites, students can try the following websites to find Canadian scholarship opportunities:


Most degree courses in Germany are free to international students, but students may still require support towards their living costs. For students who do require this support, there are a number of financial aid options available. 

Scholarship options in Germany

DAAD Scholarships 

The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), offers a number of scholarships for international students. While many are aimed at postgraduates and doctoral students, there are some aimed at undergraduates too. 

Erasmus+ Scholarships 

Erasmus scholarships are designed to support students who may be studying in Germany under an exchange program. They are worth bearing in mind for any of your students who might be thinking of undertaking an exchange program at university.

Heinrich Boll Foundation Scholarships 

The Heinrich Boll Foundation awards around 1200 scholarships a year to undergraduates, post-graduates and Doctoral students. Note that these scholarships are awarded to students who intend to apply to a state university.

The Deutschlandstipendium 

This is a scholarship aimed at academically excellent international students all around the world. The scholarship is made possible by a combination of public and private money

International students are sponsored by businesses, foundations or private individuals, with a pledge of €150 per month. The German federal government then tops up this amount with a further €150 per month. In addition, students who are supported by the Deutschlandstipendium can access mentoring programmes, networking events and internships.

University scholarships 

Individual German universities will offer scholarships and financial aid to international students. If your students are considering Germany as a destination, it’s worth them researching their chosen university in more detail.

The Netherlands

There are a number of university specific scholarships in the Netherlands, so it’s worth researching what individual institutions have to offer.

Scholarship options in the Netherlands

Erasmus+ Scholarships

As with Germany, EU international students who decide to do a year abroad in the Netherlands can access the Erasmus+ scholarships. The eligibility criteria and the amount of money awarded is determined by each individual Dutch institution.

Holland Scholarship

If your school or your students are applying to the Netherlands from outside the EU/EEA, then the Holland Scholarship is worth considering. The scholarship amount is €5,000 and students are awarded the scholarship in their first year of study (this means it won’t cover the full duration of a students’ course). 

A number of Dutch research universities and universities of applied science offer the Holland Scholarship, but deadlines and admission requirements will differ depending on the institution your students choose to apply to. 

Hong Kong

Scholarships and financial aid in Hong Kong are offered by a combination of Hong Kong universities themselves, the Hong Kong government and other public and private institutions.

Scholarship options in Hong Kong

The most notable scholarship and financial aid packages for international students include: 

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Regional Government Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to both domestic HK students and international applicants who are applying to any of Hong Kong’s eight universities, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Vocational Training Council. The scholarship is HK$80,000 (approximately US$10,300) per year for non-local students. 

The Self-Financing Post-Secondary Education Fund 

This is another scholarship that is open to both domestic and international students applying to university in Hong Kong.

The Belt & Road Scholarship 

These scholarships are awarded to international students applying to university from Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Up to 10 scholarships are awarded to students from each country. As of the 2020-21 academic year, these scholarships are also being opened up to students from other countries.


Australia has a range of international scholarships for students who are interested in applying to one of its universities.

Scholarship options in Australia

Australia Awards Scholarships 

These are scholarships designed for international students applying from developing countries, with particular emphasis on countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Students who successfully apply for an Australia award scholarship will receive the following:

  • Full tuition
  • Return air travel to and from Australia
  • Contributions towards accommodation and living expenses, textbooks and study materials
  • Overseas health cover

Destination Australia Scholarships 

The Australian Government provides funding through the Destination Australia Program to help eligible tertiary education providers offer scholarships to domestic and international students to study and live in regional Australia. 

Higher education and vocational education providers apply for scholarships of up to $15,000 per year for students to study at that campus from 2021. 

Students will be able to apply for a 2021 scholarship once successful education providers are announced, expected in early October 2020. Students can apply for scholarships directly through a successful Australian tertiary education provider.

University scholarships 

As with other countries in this post, international students can apply for scholarships with individual universities. Again, students should research the opportunities on offer from their chosen university.


Japanese scholarships mirror the organisation of Japanese universities, with financial aid being offered at a national and local level. 

Types of Japanese scholarships

Japanese Government Scholarships 

Students can apply through these scholarships either via the Japanese embassy in their country of origin, who actively recruit international talent, or through Japanese universities themselves.

Japanese Student Services Scholarships (JASSO)

JASSO offers “Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately-Financed International Students”. These are for international students who are accepted by a Japanese university, graduate school, junior college, college of technology, specialized training college. 

Local Government Scholarships

Local governments in Japan offer scholarships to international students studying in their municipal district, so students should research scholarships in the local region/district they ultimately decide to apply to.

Private Foundation Scholarships 

These are Japanese scholarships offered by private companies and organisations.

Individual university scholarships 

Japanese universities will also offer their own scholarships and the Study in Japan website has a useful downloadable database of Japanese scholarships for you and your  students to use.

How to find Japanese university scholarships

Here are a couple of great resources to help students find Japanese university scholarships:

And there you have it!

That was a whistle-stop tour of the types of scholarships international students can apply for.

If you want to learn more tips and tricks for managing your students’ international applications, download our new eBook.

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