Glossary of key funding terms

Glossary of key funding terms

Academic criteria

The academic requirements that have been specified for the course, for example, a 2.1 at undergraduate level and English, maths and science at GCSE.


A monetary award, often given on the basis of financial need, to help a student who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to study. Bursaries usually supplement other forms of funding, rather than completely covering all costs.


Some charities provide funding for postgraduate students. Depending on the charity, this could be funding for the person, or funding for the particular subject.


This term has many uses, but in the context of funding, typically refers to a merit-based award often linked with experienced research positions.


A financial payment that does not need to be repaid. A grant may be given by the government for training as a social worker, or from a university for research for example.

Partial funding

Offer of a percentage of the full funding amount (tuition fees, maintenance, or both). For example, overseas candidates who receive funding for the home rate proportion of their tuition fees, but need to pay the difference themselves.

PCDL – (professional and career development loan)

A commercial loan, currently offered by The Co-operative Bank in conjunction with the Skills Funding Agency, for learning that helps to improve career prospects. You can borrow from £300–£10,000 for an eligible course that lasts up to two years (or three if there is a year of work experience included).

Research Council

The UK research councils are publicly funded bodies with the remit to promote, fund and facilitate research in particular subject disciplines. The seven research councils are:

  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

There can be subjects with areas that cross over with specialisms of other councils, for example the AHRC and the ESRC. Interdisciplinary research is also encouraged by the councils.


A payment usually made on a merit basis for academic or related achievements. Scholarships are associated with an incentive or reward for academic excellence.


A large number of postgraduate students pay for the course themselves, or with a loan or with help from family and friends. Many university awards are only available to eligible self-funded students, such as Cardiff’s Postgraduate India Award and Aston’s Business School Scholarships.


A regular or fixed payment made to a student. The UK research councils set a minimum level for a doctorial stipend each year based on inflation. While the stipend might be more than that minimum, it acts as a mark in the sand for universities or other funding bodies offering studentships. For 2016/17, the national minimum is £14,296.


Sometimes used interchangeably with the term scholarship to mean funding for advanced study (although more commonly associated with research courses rather than taught courses). Research Council studentships at universities get allocated to departments or supervisors for the study of a particular subject or project.

Taught course (or Postgraduate Taught – PGT)

An advanced level course, often lasting a year, that leads to a PgCert, PgDip, or masters (MA, MSc). The course format usually includes classes, lectures and assignments plus a dissertation or project for a masters degree.

The usual duration of taught courses:

  • Postgraduate certificate – 6 to 12 months full time or 12 to 18 months part time
  • Postgraduate diploma – 9 to 12 months full time or 18 to 24 months part time
  • Masters (MA, MSc, LLM) – 1 year full time or 2 years part time.


Periodically trusts are set up to support postgraduate study at a particular university or for individuals in particular circumstances.

The Grundy Educational Trust makes awards to UK technology or science postgraduate students at Imperial, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton or Surrey.