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Bursary vs. Scholarship: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
Bursary vs. Scholarship: A bursary is financial aid based on need, while a scholarship is typically based on merit.

Key Differences

Bursaries and scholarships are both financial aids granted to students, but they are distinguished by their criteria. A bursary is predominantly awarded due to financial need. Conversely, scholarships are typically bestowed upon students based on their academic achievements, talents, or other merits.
When students receive a bursary, it means that their financial circumstances have been taken into account. It doesn't necessarily reflect their academic prowess or extracurricular activities. However, with a scholarship, the reward is typically a recognition of excellence, whether in academics, sports, arts, or other fields.
Bursaries might be considered as more of a helping hand to ensure that financial challenges don't hinder a student's education. Scholarships, on the other hand, are accolades that commend a student's proficiency or potential in a specific domain.
Many institutions have both bursaries and scholarships available. While applying for a bursary, a student might need to provide evidence of financial need, like family income. For scholarships, students might be asked for academic transcripts, portfolios, or to participate in competitions.
To put it succinctly, while both bursaries and scholarships aim to lessen the financial burden on students, bursaries emphasize financial need, and scholarships highlight merit or talent.

Comparison Chart

Primary Criterion

Financial need.
Merit (academic, athletic, artistic, etc.).


Financial assistance.
Recognition of excellence.

Typical Application Requirements

Proof of financial circumstances.
Academic records, portfolios, or performances.


Ensure finance doesn't impede education.
Reward and encourage talent or achievement.

Ties to Performance

Not directly tied to academic or extracurricular merit.
Directly tied to some form of merit or achievement.

Bursary and Scholarship Definitions


Financial assistance to ensure students can pursue education.
She applied for a bursary after her parents lost their jobs.


Funds granted to students to recognize and encourage talent.
He received a scholarship for his outstanding performance in the state chess championship.


A monetary grant for students based on financial need.
Due to his family's financial situation, he received a bursary to attend college.


Monetary recognition of potential or achievement.
His incredible athletic skills landed him a full-ride scholarship to a Division I school.


Aid that doesn't necessitate repayment.
The best part about the bursary was that he didn't have to pay it back.


A reward for excellence in various fields.
For his innovative project, he was granted a research scholarship.


Monetary support not necessarily tied to academic achievement.
Even without top grades, he qualified for a bursary based on his financial need.


Financial aid that doesn't require repayment.
She was relieved to get a scholarship, eliminating the need for student loans.


A fund provided by institutions to aid students with monetary challenges.
The university has a bursary program to help those in financial distress.


The methods, discipline, and attainments of a scholar or scholars.


A treasury, especially of a public institution or religious order.


Knowledge resulting from study and research in a particular field.


Chiefly British A scholarship granted to a university student in need.


A grant of financial aid awarded to a student, as for the purpose of attending a college.


A monetary award to university students that allows them to continue their studies.


A grant-in-aid to a student.


(dated) The treasury of a religious order or public institution.


The character or qualities of a scholar.


The treasury of a college or monastery.


The activity, methods or attainments of a scholar.


A scholarship or charitable foundation in a university, as in Scotland; a sum given to enable a student to pursue his studies.


(uncountable) The sum of knowledge accrued by scholars; the realm of refined learning.


The treasury of a public institution or religious order


The first year of high school, often accompanied by exams that needed to be passed before advancement to the higher grades.


(intransitive) To attend an institution on a scholarship.


(transitive) To grant a scholarship to.


The character and qualities of a scholar; attainments in science or literature; erudition; learning.
A man of my master's . . . great scholarship.


Literary education.
Any other house of scholarship.


Maintenance for a scholar; a foundation for the support of a student.


Financial aid provided to a student on the basis of academic merit


Profound scholarly knowledge


A financial award based on academic or other forms of merit.
Her excellent grades earned her a scholarship to a top university.


Do scholarships require repayment?

No, scholarships are grants that don't require repayment.

Is a bursary based on academic performance?

Not primarily; a bursary is mainly based on financial need.

Can a student receive both a bursary and a scholarship?

Yes, a student can receive both a bursary for financial need and a scholarship for merit.

Is every bursary amount the same?

No, bursary amounts can vary based on the institution and the student's financial need.

How competitive are scholarships?

Scholarships can be highly competitive, especially those with significant rewards or prestige.

What do scholarships typically reward?

Scholarships reward academic excellence, talent, or other forms of merit.

Do all institutions offer bursaries?

Not all, but many institutions offer bursaries to assist students in financial need.

What might a bursary application require?

A bursary application might require proof of income or other evidence of financial need.

Is a bursary a loan?

No, a bursary is a grant that doesn't require repayment.

Are scholarships only for university students?

No, scholarships can be offered at various educational levels, including high school and postgraduate studies.

Can one apply for multiple bursaries?

Yes, students can apply for multiple bursaries to cover their financial needs.

Are scholarships only for academics?

No, scholarships can be for academics, sports, arts, or other talents.

Who funds bursaries?

Bursaries can be funded by educational institutions, governments, or private organizations.

Can a student's bursary be revoked?

Yes, if a student's financial situation changes or if there are other conditions tied to the bursary that aren't met.

Can a scholarship cover full tuition?

Yes, some scholarships can cover full tuition or even additional expenses.

What can a scholarship be used for?

A scholarship typically covers tuition, but some also cover books, living expenses, or research costs.

Are scholarships only offered by educational institutions?

No, scholarships can be offered by institutions, private organizations, nonprofits, and other entities.

Are there scholarships for specific fields of study?

Yes, some scholarships are designated for specific fields or areas of study.

Can international students receive scholarships?

Yes, many institutions offer scholarships specifically for international students.

Can a bursary cover non-tuition expenses?

Some bursaries can cover books, transportation, or other school-related expenses.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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