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Check your eligibility

Your university or college will decide which students should be on a shortlist (or capping list) for a bursary.

You’ll only be assessed for a bursary if you‘re on the capping list and meet the eligibility criteria.

To apply you need to meet eligibility criteria to show you:

  • live in England on the day your course starts (and normally live there)
  • have lived in the UK, the channel islands or the isle of man, for the three years before the start of your course
  • are studying on an approved course

You can’t apply if you:

  • are on an employment based course
  • are studying on a joint nursing and social work course (apply for an NHS Bursary here)
  • already have a higher education social work qualification

Eligibility criteria

You must meet the residency criteria and be on an eligible course to be considered for a bursary.

Eligible courses

You must be studying, or intending to study, on a college based social work course approved by the following:

  • the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
  •  the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
  •  the Care Council for Wales
  • the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)

Check which courses are approved education and training programmes .

If you’re studying at college you’re not eligible if a social care employer is giving you:

  • any paid time off to allow you to attend your studies
  • payment of all or part of your tuition fees
  • payment from a practice learning provider for undertaking placement duties for them
  • funds through the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC)
  • funds through the Department of Children, Schools and Families (via social work reform funds - for example the CWDC graduate recruitment scheme)
  • any other form of support to assist with your social work training

If you’re studying on a college based course you’re not eligible if:

  • you’re receiving funding from a publicly funded body. 

Funding through Student Finance England, Government Benefit Agencies and bursaries from your Higher Education Institution is excluded.

If you’re studying at college and receiving a retainer, it must:

  • be offered as an incentive to engage in employment with the retainer provider once the recipient qualifies as a social worker, and not as support towards the recipient's social work training
  • be paid back if the recipient does not complete their training or engage in employment with the provider
  • not be  funded from the CWDC or Department of Children, Schools and Families (via social work reform funds - for example the CWDC graduate recruitment scheme)

The recipient is not and will not be engaged in employment with, be contracted to, on a temporary assignment with or seconded to the organisation(s) providing the retainer, throughout the social work training.

Residency criteria

You must:

  • be ordinarily resident in England on the first day of the first academic year of your course
  • satisfy both of the UK residency rules, or one of the non-UK residency rules

Full time undergraduate students

If you’re on a full-time undergraduate course and you have a current financial notification from Student Finance England you’ll usually have met the residency criteria for a bursary. Additional residency checks may be carried out to check your residency.

Postgraduate or part-time undergraduate students

You must satisfy both UK residency rules or one of the rules for non-UK residents or EU Nationals.

UK residency rules

You must have:

  • If you move to England from either another UK country or from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man wholly or mainly for the purpose of undertaking your course (or a previous full time course immediately before), you will be considered as ordinarily resident in the area from which you moved, so would not meet UK residency requirements.

  • settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971.

You need to meet both of these criteria.

You’re not treated as living abroad if you are:

  • a member of the armed forces (including your spouse and children)
  • a student taking a gap year
  • temporarily employed abroad

Non-UK residency rules

As well as being ordinarily resident in England on the first day of your course, you must meet one of the following criteria.

You, your spouse/civil partner or your parents are:

  • UK nationals who have returned from work in another member country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and have got a job in the UK, and you have been living in the EEA for the three years before the first day of the first academic year of your course.
  • from an EEA country or Switzerland and you can show that you, your spouse/civil partner or either of your parents have migrant worker status and you have been living in the EEA or Switzerland for the three years before the first day of the first academic year of your course. 
  • a frontier worker i.e. from an EEA country or Switzerland, work in England and return to a residence in the EEA or Switzerland at least once a week and you have been living in the EEA or Switzerland for the three years before the first day of the first academic year of your course. 
  • recognised by the British Government as a refugee* and have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man since you were informed of your refugee status. 
  • granted humanitarian protection* in the UK by the Home Office and you have been living in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for the three years before the first day of the first academic year of your course.

Residency rules for EU Nationals

European Union nationals must:

  • be ordinarily resident in England on the first day of their course
  • have been living in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for the three years immediately before the first day of the first academic year of the course and 51% of those three years must have been in England.

If you don’t meet any of the residency rules

We may be able to help you with your tuition fees. We’ll assess your eligibility when you apply.

Capping criteria

The number of people who can get a bursary is limited (or capped) and there’s no guarantee you’ll receive a bursary if you take up the offer of a place on a social work course.

Capping explained

Universities decide which students to place on the capping list based on the capping criteria set by the Department of Health. 

Universities then send us their capping list so we can assess these students against eligibility criteria when we receive their application form.

If you already receive a bursary

If you already get a bursary you’ll retain one of your university’s allocated bursary places until you complete your course.

We can’t guarantee how much bursary you’ll get until we receive and assess your application form.

If you transfer universities, you won’t automatically be given a place on their capping list.

Getting a place on the capping list

The NHSBSA has no input into this decision process, so we can’t advise if you’ll receive an allocation.

Capping regulations are set by the Department of Health and you can find out more about the process in their social work bursary information pack.

If you don’t get a place on the capping list

If you don’t get a place on your university’s capping list you won’t be eligible to apply for a social work bursary.

You might be able to apply for help towards your travel expenses to placements through the Placement Travel Allowance (PTA) if you meet the other eligibility criteria.