The NHS bursary is a confusing system, so let’s try to simplify it. If you qualify for an NHS bursary, it means the NHS will pay for your tuition fees (or only part of it if you’re on a postgrad medicine course) AS WELL AS offer you a grant in the form of cash for that year of study. As these are grants, you will not have to pay the money back. HOWEVER, the amount of money you receive from the NHS bursary as a maintenance grant is significantly less than the student loan. You can also apply for a REDUCED maintenance loan from Student Finance England to help make up for the reduced grant.

When will I have an NHS Bursary year?

So long as you’re a UK citizen studying medicine, then at some point you will have at least one year of NHS bursary covering the cost of tuition fees + maintenance grant. These years are:

  • – Years 5 and 6 of an undergraduate course (this includes postgraduate students who applied to an undergrad course, as well as students who are intercalating)

  • – Years 2-4 of a postgraduate course (although only part of your tuition fees will be covered, see our other article for more details)

How much will I receive as a maintenance grant?

Just like the maintenance loan, we have to do some calculations here, so strap yourself in!

Again, just like the maintenance loan, everyone is eligible for a minimum amount of money, this time £1000 for everyone. Again, there’s an additional means-tested sum based on parental income you can apply for, and again students are divided into living in London/out of London/at home to work out how much they can claim. 

HOWEVER, there is one additional component – the additional weeks claim. Basically, to calculate your bursary the NHS has assumed you’ll only be studying for 30 weeks of the year. Actually, many medical schools run courses longer than that (for example, my 5th year in undergrad medicine will last 40 weeks). Therefore, for every week over the 30 weeks, you’re studying, you will receive an additional amount of money. We’ll put the exact numbers in the table below. 

NHS Bursary table for 2021/22Minimum grantAdditional means-tested amountExtra weeks rate (per week)
Living at home£1000£2,207£56
Living away from home OUTSIDE London£1000£2,643£84
Living away from home INSIDE London£1000£3,191£108

So… How much means-tested grant will I get?

This can be confusing to work out. Luckily, we’re going to walk you through it. We’re using the official 2021/22 pdf guide from the NHS bursaries website, found here.

Let’s use an example of Dave the friendly medical student. Dave is applying for the NHS bursary and his parents are going to declare their income so he can get the means-tested bursary. We know he’s at least getting a grand, but what about the rest? 

First of all, the team initially assumes Dave is going to be given the MAXIMUM amount of grant. They’ll deduct the amount they think Dave’s parents should be paying later on. Let’s say Dave’s course is 37 weeks long and he’s living away from home outside London:

Maximum means-tested grant (outside London) = £2643

Extra weeks allowance (outside London) = £84 per week 7 weeks = £588

Therefore total amount Dave COULD  receive = £2643 + £588 = £3231

Now the team is going to subtract the amount of money they think Dave’s parents should be contributing. If your parents earned less than £24,279 (before tax) then they wouldn’t be expected to pay a thing. For all the money they earn over that amount though, they’re expected to pay £1 for every £9.50 they earn + £45 on top of that. For any parents reading, any tax-deductible income such as pension payments or self-employed professional costs will be accounted for, so you don’t have to worry about that. Let’s say Dave’s parents earn £30,000 and don’t have any tax deductibles:

Earnings above threshold = £30,000 – £24,279 = £5,721

Expected contribution from Dave’s parents =£5,721/9.5 = £602 (rounded to the nearest pound)

Don’t forget to add £45! =£602 + £45 = £647

Therefore the total amount of money Dave will receive from the NHS Bursary is…

Non-means-tested grant = £1000

Means-tested grant =£ 3231 – £647 = £2584

Therefore total = £3584

NHS Bursary calculator

Only £3.5k??? That won’t cover rent!

You’ll notice that, while it’s nice Dave won’t pay back the £3584, this is well below what he would be entitled to from a normal maintenance loan – about £8,800. Luckily, Dave has one last big trick up his sleeve. Dave can still apply to student finance for a ‘reduced maintenance loan’. This isn’t means-tested and again 3 different amounts are depending on where you’re living, see below

Reduced maintenance loan 2021/22Amount you can claim
Living at home£1902
Living away from home OUTSIDE LONDON£2534
Living away from home INSIDE LONDON£3558

Since we said Dave is living away from home outside London, this means he’ll get an extra £2,534, so £6,118 total. That’s still a substantial cut in his income, but at least it’s not as drastic.

Is there any way to make up the extra income?

As with any other year, there may be additional sources of income open to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. These include:

  • – Parents’ Learning Allowance

  • – Childcare grant

  • – Dependent’s allowance

  • – Disabled Students Allowance

NHS bursaries and universities will also cover some expenses like travelling to distant hospitals. The NHS low income shceme may also help with any healthcare costs.

But what if you don’t fit into any of those criteria? There are a few options available for students who need a little extra to tide them over. One option often mentioned is student bank account overdrafts. When you run out of money in your bank account, banks can sometimes let you go into a negative balance, called an overdraft. In a standard bank account, you might be charged a fee for this (perverse, I know). However, student bank accounts come with “arranged overdrafts”, which means you can go into a negative amount up to a certain point. These arranged overdrafts usually start around -£500 to -£1000.

Here’s the cherry on top: Every year, you can also apply for that overdraft amount to be increased, provided that your student loan is being paid into the bank account and not another one. It isn’t guaranteed you’ll get it, and you should talk to your bank to make sure this option is available and what the criteria for acceptance are. Nonetheless, that extra padding may become very helpful if required. 

Universities also offer funding for students who are struggling to pay for essentials. These are student hardship funds and are usually available to anyone who is struggling to pay for necessities like food, rent and bills. You should talk to your university financial advice service to access this, and they will likely ask to see your finances over the last year to validate your money issues and see if there has been any inappropriate spending. As a result, this is often an option students are reluctant to submit to, but if you’re really in a bind then it may be your best option. 

Can I work while I study medicine?

Beyond bursaries, there’s also the option of part-time work. Medicine is generally considered to be a 40hr-per-week commitment. However, a lot of this time is allocated to self-directed study, which can be done in your own time and adds flexibility. Having said that, it’s important to not overwork yourself – you don’t want to burnout before you even finish your degree! Many students find working 5-10hr per week is manageable, but if it’s too much for you then there’s no shame in prioritising your degree. If you’re unable to work due to health reasons (mental or physical), you may be eligible for disabled students allowance, or a PIP assessment. 

Universities often have part-time work on campus open to students- this can range from bar work to cleaning to ambassadorial roles. If you’re looking for medical experience then hospitals are often looking for healthcare assistants, and there’s plenty of care assistant work in the community. If you want to work in the summer, there can be occasional opportunities for research internships, but these aren’t always available. Of course, there’s always non-medical seasonal work like supermarket assistants or bar work – don’t discount it, it may pay better!