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Student bursaries for FE

A wide range of bursaries are available, subject to you meeting certain criteria, helping you with the cost of studying with us

We know that it can be a struggle to cover some of your costs when you are a student, and this may be stressful. That’s why we have several bursaries to help with your college-related costs.   

Activate Learning aims to use government bursary funds to ensure financial support reaches those students who are most in need. Funds are used in the most effective and efficient way possible to ensure the maximum number of eligible students can access financial support in order to remove any barrier to participation.

All decisions about which students receive a discretionary bursary and how much bursary they receive are based on each student’s individual circumstances and their actual financial need. The bursary fund is intended to help students overcome the specific financial barriers they face. These will vary from student to student, depending on a range of factors, for example, their household income, their home circumstances, the distance they need to travel to the institution and the requirements of their study programme.

A summary of all bursaries available:

Student age range: Income less than:

16-18 Students aged 16-18 on 31st August 2020 and

LLDD students aged 19+ who have an Education, Health, Care Plan

Students aged 19 continuing on the 2nd year of a programme they began when aged 18


Students aged 19 continuing on the 2nd year of a programme they began when aged 18 in receipt of a bursary in 2019-20

£32,000 (assessed on 2019-20 rules)
Student Financial Support application for students aged 19+ £30,000

Funds are limited and we encourage students to apply early to avoid any disappointment.

Any bursary payment is subject to 92% attendance and adherence to the college Code of Conduct.

Downloads for 16–18 students

16–18 bursary PDF form 2020–21

16–18 bursary guidance notes PDF 2020–21

For students aged 19+ that are continuing on the second year of a programme they began when they were aged 18, please use the 2019-20 guidance notes below.

 16–18 bursary form guidance notes PDF 2019-20

Downloads for 19+ students

19+ bursary PDF form 2020–21

19+ bursary guidance notes PDF 2020–21

About the available bursaries

Travel bursary

A bursary fund to support students with travel costs. 

To be eligible, students must live three miles or more from the nearest Activate Learning campus offering the course you are joining.  

If you apply by Friday 07 August 2020, students will have their pass available at the start of term. During our peak application period during August and September it can take up to four weeks to process your application and confirm if you have been awarded a bursary, so you will be responsible for any travel costs until your financial support is in place.  

Students may be asked to make a financial contribution to their travel dependant on their household income, please see below.   

  • £16,180 or below - £10 per annum 
  • £16,180 to £25,000 – 30% of the total cost  

If students are asked to pay a financial contribution for their travel pass, they may be eligible to set up a payment plan by direct debit.   

There are two ways we support students to travel to college:  

  • Travel pass  
  • Travel expenses  

Travel passes 

Travel passes are provided if you attend college for a minimum of three days per week, if you are only required to attend college for two days per week see Travel Expenses section below. 

Travel expenses will not be backdated; you are responsible for the cost of travel until your pass arrives.   

Any passes not collected from the Advice Centre within two weeks of receiving confirmation it has arrived, will be returned to the travel company and there may be a fee for reissuing the pass to students.  

If you have been awarded a Stagecoach or rail pass you will have to provide a photograph for the pass to be valid for travel.  

We purchase travel passes from the following travel companies:  

  • Arriva  
  • Courtney Buses  
  • Chiltern Railways  
  • Johnson Coaches  
  • Oxford Buses  
  • Reading Buses  
  • Great Western Railways (GWR)  
  • South West Trains (SWR)  
  • Stagecoach Oxfordshire  

How to pick up your travel pass 

Students are required to pay their travel contribution before we issue their travel pass. 

Travel Passes are available for collection from the Advice Centre at the college you attend. 

If your pass requires a photograph you will need to put a photograph in the pass before it is valid for travel. 

If your course if not based at an Activate Learning campus your pass will be posted to your home address. 

Important: When you collect your travel pass you should make a note of the pass number which will be needed if you lose the pass and need a replacement. Taking a photograph of the pass is an easy way of doing this.  

Passes held in stock: available for collection when you receive an email confirming your travel bursary.  

  • Arriva Buses
  • Courtney Buses 
  • Oxford Bus Company: to be used on an Oxford Bus Company bus first before being accepted on a Stagecoach bus.  
  • Reading Buses: you should register your pass here

Passes that are ordered specifically for students: available for collection after receiving a text informing you the pass is available for collection. 

  • Chiltern Railways 
  • Great Western Railway (GWR) 
  • Johnsons Coaches 
  • South West Trains (SWR) 
  • Stagecoach 

Passes that we do not hold in stock are usually available for collection within three weeks of making the award. We cannot be held responsible for the length of time it takes the travel provider to issue travel passes. 

Replacement passes 

Replacement passes for Courtney Buses, Oxford Bus Company and Reading Buses   

Replacement bus pass forms are available from the Advice Centre.  

The form needs completing by both you and the Adviser. You take the form to the bus company office, pay the replacement pass fee, the company will then issue the pass.   

Links to the travel companies' websites:  

Courtney Buses  

Oxford Bus company travel shops  

Reading Bus Shop

Students based at Reading College who have an Oxford Bus pass should ask a member of the Advice Team to send the completed replacement pass form to, we will order the pass on your behalf. The replacement pass will be sent to Reading college and issued when the replacement pass fee has been paid.  

 Replacement passes for Arriva, Chiltern Railways, GWR, and SWR  


  • email with details why a replacement pass is needed  
  • the Student Finance Team will arrange for a replacement pass to be posted to your campus  
  • pay £10 replacement pass fee at the Advice Centre before collecting the pass   

 Chiltern Railways   

  • go to a ticket office either at Bicester North station or Bicester Village station, complete a replacement pass form   
  • pay £10 replacement pass fee to Chiltern Railways  
  • there is not a fee for damaged passes  

 GWR and SWR  

  • complete the train companies' replacement pass form available from the Advice Centre  
  • an Adviser will send the form to  
  • pay £10 replacement pass fee at the Advice Centre before collecting the pass   
  • you MUST return the damaged pass to the Adviser before collecting the replacement pass or you will be required to pay the full cost for the replacement pass  
  • there is no fee for damaged passes  

Stagecoach Oxfordshire   

  • You phone Stagecoach Oxfordshire Customer Services 01865 772250  
  • pay £25 replacement pass fee, the company will then arrange to send the pass to student's home address

Travel Expenses 

You may be awarded travel expenses if:  

  • public transport is not available for your journey 
  • you have a supporting statement from your doctor or a member of our Student Support Team that details your exceptional circumstances that mean you need to travel by car / motor bike  
  • you have evidenced the need to travel by car due to your childcare arrangements  
  • we do not have a purchasing agreement with the travel company  
  • you are timetabled to attend college less than three days per week  
  • if you need support towards your contribution for Special Education Needs (SEN) travel provide by the Council  

We are not able to support the cost of taxis to college unless the taxi is provided by the Local Council.  

If you would like the bursary to contribute towards the cost of SEN transport you should let us know the estimated amount you will be required to pay the Council when you apply for the bursary.  

Expenses for fuel are awarded at 15p per mile for the return journey and paid monthly by BACS in arrears. 

Course costs bursary

Students aged 16–18 

A bursary to support students with the cost needed for their study programme.  

Any equipment and materials that are essential for a course may be borrowed from college, therefore the course costs bursary cannot support these costs.  

All decisions about which students receive a discretionary bursary and how much bursary they receive are based on each student’s individual circumstances and their actual financial need.  

Students will be awarded funds dependant on their household income, please see below:  

  • £16,190 or below – 100%  
  • £16,191 to £25,000 – a contribution of 30% of the total cost  

 The fund supports

  • books, equipment, or specialist clothing that are essential for the course  
  • field trips that support the learning aim   
  • the travel, meal and residential element of trips that are essential to the course  
  • UCAS fees  
  • costs associated with attending university interviews/open events  
  • work/ industry placement costs such as additional travel, meal credits if eligible and protective equipment  
  • costs to respond to emergencies  
  • 19+ course fees (except for students who are eligible for an Advanced Learning Loan) 

Please note: Bursary funds do not support laptops or other IT equipment.

Students aged 19+ 

  • The bursary can support costs for your course as detailed above if you are not eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan e.g.’ if you are enrolling on a level 2 or ESOL course. 
  • If you have confirmation that you have been awarded an Advanced Learner Loan, we can support you with the cost of items needed for your course bursary, funds are not awarded towards your tuition fee. 
  • If you are eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan and chose to pay your own course costs or your Advanced Learner Loan is not approved, you are not eligible for bursary support. 

How to inform us of the costs you would like support with 

You may submit ‘Study start-up costs, trips and work placement bursary form’ throughout the year which enables you to buy items for your course as you need them.   

There is no need to complete a full bursary application each time just complete a new course costs form if you would like additional bursary support.  

After completing the bursary application form and providing the required evidence, complete the form relevant to your bursary request:  

  • course costs form: support with items needed for your course, field trips and fees  
  • work/industry placement form: support with additional costs to attend your placement  

Completing the form for different costs  

  • Items for your course: we ask that you buy the items you need for your course then attach the receipts to the course costs form.    
  • fees that are payable to college, e.g. a trip or course fee: complete the form, we do not need receipts.  If you already have confirmation that you have been awarded a bursary for 2020-21 you need pay only 50% of the fee to college.  

Please note: students who enrol on another ESOL course each term will need to complete a course costs form each term to let us know that you need bursary support for your next course.  

Submit completed forms by hand to an Adviser at the Advice Centre or email it to

How the support is provided  

Funds will be paid by:   

  • direct transfer to your college account if the fee is payable to Activate Learning, this will reduce the amount you owe
  • if you have paid the fee to college in full, we will refund you the amount you have been awarded by BACS
  • if you have purchased an item from a supplier, we will refund you by making a BACS payment into your bank account
Bursaries for vulnerable groups (for students aged 16–18)

This bursary supports eligible students who have a financial need to enable them to remain in education. 

Students who meet the criteria for bursaries for vulnerable groups are not automatically entitled to a bursary if they do not have financial needs and/or their financial needs are covered from other sources. 

Bursary fund payments are not made as regular payments for living costs. 

The defined vulnerable groups are: 

  • in the care of the Local Authority   
  • A care leaver  
  • receive Income Support, or Universal Credit because they are financially supporting themselves or financially supporting themselves and someone who is dependent on them and living with them such as a child or partner   
    • Please note: Students must be entitled to the benefits in your own right  
  • receiving Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments in your own right, as well as Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit in your own right   

Evidence required:

  • students in care or a care leaver - written confirmation of your current or previous looked-after status from the relevant local authority  
  • Students in receipt of Income Support or Universal Credit (UC) - a copy of their Income Support or UC award notice. This must clearly state that the claim is in the student's name and confirm they are entitled to the benefits in your own right. The evidence must not state any conditions that prevent them from participating in further education or training. A tenancy agreement or utility bill in their own name and if relevant a child benefit receipt /children’s birth certificate is also required
  • students receiving UC/ESA and Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments - a copy of their UC claim from DWP. Evidence of receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment must also be provided. Both benefits must be in the students' own name


  • Students will be assessed by the Student Support team to determine whether they have a financial need for a vulnerable bursary and if so, how much vulnerable bursary they need to participate in your course  
  • students who do not have an actual financial need because their costs have been met or because they have no relevant costs may not be awarded a vulnerable bursary

Support provided:

  • support is awarded in kind where possible this includes travel passes, meal credits, essential books and equipment  
  • you may be awarded a vulnerable bursary of up to £1,200 including items provided in kind  
  • If the study programme lasts for less than 30 weeks or if you are on a part-time programme you will be awarded a pro-rata amount  
  • payments are paid pro- rata from the date the fully completed bursary application was received  


Students who are awarded a bursary for vulnerable groups will not automatically receive weekly payments.   

  • students assessed as needing a payment or a series of payments to enable them to participate in education will receive payments by BACS into their own bank account
  • payments may be made weekly or ad hoc and may be reduced or not authorized if they have not met the attendance and behavior criteria.  Consideration of any extenuating circumstances is considered before withholding a payment  
  • students who are absent for a period of four continuous weeks or more (excluding college holidays) payments will be stopped unless there is evidence that they intend to return
Meal credits

Good nutrition is important to be able to focus on your learning. If you are eligible, this bursary provides you with a free breakfast or lunch for the days you are in college.

Students awarded meal credits are entitled to receive a breakfast or a lunch meal deal to the value of £4.50 per day on the days they are timetabled to attend college.

To ‘pay’ for the meal, students scan or show their college ID card at the till. 

If you are attending a placement or are studying at a site without the cashless payment system you will receive a monthly BACS payment to enable you to purchase a meal.

Students not eligible for free meals under the funding guidelines but have been assessed by a support worker as needing free meals credits, may be awarded college discretionary food credits.

Eligibility for meal credits  

Students must have made a successful application for meal credits and be:      

  • aged 16 or over but under 19 on 31st August 2020    


  • be aged 19 or over and continuing the same study programme they began aged 16 to 18    


  • aged 19 – 25 and have a Learning Disability Assessment (LDA) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)    


  • received ESFA free meals from 1 April 2018 or in 2019/20 academic year (you may need to provide a free meal entitlement letter showing that you previously received free meals – no evidence of benefits is required)   


  • in receipt of / or your parents must be in receipt of one of the following benefits:    
  • income Support   
  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance   
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)   
  • support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999   
  • the guarantee element of State Pension Credit   
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC))   
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after someone stops qualifying for Working Tax Credit   
  • Universal Credit with net earnings not exceeding the equivalent of £7,400 pa (after tax and not including any benefits you get)   

Parents who are self-employed and in receipt of Universal Credit will need to provide:   

  • three months Universal Credit award letters and a copy of your tax return bill   
  • a completed self-declaration form   

Please note: Working Tax Credit is not a qualifying benefit for free meals.   

Childcare bursary

Childcare bursary (for students aged 20+)

The Childcare Bursary provides a contribution towards the cost of childcare while students attend timetabled classes if:  

  • the other parent is unable to provide childcare.  
  • Childcare funding is not being claimed through any other source, for example, government funded early education places or Childcare Tax Credits  

The amount of funding is discretionary but will normally be for a maximum of £180 per week per child.  

Funds are initially allocated for up to two children per household. Funding for any additional children will be subject to availability.  

Students are encouraged to apply for a childcare bursary before the start of their course as payments are not normally backdated more than 28 days from receipt of the fully completed application.  

We will need copies of the child’s birth certificate and Child benefit letter before bursary funds are awarded to pay invoices.  

Any agreement made with a childcare provider is between the student and the childcare provider.  

Childcare for students aged 19 or under when they start their programme

Care to Learn, is a government-administered scheme that provides funding for childcare to help young parents (defined as those aged under 20) continue in education.  

The scheme provides funding for childcare whilst the young parent is engaged in a study programme and is not able to provide care for their child. It can also help the young parent with any additional travel costs involved in taking the child to the childcare provider.  

With this scheme, you apply directly to the government but let us know if you need help with the application process.

To apply 

Complete a bursary application form and a childcare provider form or from the Advice Centre.  

The childcare bursary will be paid only to childcare providers that are Ofsted registered.  

We will need copies of your child's birth certificate and evidence that you receive Child Benefit.  

Students who need to attend additional revision sessions or exams, may apply for additional funds for these sessions by providing evidence of the sessions or exam.  

Please note: If you have applied for an Advanced Learner loan, you are only eligible for a bursary once your loan has been confirmed.  

The childcare bursary supports :

  • time needed to attend timetabled sessions plus a realistic amount of time to travel to college to the maximum award   
  • we will support exams that are outside your usual college timetable and additional revision sessions   
  • fund any additional hours needed for timetabled sessions not covered through Early Years funding to the maximum award   
  • pay your childcare provider up to the last day you attend college if you leave your course early   
  • give you one months’ notice if we withdraw funding due to your attendance on the course falls below 92%  

Please note: Students who enrol on a series of short courses e.g. ESOL, bursary funds will be awarded to support childcare while they attend timetabled classes. Funds are not awarded for childcare in-between courses.  

Students are responsible for:  

  • paying for childcare for any independent study   
  • being liable for any part of an agreement or contract made between them and the childcare provider   
  • informing the childcare provider of any timetable changes   
  • using any Early Years funding to support their childcare while attending classes before using the childcare bursary   
  • paying any additional fees above the maximum amount awarded from the childcare bursary   
  • paying for any registration fees, deposits, late collection fees, meals or periods of notice   
  • giving notice to your childcare provider if they no longer wish them to provide childcare, or if they leave their course early   
  • give Activate Learning six weeks’ notice of change of childcare provider   
  • maintain a minimum attendance of 92%     

How it Works  

Students and their childcare provider will be sent an email confirming how much per week has been awarded for childcare fees along with a copy of the terms and conditions.   

Both parties are required to sign and return the form confirming they agree to the terms and conditions before any payments will be made.   

Paying childcare fees  

  • payments are made directly to the childcare provider’s bank account  
  • invoices should be submitted by the childcare provider monthly or termly to   
  • Invoices are paid in arrears after checking the student has attended their course  

The final invoice must reach us by the 2 July 2021. We cannot guarantee payment of any invoices received after this date due to the closure of the bursary fund at the end of the academic year.  


Hardship Bursary

Discretionary hardship bursaries are awarded to students identified by Student Support as having extenuating circumstances that mean they need emergency funds or support accessing the discretionary bursary for support with costs connected to their study programme. 

Bursaries are not awarded to support day to day livings costs. 

Awards may be in kind such as meal credits, a travel pass, or one-off payments.  

 Support provided  

There are two streams of support:

  • support to access the discretionary bursary fund when students' circumstances mean they are unable to obtain documents to evidence their eligibility for this bursary  
  • emergency funds to support students who face exceptional circumstances during the year that impact on their ability to participate  

How to apply 

Students experiencing a difficulty that is leading to them not being able to participate in their course may see a member of the Student Support Team for advice. 

  • The Student Support Team will assess students' financial needs   
  • If the outcome of the assessment indicates financial support is needed to enable them to participate in their course, they will complete a hardship bursary form that includes details of why the bursary is needed, and the support required

The Student Support bursary champion will authorise the hardship award and inform Group Student Finance of the bursaries to be provided.

Accommodation Bursary

The bursary provides a contribution towards the cost of accommodation for students who are enrolled on a specialist subject that is not available where they live. 

Please note:  The bursary does not support a student to participate in general FE provision that is widely available or to enable them to participate in additional activity, for example, to take part in a specific sport.  

The specialist subject programmes are based at our Merrist Wood and Oxford Campuses. 

To be eligible students will have a household income of £32,000 or less. 

Support provided:  

  • the bursary provides a contribution towards the costs of accommodation   
  • awards are based on individual circumstances and the type of accommodation and length of stay required
Gross household income  £ per year 
Band 1 up to £21,000 

Up to £3,458 for five days / week residence

Up to £4,100 for seven days/ week residence (for students aged 18+) 

Band 2 £21,000- £25,000  up to £2,305
Band 3 £25,001 - £32,000  up to £1,152
  • payments for accommodation are made directly to the landlord  
  • students may be awarded a travel bursary for a weekly return journey from home to the term time address up to a maximum £400    
  • Where students leave part way through the year or are excluded from their accommodation, their accommodation bursary payments will stop on the date they left their course or the date they leave the residence