What is the difference between bursary, scholarship and fellowship funding?

Is a fellowship more prestigious than a scholarship which in turn is more prestigious than a bursary?

2 Answers 2


These three terms essentially mean the same thing. Bursary is the term for scholarship used in the UK. Normally, a bursary is given based on need which is not always the case with fellowships/scholarships. In my personal experience in America, the term bursary is rarely used. Instead, we often use the term "grant", which is a synonym for bursary.

Fellowship is also another term for bursary/scholarship. However, fellowships are usually awarded at the graduate level whereas a scholarship can be awarded at either grad or undergrad level. In addition, fellowships are often considered a highly prestigious award.

As you can see, there are minor differences in these three terms. Determining which to use will mainly depend on the context of the situation

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    The words bursary and scholarship do NOT mean the same in the UK.
    – Jessica B
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 6:40

In the UK, a bursary refers to funding given on the basis of financial need, whereas a scholarship is given on the basis of academic merit (this distinction is currently important with regard to student finance).

I'm not sure on the distinction between scholarship and fellowship. However, my experience would be consistent with the interpretation that a scholarship typically provides funding for a position you already have, whereas a fellowship itself provides the position. I don't think I've come across 'fellowship' referring to a student position, only to employment.

  • aren't there needs based scholarships as well? And wouldn't a needs based scholarship basically fit the definition of a bursary? Commented May 13, 2016 at 6:55
  • @DarrinThomas I have never come across one. The government basically defines such a thing to be a bursary.
    – Jessica B
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 7:25
  • Ok in the US there are examples of needs based [scholarships] (huffingtonpost.com/the-sillerman-center/…). However, they are normally privately-funded and not by the goverment Commented May 13, 2016 at 9:28

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