Education Maintenance Allowance and the 16–19 bursary fund

If you’re living in England and need financial help to stay on at school you can get help from the 16–19 bursary fund. If you’re in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you can get Education Maintenance Allowance.

pencil notebook and textbook

Some extra money can make all that studying a bit more bearable

What is EMA?

EMA is a means-tested weekly payment for students aged 16-19 who stay on at school or college after their GCSEs. It is available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not in England. If you’re 19 or over and live in Wales you may be eligible for a Welsh Government Learning Grant FE, which you can apply for here.

Unlike Child Benefit, which is paid to parents, EMA is paid direct into your own bank account, so you can spend it on exactly what you want.

How much will I get?

EMA pays £30 a week.

If you live in Northern Ireland, there are also two £100 bonuses per year that you might be able to get.

Who is eligible?

You have to be aged 16-19 (in Wales 19 year-olds can only get EMA if they haven’t already received two years of EMA) and have left – or are about to leave – compulsory education. The rules about household income are slightly different depending on what country you live in:

  • In Scotland, you need to have a household income of under £24,421, or £26,884 if there are two or more children in the house who are under 16, or under 25 and in full-time education or training.
  • In Wales, you need to have a household income of under £20,817, or £23,077 if there are two or more children in the house who are under 16, or under 25 and in full-time education or training.
  • In Northern Ireland, you need to have a household income of under £20,500, or £22,500 if there are two or more children in the house who are 16 or under, or under 20 and in full-time education or training.

In general, you must also be a UK national, have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or have refugee status. But some students from EU countries who are studying here may also be eligible, as long as they have been resident in the EU for less than three years before applying for EMA.

How do I claim?

Ask at your school or college about EMA. You’ll need to open a bank account, as the details will be required with your application form. You can get an application form from your teacher, or download an application from or StudentFinanceWales (in Scotland you need to get one from your school or college).

The 16-19 Bursary Fund

A new bursary scheme has been set up to help full-time students in England who are struggling financially to stay in education. Read on to see if you’re eligible.

What’s the new bursary?

The 16-19 Bursary Fund is money set aside by the Government to help the most vulnerable students continue at school or college (not university) or on an unpaid training course. It can help with costs like equipment for school, travel and lunch. It replaces the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which was scrapped in England from September 2012.

Students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can still get EMA.

Who is eligible for the bursary?

You’re automatically eligible for up to a £1200 grant if you fit one or more of these criteria:

If you are 19 or older, you can get a bursary if you are continuing on a course you started aged 16 to 18 (known as being a “19+ continuer”) or have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). 

What if I don’t fit this description but still need money?

There’s a discretionary fund – schools and colleges can decide which students have the most need for financial help to continue in their studies. Ask your student support services for more information.

How much will I get?

If you fit the criteria, you’ll get a guaranteed payment of up to £1200 a year – that’s over £400 more than you would have received through the EMA. In exceptional circumstances, you can get more if the provider believes this necessary to enable you to continue in education or training.

If you’re applying for money from the discretionary fund, individual schools and colleges decide how much they give out. You could get a lump sum at the beginning of term to help you get started, a weekly allowance to help with travel costs, or money to cover essential equipment needed to complete the course.

How do I claim?

You can apply for a bursary through your school, academy, college, or training provider.

If you’re applying because you’re on benefits or a care leaver, you’ll have to provide proof that you’re eligible – for example a benefits award letter, or written confirmation of your current or previous care arrangements. You’ll get your bursary payments from your school, academy, college or training provider.

If you’re applying for money from the discretionary fund, you might be asked to provide some evidence of your financial situation. As the bursaries are there to help young people facing the most significant financial barriers to studying, any evidence that supports your claim will help.

Go to to find out more.

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Next Steps

  • Use the Turn2Us calculator to work out what benefits and grants you're entitled to, or call their helpline on 0808 802 2000
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Danny Sherwood and David Samson

Updated on 24-Oct-2017

Photo of pencil and paper by volunteer photographer Rianna Hudson