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A bursary is an office for a bursar and his or her staff in a college or school.
In modern English usage, however, the term has become synonymous with monetary awards made by some institutions to individuals or groups of people who cannot afford to pay full fees. According to the Good Schools Guide, a bursary is "usually for helping out the impoverished but deserving and those fallen on hard times."
According to The Hobsons UK Boarding Schools Guide, numerous independent schools have bursary capability, namely grants from the school to help pay education fees. These are usually awarded after a "means test" of family income and are not necessarily dependent on examination performance, although some account of academic ability will be taken. Bursaries may be awarded in addition to scholarships where financial need is demonstrated and the prospective student would otherwise be unable to enter the school.
To obtain such a bursary, it is customary for parents to be asked by the school’s bursar to fill in an application form, giving details of their financial circumstances, supported by documentary evidence, including capital assets. The application will be considered by the school in accordance with its bursary policy. The award will often only remain in force until the pupil has sat the next relevant public examination. Most schools will review bursaries annually to ensure that the justification for an award remains. In Britain any award made before GCSE will not necessarily continue to the A-level stage.
There are two types of bursary awarded by institutions (such as universities). The first is a means-tested bursary which is available for all students whose parents earn under a threshold value per annum. It is often given out using a sliding scale, with people at the lowest end of the scale receiving a full bursary and the monetary award decreasing in value with proportion to the parental earnings.
The second type of bursary, also known as a "scholarship" or "prize", is one based on performance. These awards are generally given for good performance in the exams preceding university or college entrance in which the student achieves grades above the standard entry. These can be awarded by the university or, sometimes, by companies.