How to get sponsored for a full-time engineering degree
If you are worried about the cost of going to university and whether you’ll be able to find a job quickly when you leave, then sponsorship may be the answer.
Sponsorship, often known as a scholarship, is when a company agrees to help fund your course and offers work placements and potentially a job on graduation. A number of big-name companies in the engineering industry are involved in schemes that will support students willing to make the commitment.
Sponsorship is not the same thing as a school leaver sponsored degree programme, in which you are taken on as an employee and only study part time.
You will receive a bursary payment every year, which usually ranges from £1,500 to £2,500. Some schemes will go even further. For example, employers involved in the E3 Academy sponsorship scheme will provide a £2,500 bursary for each year you are at university. If you take a job with your sponsoring company after you graduate, then by the end of your second year in the role you will have received additional financial support of up to £6,000 to pay off university fees.
You will usually be given paid work placements during the summer holiday and many schemes will lead to a job offer on graduation. There is also a level of prestige that comes with gaining a sponsorship.
The sponsorship route is not for everyone and you may not want to tie your future to one company at this early stage. There is a chance that your goals could change over the course of your degree.
You will also have to be prepared to work very hard. Most sponsors will require students to keep up their grades and if you drop below a certain standard, your sponsorship could be ended and you may have to repay all or part of your bursary. You may also lose the freedom of choice on how you spend your summer holidays, as many sponsorship schemes include annual work placements.
Finally, most companies will expect you to sign a job contract with them after your degree is over, with bursary repayments possible if you turn them down.
Routes into sponsorship
Some employers run their own sponsorship programmes but there are also a number of national schemes that have been created by employers and universities working in partnership. For some schemes you need to apply before you start your degree, while others will accept people who are already at university.
You can apply for these schemes in the academic year before you expect to start university. If you are interested in gaining sponsorship then a restricted number of courses will be available. This should be taken into consideration when deciding your university options but it is better to study the subject you want than to go for one you’re not sure about, which you may not succeed in gaining sponsorship for anyway. However, bear in mind that most courses linked to these schemes are accredited by a professional body, which confirms that their content is relevant to a career in that area of engineering.
BAE Systems and the Defence Engineering and Science Group are examples of large organisations that run their own schemes. Some smaller employers also run their own schemes, though they are less well publicised. When attending open days at universities it’s worth asking if they have any sponsorship schemes with local businesses.
Some companies offer sponsorship to those who perform well on an internship – Balfour Beatty is one such example.
Several national schemes have been set up by major employers and universities. Deadlines and criteria differ from scheme to scheme. Some require you to already have an offer from one of the partner universities for an approved course while others invite applications earlier, on the condition that you later gain an offer from a linked university. Some major employers are involved in more than one scheme so don’t assume that the first opportunity you find is the only one available to you.
Places on these schemes can be highly contested and some organisations demand top A level grades. For example, the UK Electronic Skills Foundation requires three A grades, including maths and physics/electronics. Depending on the size of the scheme, candidates may have a range of companies they can apply for. Be sure to research the available companies and choose the ones that interest you, then tailor your application to match what they are looking for. If a company is interested then you will be invited to an interview. Take a look at our interviews article if you'd like some help with this.
National engineering sponsorship schemes open to students who have not yet started university include: QEST; IET Power Academy; the UK Electronic Skills Foundation; and the E3 Academy.