The Guardian Scott Trust Bursary Scheme

You have until the end of the month to apply for this year’s round of the Guardian Scott Trust Bursary. But, just how do you stand the best chance of snagging a place? And what exactly do you get? Here’s our handy (and comprehensive, if we do say so ourselves) guide. 

This could be your new office. No, really. (Image Credit: Michael Brunton Spall / Flickr)

In a sentence: the Guardian Scott Trust Bursary provides financial support to those want to get a postgraduate qualification in journalism. Great stuff, but we know you probably want to know more.

We’ve researched the application process, the courses on offer, and – of course – done some all-important number crunching. Talking about money can be a little awkward, but it’s got to be done, as sadly, postgraduate qualifications do not come cheap.

So how do we know what we know, you may wonder? Well, we’ve gone through the application process with a toothcomb, as well as speaking to two recipients of the bursary – one who is currently halfway through their course, and another who has completed it.

Also, if you’re reading this and thinking: “I received that bursary too!” – do get in touch and tell us all about it! We’re always looking to expand our guides, and keep them as up-to-date as possible.

The Scheme

Each year, The Guardian Foundation (an independent charity, supporting the diversification of the media, amongst many other things) offers a number of bursaries to students who want to get a postgraduate qualification in journalism, but would otherwise be unable to afford it.

You can only pick from certain courses though, with the ones of offer:

As well as paying for your tuition fees, the bursary also provides a subsistence allowance of £6,000. Dreamy.

Explaining a bit more about the importance of the living allowance, current recipient Jessica Murray said: “I receive this in three instalments of £2,000.

“This is such a huge help as the course is really intense with lots of contact hours, so it’s difficult to squeeze in enough hours at a part-time job to support yourself alongside it.”

The scheme also includes several weeks’ work experience at The Guardian – which is also financially supported by the bursary, so they cover accommodation, breakfast and lunch.

“It was just about my background, why I thought I was a good applicant, and my response to some issues that may arise while working as a journalist.”
Laura Abernethy, former recipient 

Additionally, there is the possibility of a one-year fixed term contract at The Guardian, following the successful completion of the scheme – but it’s worth noting that this is not guaranteed.

To be eligible to apply you’ll need a degree with a 2.1 minimum (or equivalent), the permanent right to work in the UK, and be able to demonstrate you are unable to pursue a masters’ qualification without financial support.

The Application Process

It all happens online here. For starters, you’ll need a CV (max two pages), and this is followed by an application form which questions your “motivation, suitability and written work”.

Then you’ll need to attach three previous examples of your journalism. These can be published or unpublished, and in print or online. You’ll also need to explain why you’ve chosen one of the pieces in particular, and describe how you would develop the story further.

Want a bit of help with your CV and portfolio? Here’s a complete guide to nailing your CV and cover letter and we also have inspiration for your portfolio and portfolio website.

Wonderfully your application to the bursary doubles as your application to the masters programme itself. But, do remember – if you are applying for any other source of funding (so you could attend without the Scott Trust Bursary), you need to apply directly to the postgraduate course you’d like to attend as well.

If successful you’ll be invited for an interview at the university you’ve applied to.

Speaking about her experience of interview, Laura Abernethy, a former recipient and current assistant Lifestyle Editor at Metroc.co.uk, said: “I travelled up to Sheffield and had an interview with two people from the Guardian.

“It was just about my background, why I thought I was a good applicant, and my response to some issues that may arise while working as a journalist.

“All in all, the interview lasted about an hour. I heard back from them about a week later to say I had received a place.”

What Are They Looking For?

But just what are the people looking at your application looking for? In a nutshell, confidence, commitment and non-conformity (which isn’t totally alliterative, but does sound pretty good).

Have confidence in yourself and your passion – they are looking for those who desperately want to become journalists, and have a desire to tell the stories of others. And remember that it’s not about who has done the most internships or had the best work-experience.

Always be ready to explain what you gained from each experience you’ve had (whether it’s local news, student radio, an internship), and how you believe it will make you a better journalist.

Similarly, it’s important to demonstrate commitment. Research the Guardian Scott Trust prior to interview (former recipients said they were asked about it when interviewed) and submit a strong portfolio of the things you’ve written or edited. It does not have to be published work, though it should have the potential to be!

Non-conformity is key, Jessica adds: “The scheme is all about bringing diverse voices to the newsroom so think about what you can bring that no one else can. The best way of demonstrating this is with story ideas, so make sure to get these in your application and at the interview.

“Obviously pitching ideas can seem really scary but just remember they’re not looking for stuff to be perfect, they’re looking for you to think outside the box and come up with fresh angles. Also, draw on your own personal experiences as much as you can.”

Reviews From Those That Did It?

All in all, it’s a pretty good package. But what to those who did it think?

Laura Abernethy: “I would absolutely recommend the scheme. Thanks to the funding and experience, I went straight into a job before the course even finished. When I applied, there wasn’t the possibility of a contract at the end, which they have now introduced, which I think makes the scheme even better. They’ve also introduced mentors for those on the bursaries and that is really useful. I feel like it was supportive and really helped me move forward in my career.”

Jessica Murray: “The MA course at Sheffield gives you a brilliant grounding as a journalist and is the only course on the scheme which provides you with an NCTJ qualification as well as an MA, something which was really important to me. It’s hard to pick out one most important thing I’ve learnt, but getting my 100wpm shorthand qualification, learning media law and court reporting, and developing multimedia skills in video production and editing have all been super useful. I would 100% recommend the scheme to others, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get experience in the industry and gain qualifications that will really help your future career.”

Masters or ‘Jumping In’?

While we’re here, we thought this would be good time to talk about the ‘do you need a qualification question’. While it’s true there’s no singular route into the media (which is great) this can make it pretty confusing when you’re trying to work out what to do.

But don’t let this put you off applying – or doing something else if it doesn’t work out.

Laura Abernethy: “I think doing a master’s genuinely helped me become a better journalist. I had a good idea of the basics from my time in student media and work experience but studying journalism helped me to fine tune those skills and learn specific things like media law, ethics and shorthand. I loved studying at Sheffield and there were aspects of the NCTJ which I think need to be updated but I still use so much of what I learnt all the time in my job. I know you can learn on the job and that is also a valid way in but I feel like studying everything speeds up that process.”

Jessica Murray: ‘I started applying for jobs in journalism after I graduated but felt like things such as my lack of media law knowledge were holding me back. I don’t think an NCTJ or MA qualification is absolutely essential but I do think they’re a great help (and I have seen job descriptions which do specify you need a qualification). I think it especially helps if you don’t have many contacts in the industry and/or you’re based miles away from London, so doing unpaid work experience to get your foot in the door isn’t always feasible. Plus, they’re a great opportunity to grow as a writer, make mistakes and learn from them in a low stakes environment. But there are dozens of different routes into journalism and what suits one person won’t suit another.”

Also on a side note which happens to go for all things – don’t be afraid of rejection. Jessica Murray applied unsuccessfully in 2017, but reapplied in 2018. “I was expecting another rejection but ended up getting it,” she tells Journo Resources. “So, don’t be disheartened. Just make sure you can demonstrate what you’ve done in the intervening 12 months to improve yourself.”

Article compiled and written by Jessica Lord. You can find her on Twitter here.