The Guardian Foundation’s Scott Trust Bursary Scheme

You have until the 25th of March at 5pm 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?

We spoke to a selection of graduates who’ve completed the MA and placement scheme, to put together a handy guide of everything you need to know. It’s pretty comprehensive, even if we do say so ourselves.

The Scheme


Jess Murray, Tobi Thomas, and Laura Abernethy headshots, looking to camera
Jessica Murray (L), Tobi Thomas (M), and Laura Abernethy (R) all took part in the scheme. (Image Credits: The Guardian & Twitter)

Each year, The Guardian Foundation (a charity that promotes global press freedom and access to liberal journalism) offers a number of bursaries to students who want to get a postgraduate qualification in journalism, but would otherwise be unable to afford it. On top of the MA, you’ll also undertake paid placements at The Guardian and The Observer, and there’s a chance of a nine-month paid contract at the end of your studies.

In 2024 they’re looking to offer places to six people. Three of the six places will be awarded to Black journalists, while the other three places are open to anyone from a background underrepresented in the media.

What Courses Can I Study?

First things first, it’s worth pointing out that the bursary supports study from specific MA Journalism courses. For 2024, you’re able to choose from six different courses, each with different entry requirements.

We have heard of some successful applicants requesting a switch to another journalism course at the same institution, but broadly you will be offered:

University Course Undergraduate Entry Requirement
City, University of London MA Newspaper Journalism 2:1
Goldsmiths College, University of London MA Journalism 2:1
University of Sheffield MA Journalism 2:1
Birmingham City University MA Data Journalism 2:1
Leeds Trinty University MA Journalism 2:2
Manchester Metropolitan University MA Multimedia Journalism 2:2

Along with paying for your tuition fees, the bursary also provides a subsistence allowance of at least £6,741. This is paid in three instalments: the first in mid-September before you start your course, the second at the end of December, and the third at the end of March.

Jessica Murray completed her MA in 2019 and now works as The Guardian‘s Midlands correspondent. She tells Journo Resources: “This was such a huge help as the course [at Sheffield] 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.”

For Matt Pearce, who’s part of the 2023/24 cohort, the scheme has allowed him to put more time into pursuing a career change to journalism.

He says: “I just decided to make a career change, I think I must have been 27 at that time.

“I used to be an electrician, and I decided I was just really unhappy in my job, and I thought it was going to be really difficult because I don’t really have that safety net behind me to take as much of a gamble to try and get a job in journalism.”

While Matt had started picking up internships and freelance shifts alongside his electrician job, a journalism MA hadn’t previously been financially viable. However, with the bursary’s support, Matt, who is training at City, University of London, has been able to focus more on journalism.

“It’s been great to just get some kind of training. We’ve done loads of stuff. Reporting, court reporting, we’ve gone to Parliament.” The first term, he says, focused on news, and the second on features, and he’s also taken modules in sub-editing, shorthand, and data journalism.

“It’s really varied. And that’s exactly what I wanted,” he adds.

It’s also worth noting that while Matt is on City’s newspaper journalism course, he got a 2:2 in his undergraduate degree in Popular Music at Goldsmiths University. He says it’s one of the reasons he was a bit sceptical and down on himself when first applying. “I guess my life experience, shall we say, made up for my shortfall in my grade,” Matt reflects, encouraging anybody who doesn’t see themselves as traditionally ‘academic’ to still give it a shot.

What Will Work Experience Involve?

In addition, bursary recipients will also complete several weeks of work experience with The Guardian or The Observer during their studies — and a quick look at some of the profiles of those currently on the scheme shows they’re racking up bylines.

The placements enable bursary recipients to gain experience in a cross-section of areas and subject matters across the organisation. From business to fashion and sport to newsletters.

Time spent on these placements is paid at the London Living Wage — currently £13.15ph — which is paid on top of the living allowance.

“I first spent a week training alongside the other Scott Trust journalists in my cohort, learning The Guardian house style, subbing skills and how to use the content management system,” Jessica says of her time on work experience.

“The first longer placement was on a non-news desk, and we each selected our top three preferred desks for this. I was assigned the environment desk, where I spent two months covering news stories such as the Extinction Rebellion protests and the school climate strikes. It was a great opportunity to gain some in-depth knowledge and contacts in a specific area, and I’ve continued writing extensively on the environment since moving to other desks.”

Mimi Ibrahim, who is part of the 2023/24 cohort, is studying for her MA at Leeds Trinity University. Mimi spoke to us just after finishing her first week-long placement, which was on The Guardian’s business desk.

She says: “It was a really good experience. I managed to get some bylines, I managed to work with journalists around me — people who are real experts in this field, and they were so friendly.”

As for getting the most out of your work experience? “Really just get into it. Pitch ideas. I think it’s really good to come with your own ideas,” advises Mimi. There are lots of potential desks you could be working on during placement, so Mimi suggests coming prepared for different scenarios and working in different areas.

Tobi Thomas now works as The Guardian‘s health and inequalities correspondent, after studying at City, University of London as a Scott Trust Bursary recipient in 2019/20. She completed work experience at both the Manchester office and at The Observer.

“Manchester was great,” she says, “I was there for the election, so covering a couple of counts for the live blog, which was really exciting.

“The Observer was not as fast-paced, being a Sunday paper, but, I had the opportunity to write an opinion piece on young people and the election, which was daunting as I don’t consider myself much of an opinion writer, but it was a great experience nonetheless.”

A screenshot of a piece written by Tobi while on work experience. The headline reads: I grew up with austerity. At least Labour offers changeTobi Thomas
A piece Tobi was able to write while on work experience. (Image Credit: Screenshot)

Jessica also spent a month in The Guardian‘s Manchester office, working on stories such as protests against Northern Rail and contributed to a project on the Labour leadership race.

“I was then able to use the news-gathering skills I’d developed from this placement when I moved to the national news desk back in London, covering big stories like the coronavirus outbreak, Brexit night, and the death of Caroline Flack,” she explains.

“Manchester was great —I was there for the election so covering a couple of counts for the liveblog which was really exciting.”

Tobi Thomas, 19/20 Bursary Recipient

Matt spoke to Journo Resources just after completing his first placement. Looking more towards the production side of things, he spent a week with The Guardian’s newsletter team, where he learnt about the CMS (Content Management System) and was given training for various systems the paper uses. He says this close insight into the paper was fantastic.

“I’ve been reading The Guardian since I was a teenager, and quite obsessively as well. It’s always been my go-to paper. I always find just being there really inspiring. The reputation speaks for itself in terms of the kinds of stories they’ve broken over the years,” says Matt.

Before participating in the scheme, Matt had never really experienced an office workplace. So, he says, giving yourself space to adapt to the new work culture and environment is absolutely okay.

It’s also worth stressing again that the work experience in the scheme is also financially supported by the bursary, so you’ll be paid the London Living Wage for every hour you work.

Additionally, there is also the possibility of snagging a fixed-term contract at The Guardian after your course finishes. As far as we know, it seems like this is a pretty strong possibility as long as you pull your weight on your course, but it is worth noting this isn’t guaranteed.

The Mentor

Alongside the MA and work experience, the scheme has also introduced mentors, which recipients say has been invaluable. Mimi says: “Just being able to have conversations once a month with someone who’s an expert in their industry, who has life experience, has been really valuable. I really value that time. You’re able to ask any questions you want to ask.”

It’s also useful, says Mimi, because you’re learning from each other. “[My mentor] is really open, and they really want to listen to you as well. So it’s kind of a two-way process, it’s not like someone talking at you, it’s also talking with you — and they bring in things you’ve never really considered,” she adds.

For Matt, the mentorship has been a huge part of his experience so far. “My mentor is Simon Hattenstone, the features writer who is an expert interviewer, and is also an absolutely hilarious guy. He’s been really great,” says Matt. He adds: “It’s been a really good part of the scheme that I’ve really enjoyed. I mean, firstly, just because I’ve been reading his work for years. But more than anything, it’s a point of contact.”

A long-time Guardian reader, Matt felt slightly overawed on his first day of placement. While he recognised many faces in the newsroom as a reader, he didn’t know anybody personally, so having a mentor helped him settle into the new surroundings. He says: “When I turned up on Monday to do my first day of my first week’s work experience, I didn’t know anyone in the building. Only Simon, who has been really friendly and has reached out to me a lot. It’s just great to have someone who knows you and you can chat about it.”

The Application Process

A red typewriter on a white table with a fern behind it.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to apply on a typewriter. We just thought it looked aesthetically pleasing. (Image Credit: Arash Asghari / Unsplash)

Let’s get the entry requirements out of the way first. To be eligible you’ll need to have (or be expected to graduate with) an undergraduate degree with a minimum pass of a 2:1 or 2:2, depending on the course you want to apply for. You’ll need to hold the degree by the time the scheme kicks off in September.

You’ll also need the permanent right to work in the UK and be able to demonstrate you are unable to pursue a masters’ qualification without financial support. That aside, they’re expecting a commitment to journalism, perhaps through work experience, blogging, or student journalism.

If you feel you can tick all of those boxes, it all starts online here. As part of the application, you’ll need a CV (max two pages, but we’d advise sticking to one), and this is followed by a form which questions your “motivation, suitability, and written work”.

Matt says he put a lot of time into the initial application — but he was proud of the end result. Looking back at what he wrote, Matt says: “I’d say mine is a kind of blend between journalistic, almost feature-y writing, but also quite grounded in a kind of kind of essay style.” He adds: “It’s just quite factual and to the point. It’s quite a small word count, so every word has got to count.”

It was also really important for Matt that someone checked his application before he sent it. So, after starting the process early on, he would send the odd draft to his cousin so she could read it over. He points out that this is also a good way of getting used to the journalist-editor relationship, where you can show things to someone who will tell you what they think.

Mimi also stresses the importance of giving your application space to breathe, which you can do providing you start it early enough. Mimi says she still submitted close to the deadline even after starting early because she really took her time. She says: “Definitely think about what you’re writing, feel free to come back to it, and don’t feel like you have to do it all in one go, because it was very lengthy.”

In a tips video on their website, the team encourage you to think about how you offer a unique perspective, urging you to “tell us who you are, what you’re interested in, and what excites you about journalism”.

Want a bit of help with your CV before you apply?  Here’s a complete guide to nailing your CV and cover letter, as well as a couple of successful examples from people who’ve gone onto get jobs. Not sure what to change? Here’s a rundown.

Then you’ll need to attach three previous examples of your journalism. These can be published or unpublished, and either print or online. “Don’t be afraid to submit unpublished work,” the tips video stresses, “we are just keen to see examples of your writing.” This could be as simple as uploading a Google Doc with some pieces you’ve written in your spare time. They also advise submitting a range of articles, such as news, features, reviews, comment, or interviews. You’ll then need to explain why you chose to submit those three particular articles.

Safi Bugel, who studied at the University of Sheffield in 2021/22 on the scheme, tells us she opted for work which explored issues she really cared about — including interviews that were meaningful to her. When it comes to the rest of the application process, she stresses the importance of being yourself. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but some of the things you might not realise are really impressive and interesting about yourself, would bring new things to the newsroom,” she says.

While Safi has since finished her nine-month placement, she still writes regularly for the paper.

Weronika Strzyżyńska, a 2020-21 bursary recipient who studied at Goldsmiths, echoes this. “They are interested in a unique perspective, and if you can show that through your work and through the way you answer the questions, I think that’s really useful.”

“They are interested in a unique perspective and, if you can show that through your work and the way you answer the questions, I think that’s really useful.”

Weronika Strzyżyńska, ’20-’21 Bursary Recipient


She tried to choose work that best demonstrated her investigative and written skills, as well as a commitment to the story. “One piece that I chose was a personal essay on Brexit — it’s actually still one of the pieces that I’m most proud of,” she tells Journo Resources. “There was one about Polish women who pursued careers or further education after settling in the UK because, at the time, it was the whole Priti Patel thing about low-skilled migrants, so I wanted to make the argument that a lot of migrants actually gain skills after arriving in the UK.”

In her job with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Mimi had been working for the organisation’s monthly membership magazine, which she wrote monthly articles for. From these, she says: “I just picked the ones I really enjoyed the most, the ones that I felt the most proud of. So, I think one was a Commonwealth story — I’m from Birmingham — so I interviewed two people who were involved with the transport side of it.” Another piece was a long-read feature she was particularly proud of, and the third was an interview. “At the time, it was the fiftieth anniversary of Ugandan-Asians coming into the country, so it was someone talking about the importance of that, and they had an interesting career in transport,” says Mimi.

As Mimi highlights, the main aim of this part of the application is to get across your interests and writing style. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s published or not. You could upload it to your own personal blog, whatever really. Just show that you have an interest in writing,” she says.

Matt says: “They asked for a varied batch of stuff and that’s what I gave. At that point, I hadn’t managed to get that much stuff published,” he says. However, he decided to put forward pieces which included the most original reporting — so, where he’d actually gone out and interviewed people. Matt chose a front-page feature which he had written during work experience with his local paper, a listicle, and then a profile he’d written during an internship with the Royal Television Society

You must answer all the questions and sections of the application form, including the diversity questionnaire and writing examples. If you don’t your application won’t be considered.

Your application to the bursary doubles as your application to the masters programme itself — but do remember that if you are also applying for any other source of funding (so you could attend without the Scott Trust Bursary) you will need to apply directly to the postgraduate course as well).

Written Tests & Interviews

If your initial application is successful, you’ll then be invited to submit a written task. This must be completed at a set time and lasts two hours. Finally, you’ll have an interview with the Guardian Foundation. “The interview was probably what stands out the most of all three stages,” says Tobi. “Gary Younge was in mine so I was pretty star-struck!”

Laura Abernethy, a former recipient who’s since worked at, the Press Association, and Snoop, says of the interview: “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.”

Weronika urges applicants to stay calm and remember the basics: “Perhaps see how well you perform under pressure and how you might find sources quickly, and where you would find them.”

Safi adds: “Have a think beforehand about what you think is impressive about yourself, what you’ve done, and what you’re interested in — because often in interview settings, it’s quite hard to remember everything.”

For Matt, preparation was key. To help settle nerves before any interview, he says he writes down a big list of possible questions and drafts an answer for each one. He also did as much research as he could about the individuals he knew would be interviewing him. While the experience was tough, Matt says: “The questions weren’t super performative. It was very ‘tell us about you,’ And I just told my story.”

The interview isn’t there to catch you out. Rather, the team wants to know why you’re interested in journalism, how you’ve begun pursuing those interests, and what you want to write about.

Mimi says she surprised herself by actually enjoying the interview process. “It was nice to actually talk about journalism, because it wasn’t something that I was used to talking about, and talking about it with people that were just as passionate as I was.” Mimi advises thinking about the newspapers you read, the areas of journalism which interest you, and where you potentially see your career going. As for the writing test, she suggests practising writing quickly and coming up with ideas on the spot, which can also come in handy during the interview.

What Are They Looking For?

people looking through records in a box
They’ll have a lot of applicants — so what exactly are they looking for? (Image Credit: Anthony Martino / Unsplash)

But just what are the people looking at your application looking for? In a nutshell: confidence, commitment, and non-conformity. 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. “I think a really important aspect of what The Guardian Foundation is looking for is someone who understands the importance of The Guardian‘s values and what makes them different from other newsrooms,” adds Tobi.

She continues: “When I applied I also had a clear goal of getting into data journalism, and so was able to write about this in my application quite enthusiastically. So, I think having an idea of what sort of journalism interests you is helpful as it’s a way to show your commitment to the job.”

Always be ready to explain what you gained from each experience you’ve listed (whether it’s local news, student radio, or an internship), and how you believe it will make you a better journalist. Make sure you’ve researched the Scott Trust before the interview, and remember that while they’re not expecting your clips to be published, they need to have the potential to be.

“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.”

Jessica Murray, 18/19 Bursary Recipient

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.”

Tobi also advises being honest about yourself and your experiences. She says: “You’re applying to do a journalism qualification, so they don’t expect you to be a perfect journalist already. There’s no need to embellish or blag what you’ve done.

“I remember someone once saying to me that ‘those who don’t have a bit of imposter syndrome are the real frauds’. When applying, just because you’re from a marginalised background, it doesn’t mean that you’re not as good as anyone else. Have confidence in the fact that you have access to stories others may not and can offer an alternative perspective on issues you may be reporting on.”

In a similar vein, Mimi is keen to discourage anyone from thinking the scheme isn’t for them. For example, if you don’t have published work or feel your knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch. “Just apply. Don’t think it’s not for you. If you have that initial interest, just follow it and just really go for it,” she says. “It’s really seeing what you’re interested in, what types of stories you’re interested in covering. I think people from underrepresented communities have insights that aren’t represented in mainstream media, and I think it’s really important just to hear voices from all walks of life.”

Matt echoes this, and highlights the importance of telling your story throughout the process. “My biggest piece of advice is just to prep as much as you can before. Whether that be researching the people interviewing you, or just knowing your own story,” he adds.

And finally, 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.”

Some Reviews From Those Who Completed It

An honest review, from those who did it. (Image Credit: Glenn Carstens / Unsplash)

All in all, it’s a pretty good package in our opinion. But what about the people who’ve done it?

Weronika Strzyżyńska: “As part of my MA course at Goldsmiths, we did a project where we got to design our own magazine, which we worked on in groups. It allowed me to work on very diverse topics, organise my own work, have a creative vision, and think about how I could realise that in the real world, which was really valuable.

“The scheme has been really valuable. It was great that I got the opportunity to do a masters because I think I would have struggled to do it without the support financially. Also, having the opportunity to work at The Guardian and have contact with mentors was really useful. It definitely prepared me for a career.”

Since completing the scheme, Weronika has continued to work on a range of important stories for The Guardian, including travelling to Poland to work on a project about the country’s abortion rights. She says: “I started working on this as a project in my masters and, after I finished, I was pitching it around and no one seemed to be interested. But then an editor at The Guardian who I hadn’t worked with before got in touch to ask if I knew anything about abortion rights in Poland.”

Safi Bugel: “The work experience has been a really exciting opportunity to connect with an editor, because while I’ve done freelance work before, that has sometimes felt a bit disconnected compared with being in a newsroom or having a close relationship with an editor. And whilst it was online, it was really nice to have that space to just ask questions about the commissioning process and what they look for, and how they choose titles, because whilst I’ve done the writing before, I’ve not had an insight into aspects like that.”

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 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 per cent 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.”

Mimi Ibrahim: “The course at Leeds is very practical, I think about 20 hours a week or roughly that. So very intense Monday to Wednesday. We have a variety of classes: shorthand, TV, radio, and mobile journalism. It’s very practical, and it’s something that I wasn’t really used to, but it’s something that I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to do.”

Mimi adds: “It’s a very warm, friendly, small university. The class is very small, so you really get that one-to-one approach. I really feel they know me and I know them. And they know what you’re interested in.”

Matt Pearce: Matt credits the scheme with enabling him to put considerably more time and energy into pursuing a career change to journalism. “To be honest, if I didn’t get on this scheme, I don’t know if I’d still be trying to do this because I did find it a bit like just running into a wall. I came very close a lot of times,” he says.

Matt adds: “When I first was trying to break into journalism, I had no skills and no way to get any of that kind of training. And it’s great to get a really well-rounded selection of stuff, and also great to be around other people that are as enthusiastic about journalism as I am — and just be able to ask questions.”

The article was originally written by Jessica Lord in March 2019. You can find Jessica on Twitter. The guide has since been updated to include new interviews and information with the support and sponsorship of The Guardian Foundation. The last update was in January 2024.