Variable tuition fees and bursaries, funded by higher education institutions, were introduced in England to promote student choice and provider competition, while bursaries would off-set higher fees and safeguard access. Both have been central to government reforms of undergraduate student funding since 2004. This article assesses student perceptions of the impact of bursaries on their higher education decisions and choices, and considers the implications for the 2012/13 National Scholarship Programme. It concludes that most students do not think their choices are affected by bursaries, although those who are cost-conscious, expect to receive higher bursaries, especially of £1,000 or more, and attend Russell Group universities are more likely to think bursaries are influential and important. The reconfiguration of institutional aid from 2012/13 may overcome some perceived barriers to the effectiveness of financial support, but is likely to exacerbate others, and create new impediments and inequalities.