Researching the impact bursaries have

Wednesday 1st March 2023

As we grow the number of free places, we have sought to understand the value that full bursaries have for individuals, their families, the College, and society. Our questions will take time to answer, particularly as benefits for pupils might not be seen until they reach adulthood. However, we are also keen to identify opportunities where we can learn and improve how we support pupils and their families.  Early responses will also act as a baseline for future reporting.

We have been working with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) to develop our approach to measuring the impact of bursaries.  NPC is a charity whose mission is to help other social purpose organisations to be as effective as possible. 

To fully understand the impact of a free education at Marlborough, we have divided our approach into three phases:

  • Phase 1: The impact on those who have received a bursary
  • Phase 2: The impact on the College community
  • Phase 3: The impact on the parents of bursary recipients, teachers and wider society

We invited bursary recipients who have recently left Marlborough to share their thoughts with us.

Adjusting to Marlborough:

  • 83% felt prepared or very prepared before they arrived at Marlborough.

“The college itself did everything to make me comfortable and as prepared as possible before my arrival”

  • 79% relished the academic challenge provided by Marlborough.

“It was a breath of fresh air. Everyone was either at my level or smarter than me, and the environment was one where everyone worked hard as standard”

  • 80% agreed that being a bursary pupil did not affect who they mixed with and 74% were open about their bursary (92% shared their status with friends).

“I was never ashamed that I was there on a bursary and never shied away from telling people if they asked. I can’t say it ever affected me or my social life either way.”

Impact of their time at Marlborough

  • 72% thought their prospects would have been worse if they had stayed in their local school.

“At home we live in a very small flat, so without meaning to, we often distract each other. Whereas in Marlborough, I always had a place to go to study in silence and help from teachers was much more often available than it would have been in another school that I could have attended.”

  • Bursary pupils named the following as their top three benefits from attending Marlborough:
    • The quality of teaching and the encouragement to achieve
    • The strong relationships they formed within the Marlborough community
    • Growth in confidence and independence

“The structure of each day was also far more suited to myself as the routine and regular sport was beneficial for my mental health, helping me feel more productive and focused.”

  • Academically, bursary pupils perform in line with other Marlburians, who as a whole significantly outperform their grade expectations had they not come to Marlborough*.

Following Marlborough

  • Most full bursary recipients are still at university or have very recently left, with Durham, Cardiff, Newcastle as top destinations including one currently studying at Oxford University.

“I doubt I would have got into such a good university or had such a well-rounded education if I had been anywhere else. The broader life skills and mindset it gave me were really useful.”

  • Since leaving, 77% are actively engaging with the Marlburian Club activities and 35% now undertake volunteering for their local or wider community.

This feedback is certainly encouraging and has provided us with valuable insights into how we develop our bursary programme and support those individuals.  In the words of one of our bursary recipients:

“I think the best way to help bursary pupils to adapt is just to have more bursary pupils and coming from all different backgrounds so that it doesn’t seem as novel to pupils and staff and make those bursary pupils feel just as normal as any other Marlborough pupil.”

*This analysis is undertaken with Cambridge University Press & Assessment’s Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring (CEM), one of the largest and longest established providers of formative assessments for children of all ages.  The College uses CEM’s A Level Information System (ALIS) as an adaptive baseline assessment which prepares an objective perspective of a pupil’s strengths and weaknesses at A Level.