Marlborough College

Logo of Marlborough College

Pupils Info

Gender – Co-Ed School
Age range – Age 13-18
Number of pupils on roll – 890 Pupils


Average Class Size: 17
Day and Boarding School
Oxbridge Entrance Percentage: 10%
Day: £27,420 – Boarding: £32,280
A* to B at A-Level Percentage: 71%

Marlborough College is set in 200 acres of charming British countryside in the pretty market town of the same name. It can now also be found in Malaysia; more on this interesting development later. Back in the UK, pupils are asked to respect not just the teachers and each other, but the history of the school, town and surrounding area, as well as their place in the global community. In their first term, all Shell pupils are taken to Avebury, from where they walk back across the Downs to the College following the ‘Herepath’ (Saxon military road), learning as they go. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the well-rounded educational opportunities on offer at Marlborough College.

Background & Reputation

A cursory glance at Marlborough’s website immediately shows that it is a school on a mission. Perhaps the most gushingly buzzword-filled websites out there, your screen is bombarded with images of broadened horizons, enriched lives, abounding opportunities and exploration of the world ‘beyond the prison of selfhood’. This may be too much for some more conservative parents, but it is more than likely justified.

Academic and Exit Results

Shell pupils follow a curriculum which includes ‘Form’ – an integrated humanities course that brings together English, History and Religious Studies. Right from the word go, they are provided with both a deep and contextualised education. It instils in the pupils a natural desire to look beyond a single subject’s curriculum. They are challenged to think independently, to listen to others’ opinions and to share their own. Form is by no means confined to the classroom: the lucky Shell students enjoy whole year group events, lectures, activities and study trips. At A level students have a choice of IB Diploma or the A Level/Pre-U route, plus the option of an Extended Project Qualification (worth the UCAS points of an AS Level) – wonderful preparation for an undergraduate dissertation, with no restriction on the topic of choice or mode of final presentation. This variety of options is characteristic of Marlborough’s readiness to cater for all tastes and demonstrates further interest beyond the confines of the set curriculum. “It is not at all a pressurized environment, but we were made to work very hard,” says Girl B, adding that “people were encouraged to apply to Oxbridge, but only if they thought you had a chance to get in”. Approximately 90% end up at their first choice universities. Students are given an impressive array of subject choices. Astronomy, for example, is offered to GCSE level supported by the Blackett Observatory (built in 1935) – the UK’s most significant school observatory. Also on the list of excellent academic facilities are the library and the Medawar Centre – for the use of those who have (or who have tried for) Academic Awards and designed specifically for intellectual pursuits. As in most schools, some teaching departments were better than others, the general consensus is that the history, geography and arts departments are the best.

Social and Pastoral

Each Marlburian meets regularly with a personal tutor, whose role is that of mediator and confidant. The tutorial system was revised in 2011, making allowances for improved higher education preparation. According to Boy A, tutors are especially helpful in Sixth Form when they provide individually tailored support during personal statement writing and other application processes. For a school with 98% of pupils boarding, it is only natural that houses are important. The 15 houses (6 girls only, 5 boys only, 4 mixed) largely provide a structure for friendship groups. This is especially true if you are in an ‘outhouse’ (one not in the centre of school) as your meals (key social affair) are often eaten within the house. The rest of the school eats in the main school dining room, and the food is of a high standard. Marlborough used to have quite a reputation for drinking and drug use, but is now relatively clean with a very tough policy (random drugs testing) on such activities. Naturally it varies from year group to year group, but it does occur and consequently so does the odd expulsion (notably in fairly recent times of two 14 year old boys).

Sport, Art, Music and Drama

The extensive range of sporting facilities includes two Astroturfs, a golf driving range, a .22 rifle range and an indoor climbing wall. As if this were not quite up to scratch, local facilities for canoeing and polo are also on offer and budding fisherman have the use of the River Kennet or the school’s own trout ponds. Country pursuits (listed as extra-curricular activities) also have their place at Marlborough and pupils can indulge their passions for beagling, clay pigeon shooting and fly fishing.

There is a “massive emphasis” on sport at Marlborough – the most popular for boys being rugby and cricket, while for girls it’s hockey and netball. That said art, music and drama are far from being side-lined at Marlborough. The art school radiates creativity and music is famously good. The drama department, meanwhile, does not hold back – year after year, ambitious plays are performed to very high standards.


As a school that prides itself of the breadth of horizon offered to its pupils, extracurricular activities are of the greatest importance. Two afternoons per week are set aside for the pupils to explore their passions beyond the classroom. Weekends are also packed- so much so that pupils often prefer to stay in school. ‘Bars’ (parties held in school) are very much looked forward to, though (fear not) an enthusiastic use of breathalysers keeps things under control. Throughout the Sixth Form, there is a cycle of seminars on cultural history, given by the students themselves or by passionate teachers. For career planning, pupils have the use of a well-stocked library and an open door policy with the school’s careers advisors. However, Girl B is somewhat disparaging of the careers department so perhaps this open door policy is expecting too much of pupils who require a push in the right direction. Boy A agrees that this is “possibly the school’s only weak spot”.

Three quarters of Marlburians will take a gap year before university – continuing their horizon-broadening education where Marlborough left off. The school approves of this; travel scholarships worth up to £1000 are available for some of those who are planning projects abroad that are deemed ‘worthwhile’. Marlborough College Malaysia is now a fully functioning partner school, set up by Marlborough’s ex-Deputy Head. Regular exchanges of both pupils and staff are envisioned for the near future. As mentioned earlier, Marlborough is without a doubt a school on a mission and it seems to be going places.

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