Founding Master of Wellington College International School Bangkok, Chris Nicholls talks to the Bangkok Post about the true meaning of excellence and the School’s exciting inclusion in to the Wellington College global scholarship programme.
“In today’s world, where it often seems that ‘influence’ means everything and actual quality has no value, it is wonderful to encounter genuine excellence.” So says Chris Nicholls, the visionary Master of Wellington College Bangkok. He’s talking about the news that, little more than two years after its founding, his extraordinary school has been granted the right to offer Wellington College Governors’ Scholarships (Year 9 Entry) to a small number of the most outstanding young people in Thailand.
This is a richly deserved achievement for a school that is already renowned, amongst those who know, as the best of Bangkok’s new breed of international schools.
Since Queen Victoria founded the school in the 1850s, Wellington College has consistently been one of the UK’s most powerful, important and sought-after schools. Today, its standards and reputation are higher than ever. A Wellington College Scholarship is no marketing gimmick: it’s a truly world-class springboard for success.
Chris has invited me to stroll through Wellington’s huge grounds, in a lush, peacefully leafy area of the rapidly-developing high-end suburb of Krungthep Kreetha. Sunlight dapples an immaculate lawn. The school’s hugely grand theatre stands ahead; behind us stretch sports fields; away to the right, on the far side of the Lagoon, a couple of students sit on a small wooden jetty, in the shade of some beautiful trees, researching something aquatic while water plashes softly from a gentle fountain. To our left, behind a large fence, the new Senior School building is emerging from the ground. He showed me the plans for this building – and I can assure you it is astounding.
What, I ask, is the purpose of a Scholarship? Isn’t it really just a fancy way of giving a discount on school fees?
“No, that’s not it,” Chris says, smiling. “There is a money element, but our Governors’ Scholarship is a specific programme, created to nurture, strengthen and encourage extraordinary success. A Scholar is someone who needs specific support. Suppose you are a golfer who has a Sports Scholarship. Why did I give you this award? Because being good at golf means that you deserve money off?
“Not really,” he continues. “I did it because you need to fulfil your potential. To do that, you need lots of access to our golf pros. You need to be able to spend enough time in our digital Swing Room. You need to be able to get out on the golf course (which is right next door to school) regularly and often. A Wellington College Governors’ Scholarship for Golf is a programme tailored to your individual needs – designed to help you become the best golfer you can be. Without a programme, there is no scholarship.”
Wellington College Bangkok are able to offer Governors’ Scholarships for exceptional students in the area of academic achievement, as well as golf, swimming and music.Their Head of Swimming is former GB Olympian and Commonwealth gold medallist James Goddard, an amazingly talented sportsman in his own right but also a very good coach. The school makes no bones about its intention to produce its own Olympians within the next few years. And, with their very impressive 50-metre College Pool, alongside the 25-metre Short Course Pool providing all the necessary facilities, it is easy to picture this coming to pass.
Wellington’s Director of Music, Sinead Corrigan, is clearly excited by the prospect of taking on some more musical talent. “Musicians need support – not just technical training and access to great facilities, which of course we have. They also need timetable support. You can’t practise your violin four hours a day if you don’t have four hours a day to practise in! So, if needs be, we will be creating specific schedules just for our Scholars. Whatever they need, we can build into the programme. Who wouldn’t want that?”
One of the things that the Master keeps coming back to in our conversation is his simple question: “What would be the ideal?” I ask him what exactly he means.
“When we’re teaching, we can easily fall into the formalist trap of doing what everyone else does – because that’s what teaching is. But what we should be asking ourselves first of all is ‘if we could do anything we wanted to help this individual student to flourish, what would it be?’ And that’s the ‘ideal’. From there, we work out how much actually can be done, then we do it. Wellington Governors’ Scholars get the full benefit of that sort of thinking.”
It’s an extraordinarily attractive proposition: beautiful school, exceptional teaching and support, genuine focus and attention on the skills and potential of the individual. For young people (aged 13 on 31st August 2021) who would like to try for one of these Scholarships, application is necessary in the first instance, and the Assessment Day is 27th February 2021 at Wellington College International School Bangkok.
For more information on The Wellington College Governors’ Scholarship Programme, please visit
First printed for the Bangkok Post on 10th December 2020, the original article can be found here: