The Marshall Scholarships are distinctive among British award programmes in being established by an Act of Parliament. The principal architect of the scheme was Roger Makins (Lord Sherfield) who, as Deputy Under Secretary in the Foreign Office supervising the American Department, arranged for the bill to be drafted and passed through Parliament. Soon after the bill passed he was transferred to Washington as Ambassador where he was able to organize the scheme in the United States.
The Marshall would uniquely for the time, be available to men and women to study at any university in the United Kingdom.
The Marshall Aid Commemoration Act became law on 31 July 1953. It established a Commission to manage the Scholarships under the chairmanship of Sir Oliver Franks, who had been British Ambassador in Washington while the Marshall Plan was in operation. By agreement, the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth (now the Association of Commonwealth Universities) provided the secretariat for the new Commission and John Foster, the Association's Secretary General, became the Marshall Commission's first Executive Secretary.
The Act set up four regional boards were established based in New York, New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco to interview candidates and make recommendations to a national Advisory Council chaired by the British Ambassador. The Advisory Council was to review the regional recommendations and prepare a national list of recommended candidates that it would refer to the Marshall Commission for final approval. The structure of the Marshall Scholarships scheme remains intact. There are now eight regional centres based on the Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco and the British Embassy in Washington DC.
The most dramatic change since the inception of the scheme has been the increase in the number of Marshall Scholarships. The number of new awards was increased from twelve to twenty-four in 1960, to thirty in 1973, up to forty Scholarships in 1991 and between 2004 to 2007 up to forty four were awarded. In 2012 36 new awards were offered. The most recent change has been that the Commission decided to offer a limited number of one year awards.
Seven hundred students applied for the new awards in the first year; seventy-four were interviewed and twelve were offered Scholarships. There were eight men and four women. Two were Stanford graduates, with Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Dartmouth, Harvard, Kentucky, Oberlin, Princeton, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin providing the remainder. Four Scholars elected to go to London (all to the London School of Economics), four to Oxford, and one each to Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow and Manchester. Seven used their Marshall to study for a graduate degree, the remainder a second BA.
In the most recent year there were 943 applications for the 33 Scholarships awarded. The statistics for this can be found here.