How to become bursar

What does a bursar do?

Bursars are senior financial and administrative managers in schools and other educational establishments. The job role may sometimes be known as a school business manager or school business director. Depending on their employer's size and type, their management responsibilities may include other areas such as premises and facilities, marketing, human resources and contract management.

Finance and accountancy functions are central to all bursar jobs. Duties include:

  • keeping accounts and preparing summaries of the establishment’s financial position
  • advising on general financial policy
  • ordering goods and services and paying suppliers and contractors
  • processing salaries
  • using management information tools to assess trends and develop long term financial strategies
  • preparing reports for agencies such as the local education authority and the Department for Education and Skills.

Most bursars are also involved in the recruitment, training and management of support staff such as technicians, teaching assistants, caterers and maintenance staff. Some jobs require a bursar to bid competitively for funding and sponsorships, and to manage contracts, tenders and agreements for the provision of support services such as IT systems and energy supplies. Essentially they work to make sure a school's budget and resources ae being used in an efficient way.

Other general duties include responsibility for health and safety policies, site security, arranging appropriate insurance, managing computer systems and the cleaning and catering services.

What's the working environment like?

Bursars usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Unsocial hours may be required, such attending governors’ meetings, and there may also be events to attend at weekends.

Holidays must be taken as and when the academic year will allow.

What does it take to become a bursar?

To be a successful bursar you will need skills in tact and diplomacy, along with patience and tolerance. You will also need to:

  • be interested in and committed to education
  • be well organised and methodical
  • be able to work well as a member of a management team
  • have knowledge and experience of accounting and finance, and the ability to plan and manage large budgets
  • have the ability to keep information confidential
  • be numerate and computer literate
  • be able to organise and lead the work of others
  • be able to work under pressure and prioritise work
  • have excellent written and spoken communication skills

Bursar career opportunities

Bursars in state schools are employed by local education authorities or the school governors. In an independent school, the governors or educational trust that runs the school would appoint bursars. Vacancies are advertised on the NBA and Bursar jobs websites.

Bursars may progress by moving to a larger school. They could look to move into financial or education administration with a local authority.


Further information

If you would like to know anything about Bursar that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

National College for School Leadership
Triumph Road
Tel: 0870 001 1155

National Bursars Association (NBA)
140 Wood Street
CV21 2SP
Tel: 01788 573300

Financial Services Skills Council
51 Gresham Street
Tel: 020 7216 7366

Bursar Jobs

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