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The Brilliant Club

The Brilliant Club exists to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds that progress to highly-selective universities

In pursuit of our mission, we mobilise the PhD community to share its expertise with non-selective state schools across the UK and beyond. Our programmes are designed to equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and confidence to progress to highly-selective universities.



HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.

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May 2018
The Brilliant Club is working with more schools, PhD tutors and universities than ever before, which is why it’s so important for us to know our programmes are making a measurable difference to the life chances of young people. Everything that The Brilliant Club does, we do in pursuit of consistent and reliable outcomes for pupils.

About the innovation

What is The Brilliant Club?

In the UK today, there is an entrenched link between a young person’s background and their access to higher education: only 1 in 50 of the most advantaged pupils will progress to a highly-selective university, compared to 1 in 4 of the most advantaged. Closing this access gap is key to improving social mobility and creating a fair, representative society.

The Brilliant Club was founded by two former classroom teachers who sought to address this challenge. We run two core programmes:

The Scholars Programme recruits and trains PhD researchers to design and deliver academic, research-based courses to pupils aged 10-18 through a series of university-style in-school tutorials. Pupils also visit two universities and receive tailored information, advice and guidance.

Researchers in Schools (RIS) is a unique teacher training route designed for PhD graduates which seeks to harness their skill set for the benefit of pupils and schools. RIS participants are supported to become excellent classroom teachers, as well as champions of university access, education research and subject expertise. Alongside their classroom teaching, RIS participants deliver Uni Pathways, a two-year university access intervention which is based on The Scholars Programme. 

Our work has been evidenced to have a statistically significant impact on progression to highly-selective universities by an independent evaluation by the Universities and Colleges Application Service (UCAS). Analysis of the destinations of pupils who completed The Scholars Programme in 2015 and 2016 found that 55% progressed to a highly-selective university. This includes 54% of pupils eligible for free school meals, compared to a national rate of 12%. We also have a Research and Impact Department staffed by five researchers who work to understand the impact of our programmes and conduct research to further improve the efficacy of our work. 

In 2016/17, we worked with 10,081 pupils in partnership with 605 non-selective state schools and 30 universities to improve university access for under-represented pupils.   

Implementation steps

Get in touch with our programmes team to plan your placement

You can find out more about the work of The Scholars Programme and how to run a placement in tour school by getting in touch with your regional contact below. Our team support teachers with the pupil selection process and the logistical arrangements for the trips and tutorials. 

Area Director, South of England 

Steph Hamilton - steph.hamilton@thebrilliantclub.org

Area Director, East of England

Lucy Preston - lucy.preston@thebrilliantclub.org

Area Director, North of England

Natalie Day - natalie.day@thebrilliantclub.org

Area Director, West and South West of England

Joe Loudon - joe.loudon@thebrilliantclub.org

National Manager for Wales

Greg Scannell - greg.scannell@thebrilliantclub.org

National Programme Director and Scotland

Leanne Adamson - leanne@thebrilliantclub.org

All other enquiries to National Programme Directors Leanne Adamson or Susie Whigham



Join your pupils for their Launch Trip and meet their tutor

The Scholars Programme begins with a launch trip at a highly-selective university where the pupils take part in their first tutorial with their PhD tutor. Pupils also meet university admissions staff and undergraduates and receive tailored information, advice and guidance. 

Pupils attend their tutorials and write a final assignment

Pupils take part in seven university-style tutorials with their PhD Tutor to complete their course, with the first tutorial taking place at the launch trip and the rest in school during the school day. 

At key stages 2 and 3, we work with PhD tutors and university partners to design template courses that are appropriately pitched. At key stages 4 and 5, course handbooks are individually designed by PhD tutors and are based on their own academic research. In the last two tutorials, PhD tutors give one-to-one feedback on pupils’ assignment marks and on their performance throughout the programme.

Celebrate your pupils’ achievements at a Graduation Event

The programme culminates in a graduation event at a different highly-selective university to recognise the pupils' achievements. Where possible, parents and carers are invited to celebrate their child’s success and are also offered information about university and supporting their child to apply. 

Share programme feedback

At the Graduation Event, we ask pupils to complete a self-evaluation form which we use to understand how pupils have developed throughout the programme. We also invite teachers and parents to provide feedback on their experience of the programme to help us identify areas for further improvement. 

We’ll share an impact report detailing your pupils’ progress

At the end of each programme, we provide a bespoke impact report  to each school. This outlines the performance of the group as a whole, and the performance of pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium separately. These reports include data on pupils’ progress against The Brilliant Club’s six competencies, their achievement on the programme and their self-evaluation responses.

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