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

The Brilliant Club

United Kingdom
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.

What is The Brilliant Club?

Dr Chris Wilson, CEO
“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.”

Dr Chris Wilson, CEO

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.   

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Innovation Overview
10 - 18
Age Group
Tips for implementation
Schools are asked to contribute £160 per pupil towards the costs of the programme and cover the costs of two trips to universities. The only other requirement is a classroom for the PhD Tutor to deliver their tutorial. We provide the training for our PhD Tutors and where possible undertake the logistical arrangements for university trips and in-school tutorials. We aim to make our programmes available to any non-selective state school that wants to take part. Our model and network of dedicated PhD researchers allow us to reach pupils in even the most hard-to-reach areas.
Contact information
Chris Wilson

See this innovation in action

Impact For Pupils
Our Impact
Uni Pathways Delivered By RIS Participants
The Scholars Programme Courses
The Scholars Programme Pupil Journey
Our Reach


Achievements & Awards


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Get in touch with our programmes team to plan your placement
Get in touch with our programmes team to plan your placement
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Join your pupils for their Launch Trip and meet their tutor
Join your pupils for their Launch Trip and meet their Tutor
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Pupils attend their tutorials and write a final assignment
Pupils attend their tutorials and write a final assignment
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Celebrate your pupils’ achievements at a Graduation Event
Celebrate your pupils’ achievements at a Graduation Event
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Share programme feedback
Share programme feedback
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We’ll share an impact report detailing your pupils’ progress
We’ll share an impact report detailing your pupils’ progress
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