PhD researchers are uniquely placed to support young people develop the cognitive and non-cognitive skills needed to access higher education. AccessEd mobilises PhD researchers to academically support young people from under-served backgrounds. This is our university access model.

The Brilliant Club: Where the Journey Started

The Brilliant Club was co-founded in the UK in 2011 by two classroom teachers, who piloted the idea of recruiting, training and placing PhD tutors in schools to deliver university-style tutorials to high potential students. Following a successful pilot, which saw 75% of pupils progress to a highly selective university, it began to scale from an idea to an organisation.

Over the last six years, The Brilliant Club has scaled to become the UK’s largest university access programme for 11-18 year olds. In 2016/17, the organisation placed 600 researchers to work in 500 state schools, reaching 10,500 pupils. The charity focuses on the most disadvantaged pupils, with 44% eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and 77% living in the poorest two quintiles of households. At the same time, 57% of pupils had no parental history of higher education.

FSM pupils that progressed to a highly-selective university

FSM pupils that progressed to a highly-selective university after The Brilliant Club intervention

There is growing evidence that The Brilliant Club’s programmes are delivering significant impact. In 2016, the Universities and Colleges Application Service (UCAS) evaluated university estination data from the cohort of school leavers who completed programmes in the past year. UCAS found that 58% of FSM pupils progressed to a highly-selective university, compared to 11% nationally.

PhD Researchers as Change Agents:

We believe that PhD researchers are uniquely equipped to support young people academically, including progressing to university. By delivering university-style courses based on their research, PhD tutors can help young people develop their knowledge and instil the learning skills that boost attainment in exams, such as critical thinking and independent study. Moreover, by exposing young people to new subjects and ways of working, PhD tutors help them to develop an interest in areas that may be considered too challenging or too niche.

AccessEd identifies high potential partners and works them to adapt and apply the principles that have made The Brilliant Club successful in the UK. This includes adapting the model of recruiting, training and placing PhD researchers in schools as change agents, and developing sustainable programmes that mobilise the PhD community to provide academic support.

To find out more about how we do this, see:

The Accelerator