The Brilliant Club

Why The Scholars Programme should reach more London pupils

We’re always looking for innovative and ambitious ideas that are making a difference in education and creating new access to opportunities. We spotted one when we came across The Brilliant Club, a charity that works with secondary schools and universities in the UK.

Because you can find brilliance everywhere

“In the UK today, kids from lower-income backgrounds are far less likely to get five good GCSE grades, progress to higher education or secure a well-paid job,” says Libby Burkeman, our Head of Grants. “The Brilliant Club designed The Scholars Programme – a term of university-style teaching and learning for secondary school pupils from under-represented backgrounds – to help change that.”

First, the charity recruits and trains PhD students then pairs them with non-selective state schools. Pupils visit the university for an introductory tutorial with their PhD tutor, a campus tour, and a university applications workshop. The tutors then visit the schools to lead seminars every week during the programme, and pupils complete assignments based on the PhD student’s field of research, marked in the style of UK universities. Pupils receive one-to-one feedback on their assignments and return to the university for a ‘graduation’ trip.

  • One in three privately educated pupils attend a Russell Group university, compared to just one in 40 pupils from low-income backgrounds.
  • In 2018, our  grant helped 107 pupils to take part in The Scholars Programme at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College, Eastbury Community School, The Fulham Boys School and Compass School Southwark .
  • Our second grant in 2020/21 will help The Scholars Programme reach an additional 451 students in London.

Helping pupils aim higher– our grant in 2018/19

“We donated £10,000 towards The Brilliant Club’s London programme in 2018,” says Soma, Kusuma Trust’s Executive Trustee. “This contributed to tutor salaries, training and travel, design and print of programme materials, and the university trips for 107 pupils.

“We were delighted that 91% of pupils completed their final assignment and an impressive 54% achieved a 1st or 2.1. The Brilliant Club has a research team that monitors the success of the programme, and we were really pleased that 77% of our group said they thought they could go to a highly selective university, up from 21% at the start of the programme.”

Ongoing support– our grant in 2020/21

After seeing the impact it’s making, we wanted to keep supporting the programme. In September 2020, we gave a grant of £21,000 to increase the number of young people that  The Brilliant Club is reaching with The Scholars Programme. Their target is to reach at least 3,750 for the 2020/21 academic year (up from 3,299 students in 2018/19).

For typical groups of 100 pupils with similar backgrounds, 37 Scholars Programme alumni are expected to progress to highly-selective universities, compared to only 20 pupils who have not completed the programme.


“I am so glad that pupils in our school were able to access The Brilliant Club. They had a wonderful time, and got so much out of it, both academically and also through improved levels of confidence. They were inspired. The residual effect may be felt by the pupils in years to come, knowing that going to university is an achievable goal for them.”

Gary Heath, Teacher, Castle Hill Academy, Croydon 

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