Our History

The story so far


The Brilliant Club was co-founded in 2011 by Jonathan Sobczyk and Simon Coyle, two teachers who became involved in university access through their work in inner-city schools. As classroom teachers, they recognised the barriers that students from under-represented backgrounds face in accessing university, and started an after-school project called The Brilliant Club at London Academy, Edgware.

That grassroots project sought to utilise the expertise and passion of PhD students, who they recruited to deliver programmes of academic enrichment to small groups of pupils. Over the course of the programme, the number of pupils working towards five A*-A grades increased from 3/19 at the start to 12/19 at the end, with 15/19 going on to achieve at least five A*-As in their GCSE results.

Of the 12 Brilliant Club pupils who applied to university in 2012, eight were offered places at highly-selective universities and two were offered places at Oxbridge. Today, many of those pupils are now graduates, including from LSE, UCL, Queen Mary University and the University of Warwick.

With a generous donation of seed funding from The Sutton Trust, and the support of an outstanding Board of Trustees chaired by Dame Sue John, The Brilliant Club was formally established as a charity in 2012. Over the past five years the charity has grown significantly, based on a simple, scalable and sustainable programme model, and excellent partnerships across the education sector.

Since then, Jonny and Simon have been listed in the ‘Top 10 Young UK Social Entrepreneurs’ and named amongst The Observer’s ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals. Under their leadership, the charity has received various accolades – including winning Guardian Charity of the Year in 2015 – and endorsements from school leaders and policymakers, including the former Prime Minister, David Cameron.

This year, The Brilliant Club will work with more than 12,000 pupils across England and Wales, making it the largest university access programme for secondary schools in the UK. The charity continues to address its original mission to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented groups progressing to highly selective universities, and is continuing to work in pursuit of the targets set out its strategic plan for 2016-21, The Path to Outcomes.

“I believe that exposing pupils to university-style tutorials, world-class researchers and information, advice and guidance is an excellent way of supporting able pupils from non-selective state schools to secure places at highly-selective universities.”
Hon Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Former Shadow Secretary of State for Education

“The university-style tutorials I completed with The Brilliant Club in Year 12 really gave me clarity that I wanted to study English at university. I believe it was the experience I gained from talking about literature in these sessions that aided me in getting an offer to study at Cambridge."
Sanam Navsaria

Former Scholars Programme Pupil

“The Brilliant Club offers an extremely effective way for Newnham College to target some of its Access and Outreach work. The visits by small groups of talented students at the start and end of the programme allow us to offer tailored admissions information to those students who might then go on to make a strong application to the University of Cambridge.”
Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for Colleges, University of Cambridge

Newnham College, University of Cambridge

“By building a movement to mobilise the postgraduate community and engage them with challenging schools, The Brilliant Club is already improving access to top universities. More than this, they are taking real steps towards a cultural shift in this country’s educational system that helps address educational disadvantage by bridging the gap between school and university.”
Brett Wigdortz

Founder, Teach First

Our Impact



We partnered with 605 schools


and 30 universities


to recruit, train and place 461 PhD tutors


to work with 11,081 pupils



We partnered with 714 schools


and 38 universities


to recruit, train and place 492 PhD tutors


to work with 12,254 pupils

"We want our impact to be felt widely, so The Brilliant Club has continued to grow. In 2017/18 we increased the number of schools and pupils we worked with to 714 and 12,254 respectively, concentrating on building our presence in rural and coastal areas as well as establishing and growing our provision in Scotland and Wales."

View our Annual Impact Report 2017 / 2018

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What can The Brilliant Club offer you?


A national network of teaching talent



Exciting new learning opportunities



Incredible employment and career prospects