A national initiative which brings schools and colleges together with universities to develop a network of support for students during the transition to university.

About Join the Dots

Disadvantage does not disappear when students walk through the doors of their university. By the end of 2026, we aim to have worked with our partners to support over 11,000 undergraduates to reach their full academic potential. In recent years, a growing body of research has highlighted the inequalities that exist at undergraduate level. Some students are less likely to get good grades in their first year, more likely to drop out before their second year and less likely to graduate with a 1st or 2:1 in their final degree. The attainment gaps we see, even at the most competitive universities, are significant for less advantaged and underrepresented undergraduates. 

Join the Dots, developed in collaboration with the Reach Foundation and the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, brings together schools and colleges together with universities to support students who are most likely to face barriers during the transition to higher education.

On the programme, schools and colleges identify less advantaged Year 13 students who meet key targeting criteria and have applied to one or more of the programme’s partner universities. Students will take part in a series of university preparation activities, delivered through in-school resources and by The Brilliant Club.

On Results Day students are matched with a PhD Coach from their university. Each PhD Coach supports up to eight students and works together with each student’s school or college to support them throughout the six-month transition programme.

The Programme

The programme connects schools and colleges, universities and students to share knowledge and set goals for a successful transition. It will build communities of students to identify, discuss and address shared challenges and foster a sense of belonging at university. Through 1-1 and peer group coaching, it will help students to develop key university study strategies and be a link for students to access university support as needed.

connections, communities, coaching


You can see the Impact Report from the first year of Join the Dots here.

School/College Contribution

Participation is free for students and for schools and colleges.

When he [my teacher] told me about the Join The Dots programme, it was a big reassurance and I feel like it has already helped me.

Find out more about Join the Dots

If you are a PhD researcher interested in supporting first year undergraduates with their university transition as a PhD Coach, click here

If you are a student who’d like to sign up for Join the Dots, click here


If you are a school or college looking to sign up to the programme, follow the buttons below for more information.

School FAQs

How does sign up work?

Schools and colleges identify students who have applied to one of the partner universities working with The Brilliant Club on the programme, and who they believe could benefit from extra support when making the transition to university. 55% of the students signed up at each school or college should meet one of The Brilliant Club’s targeting criteria.

Following this, The Brilliant Club will share the student registration link and students will register themselves for their place on the programme. They will confirm their firm and insurance choices with The Brilliant Club in May or June and their place on the programme will be confirmed once they have had their place at their chosen partner university confirmed on Results Day.

What commitment is involved from schools and colleges?

Schools and colleges will be asked to identify eligible students and share information on the programme with them. Schools and colleges will be asked to facilitate the university preparation sessions by sharing or delivering in-school resources with students or by facilitating their attendance at Brilliant Club run sessions. Lead members of staff will be invited to join the programme launch event in September and a member of staff per student should join a teacher-student-Coach meeting in December (to last 30 minutes and take place online).

What are The Brilliant Club’s targeting criteria?

  1. Has previously been eligible for pupil premium funding
  2. Has no parental history of higher education
  3. Living in a postcode that is in the lowest 4 deciles of the IDACI postcode data

How much does the programme cost?

Participation in the programme is free for schools and colleges and students.

Which universities are you partnering with?

For the 2023-24 academic year we are partnering with The University of Bristol, Durham University, The University of Essex, Goldsmiths University of London, The University of Kent, King’s College London, Leeds Trinity University, Liverpool John Moores University, The University of Manchester, and The University of Sheffield.

PhD Coaches

Our community of more than 1,000 PhD Coaches is what makes The Brilliant Club unique. Our PhD Coaches have either completed or are currently studying for a PhD at a Join the Dots partner university. Students will be matched with a PhD Coach working in their subject area (for example Social Sciences) who will support them with study skills and coursework.

Our PhD Coaches complete programme specific training, focused on Coaching and mentoring. Coaches are also introduced to basic tutorial pedagogy such as planning, questioning and assessment; aspects of classroom management; and codes of professional conduct. Our PhD Coaches are required to have a DBS check before they begin work on the programme.

I think Join the Dots has really helped me manage the transition from Year 13 to University by helping me become more independent through self-learning and how to take notes during lectures. The coach is also really friendly and helpful.