Brilliant Club

The Brilliant Club launches Join the Dots programme to support students to transition from school to university

14 Feb 2022

The Brilliant Club is today launching its Join the Dots programme, a national initiative which brings schools and universities together to develop a network of support for students during the transition to university.

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


The programme will connect schools, 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.

Just 1 in 50 of the least advantaged students enter the most competitive universities, compared with 1 in 4 of the most advantaged[i]. But getting in is not the only challenge, because disadvantage does not disappear when students walk through the doors of a university. Data shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more at risk of dropping out of their course[iii] and are three times more likely to miss out on a 1st or a 2:1 degree at university compared to their more advantaged peers[ii].

The first pilot will launch in summer 2022. Participating schools will identify less advantaged Year 13 students who meet key targeting criteria and have selected one of the programme’s partner universities as a firm choice. Schools will support students to prepare for the university transition during the summer term, and on Results Day they will be matched with a PhD Coach from the university they are going to. Each PhD Coach will support eight students and work closely with their school and university through the six-month transition programme.

The findings of the Join the Dots pilot will be published in a report in early 2023 and will share best practice for universities and schools to better support students as they transition to university. The Brilliant Club will evaluate the pilot in 2023 to inform how the programme could be expanded in its second year.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, The Brilliant Club’s interim CEO Susie Whigham said:

“A crucial part of The Brilliant Club’s five-year strategy is student success. The evidence shows that disadvantage doesn’t disappear when a young person walks through the doors of a university, so we need a joined-up approach with schools and universities to set them up for success.

“Working with our partners the Reach Foundation and the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, as well as a working group of schools, universities and others in the education sector, we have designed Join the Dots so that a network of connections, communities and coaching will support students to develop academic confidence and a sense of belonging so they can succeed in higher education.”

Ed Vainker, CEO of the Reach Foundation, commented:

“There is a huge opportunity to improve the experience and ultimate success of young people going to university by strengthening the transition between school and university. Join the Dots is the result of a series of discussions and consultations between schools, universities and young people, and we are delighted that The Brilliant Club are taking the project forwards.” 

Jan Balon, Headteacher at the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, said:

“We are excited to be involved in a partnership which brings schools and universities together to ensure that disadvantaged students continue to succeed throughout their educational journey. No longer should our school system think of grades and university places as ends in themselves, but rather a waypoint on a journey to long term success.”

Join the Dots has been developed by The Brilliant Club in partnership with the Reach Foundation and the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham. With thanks to the following schools, universities and organisations, who have also supported and contributed to the development of the programme:

Thank you to Hilal (University of Oxford), Jonathan (University of Southampton) and Sinan Haji (LSE) for sharing their experience as students to inform the programme’s development.