We work in partnership with universities in a variety of ways, supporting them to meet their strategic priorities.

We have developed programmes aimed at addressing the most common and prevalent barriers to university access and success for less advantaged students. We recognise that these may overlap or be complementary to the work you are doing in these areas.

We are proud to work in partnership with over 40 universities and are always keen to discuss collaboration with higher education institutions.

The Office for Students has highlighted the importance of higher education providers working in collaboration with third sector organisations to deliver programmes in schools and colleges, and has cited The Brilliant Club as an example of this.

OfS guidance also states that “by establishing stronger partnerships with schools and colleges, higher education providers play an important role in supporting the educational attainment of young people from underrepresented groups and reducing the gaps between these students and their more advantaged peers”. We delivered our programmes in over 1,000 schools in 2021/22 and can support you in building effective partnerships. 

Supporting your strategic priorities

We are working with several universities to assist with their Access and Participation Plan (APP) rewrites including research and strategic advice on current and planned activities and co-delivering new attainment raising programmes. As ever, we would be happy to discuss your plans and challenges and how we might be able to help.

Our core programmes, The Scholars Programme, Make your Mark, Join the Dots and Parent Power all support specific priority areas for the OfS, namely:

  • Attainment Raising
  • Developing university learning skills and self-efficacy
  • University transition and success
  • Parent and carer engagement

In addition, we  provide evaluation consultancy services to universities, and other education organisations looking to build their research and evaluation skills and capacity.

Equality of Opportunity Risk Register

The Office for Students has created the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register which identifies 12 sector wide risks that may affect less advantaged students in accessing and succeeding in higher education. It is an expectation that providers should consider the Risk Register when creating their Access and Participation Plans.

The Brilliant Club’s core programmes all address different combinations of the risks set out in the register.

Attainment and university self-efficacy

As part of The Scholars Programme, we train our PhD tutors to deliver The Scholars Programme in our partner schools across the UK and share their subject knowledge and passion for learning with small groups of students. This provides students at risk with the opportunity to experience university-style, beyond-the-curriculum learning, building the knowledge and skills required to progress to higher education (Risk 1: Knowledge and Skills).

Recent findings have shown that The Scholars Programme also has a positive impact on GCSE attainment, an important factor in university progression, especially in the context of the widening attainment gap between the most and least advantaged students (Risk 1: Knowledge and Skills, Risk 4: Application success rates and Risk 9: Ongoing impact of Coronavirus).

The programme also involves IAG sessions on higher education options, and a visit to a university environment to help them make informed choices about their future (Risk 2: Information and Guidance and Risk 5:  Limited choice of course type and delivery mode). TSP also builds students’ academic self-efficacy (Risk 3: Perception of higher education), and students who complete The Scholars Programme are more likely to apply to a competitive university compared to their peers (Risk 4: Application success rates).

You can read about the targeting criteria we use for The Scholars Programme here.

Parent and Carer Engagement

Another of our programmes that works to support university access is Parent Power.

Parent Power is driven by parents and carers tackling barriers to education and leading change in their communities, with each chapter supported by an anchor institution.

Parent Power improves the representation of parents in the HE system, as well as building their own knowledge of options available to their children (Risk 2: Information and guidance).

University Transition and Success

Join the Dots brings schools and colleges together with universities who co-create networks of support for students during the transition to university.

It is targeted at students who are most likely to face barriers in making a successful transition to university. A PhD Coach supports students in their first term at university through coaching (1-1 and peer group). By providing students with increased self-efficacy during the transition period, it mitigates Risk 6 (Insufficient academic support); and by creating a community for students, it also speaks to Risk 7 (Insufficient personal support).

Curriculum-focused tutoring

We have also designed an attainment-raising programme, Make your Mark, that supports students through curriculum-level tutoring. This was piloted during 2023 alongside the University of Sussex.

The programme is targeted at Year 10 students because GCSE attainment is an important indicator of future participation in higher education (Risk 1: Knowledge and Skills, and Risk 4: Application success rates). The tutoring received during Make your Mark could also mitigate the learning loss experienced during the pandemic (Risk 9: Ongoing impacts of coronavirus).

Bespoke Access and Success Projects

Alongside our core programmes, we collaborate with institutions to deliver additional access and student success projects to support their priorities. Each project is specific to the needs of the partner and builds on our experience of working with the PhD community to develop key academic skills and self-efficacy to support students accessing and succeeding at university. These programmes may mitigate several of the risks set out in the Equality of Opportunity Risk Register.

Researcher Development

We can also support your researchers with development opportunities including public engagement, curriculum design, teaching and widening participation. We train our PhD tutors and coaches and then pay them to deliver academically rigorous programmes to small groups of pupils in state schools across the UK.

Evaluation Consultancy

In line with the OfS’ emphasis on evaluation, The Brilliant Club is committed to the rigorous evaluation of all our projects and programmes. In addition, our team of social science researchers provide consultancy services to universities, and other education organisations looking to build their research and evaluation skills and capacity. Our services range from facilitating evaluation workshops to full-cycle programme evaluations.

Our partners

We are proud to work with over 40 higher education institutions across the UK and we are grateful for their ongoing support. You can see the full list of partners here.

Get in touch

If you’d like to talk to us about any of our work supporting universities, we’d be happy to have a conversation. Email our University Partnerships team via the button below.