Copleston High School at Jesus college.

More than 100 high-performing pupils from 16 state schools have embarked on a potentially life-changing educational journey with The Brilliant Club, following an inspiring visit to Cambridge.

It's the best feeling when a student leaves here open to the possibility that Cambridge could be for them.

Katie Ruthven, Schools Liaison Officer, Newnham College, Cambridge

The educational charity recruits and trains PhD students and postdoctoral researchers to help students from underrepresented groups to develop the knowledge, skills and ambition they need to secure places at highly selective universities.

A third of places on The Brilliant Club’s Scholars Programme is reserved for pupils who have been eligible for Free School Meals in the last six years.
The six-week programme begins with a visit to a highly selective university, at which pupils meet current undergraduates, tour the facilities, hear from representatives of the university, and enjoy their first tutorial with their tutor, a PhD researcher.

Dr Mary Henes, The Brilliant Club’s Regional Director for London, says “Our tutorials aim to get our pupils as close as possible to a university experience - studying with a researcher, in small groups, at a highly selective university - at the very start of the programme. After this, the PhD tutors will visit the school to deliver tutorials.”

Over four days in June, six Cambridge colleges – Corpus Christi, Jesus, Newnham, St John’s, Emmanuel and Fitzwilliam – welcomed over 100 students (aged 11-17) from 16 non-selective state schools. Each college provided a uniquely inspiring learning environment - between them, they have nurtured over a dozen Nobel Prize winners and countless other influential academics, writers, scientists, politicians and actors.

Schools Liaison Officers for each college joined representatives from The Brilliant Club to give informative and confidence-building talks tailored to different year groups.

At Corpus Christi college, Year 7 and 8 students from Cromer Academy were encouraged to aim high, work hard and seize every opportunity to pursue their interests. A few days later, at Emmanuel College, Year 12s from schools in Suffolk, Essex and East London were advised to think hard about the courses they were applying for and to read around their subjects.

Katie Ruthven, Schools Liaison Officer at Newnham College, said

“Working with The Brilliant Club is one strand of the college’s many outreach activities which address the fact that there are bright students who may not realise that they have what it takes to apply to top universities. It's the best feeling when a student leaves here open to the possibility that Cambridge could be for them.”
In September, Cambridge colleges will host a series of Brilliant Club graduation ceremonies to congratulate students on completing the programme and submitting a 1,000-2,500 word assignment or ‘problem sheet’ based on the work done in their tutorials.

The Brilliant Club was set up in 2011 to widen access to highly selective universities for underrepresented groups by mobilising researchers to bring academic expertise into state schools. The Brilliant Club currently works with over 6,500 pupils per year nationwide.

The collegiate University is committed to widening participation both at Cambridge itself and in higher education more generally. In 2013-14, the collegiate University delivered 4,000 access events which led to almost 200,000 interactions with young people and their teachers.

The University’s widening participation programme includes college and departmental open days, one of the UK’s largest residential summer schools, subject masterclasses, Higher Education Taster Days, a programme for young people in care and school visits. The University is committed to the principle that no UK student should be deterred from applying to Cambridge for financial reasons, and to this end has one of the most substantial bursary schemes in the UK. For more information, visit

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