Two graduates have set up a company that aims to boost access to elite universities by employing doctoral students to give tutorial style master-classes to bright students at underprivileged schools.

Simon Coyle and Jonathan Sobczyk are both former Teach First ambassadors and left their teaching careers to start the Brilliant Club in March 2011.

 Thus far the programme has 36 confirmed secondary school programmes and is in the first stages of exploring expansion into working with primary schools. The programme has also been awarded a grant by the Sutton Trust, which told Cherwell it was impressed by the “clearly defined and compelling proposal.” The Trust is optimistic about the “real potential for impact and scalability”, raising “aspirations and attainment” by utilising the “largely untapped resource” of PhD students.

The company’s stated goal is to increase the representation of underprivileged students at top universities. 48% of privately educated students are able to gain a place at an elite institution but this number drops to 18% among state-school pupils and falls to only 2% among students qualifying for free school meals.

The Brilliant Club hopes to raise the aspirations of talented students at underprivileged schools and boost their chances of gaining a place at a top university. The PhD students are paid for each class they teach, which Coyle has stated will encourage accountability and ensure that the scheme is not based merely on “grace and favour”. Schools are also charged for each set of tutorials.

The group is currently focused in London and has recently reached an agreement to start a ‘partner university’ scheme with King’s College University.