Career Profile – Anna-Marie Linnell


Name: Anna-Marie Linnell

Current Role: Regional Manager (West of England)

PhD Subject and Graduation Year: English literature, graduated 2016

How did you become interested in the area that you work in?

The Brilliant Club supports PhD researchers to design teaching programmes based on their research, that will inspire more pupils from underrepresented backgrounds to study at highly-selective universities. The idea is that pupils will have the chance to stretch themselves academically and think about their options after school in a new way, whilst we train PhD researchers to develop their impact. Throughout my PhD, I was committed to the principle that academics should be able to demonstrate meaningful impact from their research. I produced public engagement materials for the Stuart Successions Project and ran a community history project funded by RCUK. By doing this, I realised that with the best will in the world it’s hard for academics to be able to design and/or deliver meaningful programmes for social impact on top of their research commitments. It’s also difficult for academics to evaluate that impact and think about how it can be further developed. When I found out there was a charity that specialises in identifying the barriers and challenges that young people face within the school system, and then trains researchers to help tackle them, I knew that was something I wanted to be part of.

How did you get to where you are today? (i.e. a brief overview of your career trajectory to date)

I started an undergraduate degree at the University of Exeter in 2008 and continued straight through to a MA in English Studies. During my MA, I successfully applied for a doctoral studentship with the AHRC Stuart Successions Project. This studentship was supervised by Professor Andrew McRae (University of Exeter) and Professor Paulina Kewes (University of Oxford), and I taught as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Exeter throughout. I joined the Brilliant Club as a Programme Officer for the South after completing my viva, and have since moved to be Regional Manager for the West of England.

What does your current role involve, any skills and/or personal qualities needed?  

The most important thing to my role is passion and commitment to the Brilliant Club’s mission. It’s a varied role, which means working with a range of stakeholders – including teachers, university staff and researchers – who all want to make a positive difference for the young people we work with. You need a lot of empathy and great listening skills, as well as excellent time management and the ability to work well under pressure. The skills I developed through my PhD are all useful; the ability to set your own deadlines, grasp and apply core information and concepts, and attend to detail, are all vital to keeping on top of the role.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The amount I get to learn!

Are there any things that are not so good?

I’m lucky that the Brilliant Club has a flexible working hours policy and we are out on the road visiting schools and universities a lot – I find sitting at a desk 9am-5pm quite hard after years of independent study.

Has anything surprised you about your role?

Having worked at the charity for a year already, I was going in with open eyes.

What key tips would you give to any students who might be considering entering a similar field today?

The most important thing is knowing your stakeholders and being able to show consistent interest in the field you are applying to, as well as the skills to do the job. If you are a researcher interested in creating social impact, think carefully about what kind of impact you are interested in – is it working with schools and young people, engaging audiences through the media, or working with government bodies or industry groups? Seek out opportunities to develop in these areas, whether it’s an AHRC policy internship or relevant placement through your DTP. Funded work and paid opportunities mean more to a potential employer because it shows that your services were valued, so don’t do anything for free.

5 Reasons You Should Apply to be a PhD Tutor with The Scholars Programme!

Gemma is a 4th year (PT) Film PhD student, who shares her top 5 reasons to apply to become a PhD tutor with The Brilliant Club. Originally posted on The Brilliant Club website. 




Scholars Programme PhD Tutor Gemma Edney from the University of Exeter shares the top 5 reasons to apply to become a PhD Tutor with The Brilliant Club!

There are so many reasons to apply to be a PhD Tutor with The Brilliant Club, but I have managed to whittle it down to five based on my own experience with The Scholars Programme.

  1. It’s an extremely worthwhile cause

The stats speak for themselves, here. Only  1 in 50 of the most disadvantaged quintile of 18-year olds progress to a highly-selective university, compared to 1 in 4 of the most advantaged quintile. The education gap between pupils from underrepresented backgrounds and their more affluent peers is huge, and it is important that we, as higher education practitioners, try to help redress the balance. This is what The Brilliant Club aims to do, with great success. As a PhD Tutor, you can help narrow the gap and contribute to a great cause.

  1. You can make a real difference

When I first became a PhD Tutor, I was skeptical about the amount of difference I could make in the space of seven weeks. However, I soon realised that it isn’t just about the pupils’ subject knowledge, but the other ways they can develop through the programme. Working as a PhD Tutor, you get the chance to see the progression your pupils make week by week. You have the opportunity to make a genuine difference to their lives, and the chance to have a lasting impact on their self-confidence, work ethic and realisation of future opportunities.

  1. It’s a chance to get your research off campus

It is so easy as a PhD Researcher to just spend all of your time in the library, at your computer, or in the lab. Working as a PhD Tutor offers you the opportunity to take your research off campus, share it with other people, and get them interested in your subject. You can learn how your research can be relevant to the current education system, and disseminate it to your pupils, their teachers, and other PhD tutors. This isn’t just good for professional reasons, it’s great for your own confidence in your research area too: there’s nothing like capturing the imagination or interest of someone else with your own project.

  1. It’s great for your professional development

Widening Participation is fast becoming a focus of many universities; experience with a WP organisation like The Brilliant Club can count for a lot for Higher Education institutions. Since becoming a PhD Tutor, I have been asked by my university to run training sessions for other PhD researchers and to help co-ordinate Widening Participation programmes at a university level, which is all great experience for the CV, as well as a good opportunity to develop understanding of the workings of Higher Education institutions more generally.

  1. You can meet great, like-minded people

One of the best things about becoming a PhD Tutor is entering into the fantastic community of existing tutors and Brilliant Club staff. Everyone you meet at training, launch events or graduations is passionate about what they do, and the enthusiasm is infectious. You become part of an amazing network of individuals all working towards the same goal. I have personally made some great friends through The Brilliant Club, and it’s great to share experiences and tips with other researchers.

Overall, I would recommend working as a PhD Tutor to anyone who is interested in increasing access to Higher Education, or wants to disseminate their research in a creative and fulfilling way.

Written by: Gemma Edney, a 4th year (PT) Film PhD Student- Want to learn more about Gemma and her research? You can look at her research profile, or follw her on twitter @GemmaEdney

This post was originally posted on The Brillant Club webpage, if you wish to find out more about The Brillant Club and what they do check there website.

Why become a tutor for The Brilliant Club?

The Brilliant Club is a charity with the overarching aim of bridging the gap between under-represented school pupils and highly-selective universities. This is achieved by matching PhD researchers with schools where they deliver a research programme to small seminar groups, culminating in the students completing a final assignment and being awarded with university-style grades at a graduation event. I was working as a Brilliant Club Tutor during Autumn Term 2016.

Why did I apply to become a Brilliant Club tutor?

I came from a low participation school and felt that when making decisions about university, the knowledge or support network I needed was not available. A teacher once told me that highly-selective universities were out of reach for people at my school. I applied to The Brilliant Club to try and make a difference. I wanted to use my knowledge and expertise to intrigue and inspire a generation of students, giving them the opportunity and confidence to not be held back in achieving their potential.

What is involved?

The process of delivering The Scholars Programme is well-supported by a dedicated Programme Officer and support team at The Brilliant Club. The programme is flexible to suit your personal and research needs, starting with a dedicated training weekend, during which you are provided with knowledge and teaching skills.

You first meet your pupils at a University Launch Trip. For me, this was at Exeter, where the pupils got a tour of a campus, were able to ask questions and I delivered their first tutorial. As my placement was in the Autumn, I was given a pre-designed Biology course to teach: ‘Is Ebola the Next International Pandemic?’. For subsequent terms you can design your own course based on your research. My course for next term is called: ‘From Fossil Fuels to Fish: Where Environmental Chemistry meets Marine Biology’.

Tutorials take place in schools with pupils in groups of 6. In total, the programme consists of 6 seminar-style tutorials, the final one being for feedback. After each, you set the pupils’ homework to aid their understanding of the subject and research skills. After tutorial 5, the pupils are set a final assignment, of 1500 words, where they answer a focussed question based on what you have taught them. This is graded in university-style and pupils are invited to attend a graduation event at another UK University.

What I Found Rewarding

Performing a placement with The Brilliant Club has been rewarding on many levels. The pupils are engaging and keen and I learned a lot from them. This experience has given me an awareness of how to engage non-specialist audiences in research that may initially seem intellectually challenging. I have perhaps never felt greater achievement than when a group of 12 students were begging me to replace their Science teacher. Furthermore, I was astonished by the quality of final assignments they produced. I got great satisfaction from groups of 12/13 years olds submitting final assignments, having used biomedical journals as sources, correctly referenced in Harvard style.

Author: Cameron Hird is a PhD Researcher in Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter. You can find out more about Cameron and his research here.