What is a Russell Group university?
The Russell Group is a self-selected association of 24 public research universities in the United Kingdom. The reason for grouping together was to petition the government to make decisions in the interests of member universities on issues like funding and research. By banding together, Russell Group universities can put more funding, contracts, grants and awards their way. With more money to invest in research and projects, the knock-on effect is that these universities are better equipped to attract the top staff and students, further cementing their academic prestige.
The group was founded in 1994 by the universities themselves, and initially, there were 17. The group got its name from the Russell Hotel in London, where they used to meet.
Which universities make up the Russell Group?
Currently, there are 24 universities within the Russell Group:
- Cardiff University
- Durham University
- Imperial College London
- King's College London
- London School of Economics & Political Science
- Newcastle University
- Queen Mary, University of London
- Queen's University Belfast
- University College London
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Exeter
- University of Glasgow
- University of Leeds
- University of Liverpool
- University of Manchester
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of Warwick
- University of York
It's worth considering that the Russell Group isn't the only prestigious university group out there; the University Alliance (UA), formed in 2006, is an association of British universities made up of technical and professional universities that are on a mission to drive growth and innovation in Britain's cities. The UA focuses on links with business and industry and applied research with real-world impact.
What's so great about studying at a Russell Group university?
Russell Group universities have top-tier teaching, research and student facilities. They also have more teaching staff available per student than other universities. They also have the prestige factor - people know they are difficult to get into so they have a certain wow factor, it’s like telling people you got all A’s at school without implicitly saying it.
The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) is what the government uses to assess the quality of undergraduate teaching in universities and other higher education providers in England. The TEF looks at how many students finish their studies, employment rates after graduation and other factors; within this framework, universities can be graded Bronze, Silver or Gold. It's important to know about the TEF when considering what Russell Group university to go to as, among the group, less than half of the universities carry a Gold rating; the others are rated Silver, Bronze or not at all. On the other hand, many non-Russell universities receive a Gold rating. So depending on what you're looking for, the ideal university for you might be a non-Russell university.
How to get into a Russel Group university?
The Russell Group doesn't have their own set of entry requirements that all universities in the group abide by. Universities and courses all have their own entry requirements. However, these universities tend to ask for high A-level/Scottish higher grades and International Baccalaureate scores. Usually, you need to get all A*s and As in your A-levels, and often straight A*s. But don't take our word for it! Check each university prospectus to find out their typical offers for different subjects.
Are all top UK universities part of the Russell Group?
Many of the UK's top-ranked universities are part of the Russell Group. Still, it's worth noting that other non-member institutions are also highly respected and rank among the best in the world. The following UK universities are ranked firmly among the world's top 200 but are not members of the Russell Group:
- Lancaster University
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Bath
- University of East Anglia
- University of Leicester
- University of Reading
- University of St Andrews
- University of Sussex
Do I need to go to a Russell Group university to get a good degree?
No, and although they're great, they're certainly not the be-all and end-all. Not all top-ranked UK universities are in the group, including St Andrews and Bath universities, even though both are in the top 10 UK universities for 2020.
Remember that member universities set up the group itself - this is partly why they have continued to be so successful, as they have been able to join together to put pressure on the government about things that matter to them.
You might find that there are universities that better suit your needs, depending on the course and subject you want to study, and what you're looking for from teaching, student life, accommodation and other things that are important to you.
Will it make much difference day-to-day?
As an undergraduate, being at a Russell Group university won't have a huge impact on your studies in itself, other than the environment and facilities available. Another area where you will benefit is by having tutors working at the cutting edge of research and passing on their expertise.
If you want to go on to take a masters or PhD, studying at a Russell Group university can work in your favour, particularly if your application demonstrates knowledge of some of the latest departmental research.
Our advice? Don't get too hung up on names and rankings: yes, they carry a certain weight, but the main thing is choosing a course and university that best suits you.
Will going to a Russell Group university help me get a graduate job?
Short answer? Not really! Longer answer? Factors like grades, relevant experience and how well you perform in the interview will be what gets you a job. Having said that, a top-class honours degree from a Russell Group university can help give job applications a certain sparkle and may open up some extra doors when it comes to competitive career sectors.
Russell Group universities offer several beneficial schemes that can make you work-ready when applying for a job. Some big-name recruiters may concentrate on visiting Russell Group universities when running events or exhibiting at careers fairs, giving these students the edge in terms of tips and tactics.