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The Russell Group Universities

The University of Oxford is one of the founding members of the Russell Group.
The University of Oxford is one of the founding members of the Russell Group.

What is the Russell Group?

The Russell Group is a group of 24 universities in the United Kingdom with a shared focus on research and a reputation for academic achievement. The Russell Group universities include the original six red brick universities, which are usually seen as the top-ranking institutions in university league tables in the United Kingdom. Each of the twenty-four Russell Group members hail from the United Kingdom: two are in Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow); one in Northern Ireland (Queen’s University Belfast) and one in Wales (Cardiff).

There are no specific entry requirements for studying at a Russell Group university; every institution has its own admissions process to follow and requirements to fulfill before you will be accepted.

The origins of this prestigious organisation go back to 1994, when it’s 17 original member universities came together to represent themselves collectively, and met at London’s Hotel Russell, which is where the informal name of the group originated. New Russell Group universities have been occasionally added; the group became an official incorporated organisation in 2007.

Anxious about studying abroad as an international student and dealing with homesickness? Why not read our article about culture shock and how to cope with it.

Purpose of the Russell Group

The Russell Group is focused on ensuring world-leading standards in Russell Group universities, especially in the following fields:

  • Sustainable funding – ensuring Russell Group universities can deliver a high-quality experience for students
  • Research – promoting world-leading UK research and innovation that improves lives
  • Immigration – ensuring Russell Group universities can attract and retain global talent to learn, research and teach in the UK
  • Access – continually working to make world-class education more accessible to students of all backgrounds
  • International partnerships – seeking an ambitious future EU relationship and embracing the new global opportunities ahead
  • Environment – championing research into green technology, while lowering the environmental footprint of Russell Group universities

The Russell Group: A Benchmark for UK University Excellence

Russell Group universities receive two-thirds of all UK-based research funding, and contribute greatly to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, cultural and economic life. This is why Russell Group universities attract some of the best students and academics from around the world.

Russell Group universities contribute significantly to the United Kingdom economy through their wide range of excellent research in different topics across many disciplines and industries. 68% of the UK’s top-tier researchers work at Russell Group institutions; in addition, 68% of the UK’s most outstanding academic papers were also based on publications by researchers working at Russell Group universities (according to Research Excellence Framework).

Russell Group universities have superior student employability statistics as well as a larger international student population since they can offer better opportunities than other non-Russell group institutions for international students, with a focus on a welcoming academic and living environment.

List of Russell Group Universities

UniversityYear of Joining Russell Group
Cardiff University1998
Durham University2012
Imperial College London1994
King’s College London1998
London School of Economics and
Political Science
Newcastle University1994
Queen Mary University of London2012
Queen’s University Belfast2006
University College London1994
University of Birmingham1994
University of Bristol1994
University of Cambridge1994
University of Edinburgh1994
University of Exeter2012
University of Glasgow1994
University of Leeds1994
University of Liverpool1994
University of Manchester1994
University of Nottingham1994
University of Oxford1994
University of Sheffield1994
University of Southampton1994
University of Warwick1994
University of York1994

Russell Group University Rankings

Russell Group universities are ranked amongst the highest in the world. However, it must be noted that there are non-Russell Group universities that are also highly respected and world-class. The following UK universities are ranked among the world’s top 200 (in THE or QS rankings) but are not Russell Group universities:

For more information about university rankings and what they really mean, go to our University Rankings Explained article.

Russell Group Degree Advantages: Will it boost my Employment Prospects?

“Russell Group graduates typically receive a 10% salary ‘top-up’ over the others.” – Wendy Piatt, Director, Russell Group Universities

Russell Group universities offer excellent research and academic facilities for graduate study and postgraduate degrees such as PhDs, Masters Degrees, with world-leading professors teaching on campus every day. You will find that many Russell Group universities also provide high quality undergraduate courses, which usually lead on to postgraduate degrees like MBA (Business) or LLB (Law).

Your employment prospects will depend heavily on your grades, work experience and interviews. But having a Russell Group university degree can give you an edge while competing for certain jobs. Moreover, Russell Group universities offer various schemes that make students work-ready before they apply for jobs; these steps are particularly helpful in competitive fields like law, finance and engineering. However, regardless of whether you choose a Russell Group university or not, there is always something interesting out there waiting for you!

Want to read more about how studying abroad can boost your employability? Check out our article about improving your career prospects by studying abroad.

Is Russell Group the same as the Ivy League?

The Ivy League is a group of eight universities in the United States, whose member schools are among the most prestigious in their respective regions. The American East Coast-based Ivy League universities include Harvard and Yale while UK’s Russell Group comprises 24 institutions including Oxford and Cambridge. Just like Ivy League universities in the United States, almost all of the leading universities in UK rankings are Russell Group universities. Whereas these two groups have similarities such as prestige, they differ when it comes to size: with only 8 members for the Ivy League versus 24 Russell Group universities.

Russell GroupIvy League
Degree Structure
3 Years (4 Years with year abroad)4 Years
Degree Structure
Master’s: 1 or 2 Years
PhD: 3 or 4 Years
Master’s: 2 Years
PhD: 4 to 6 Years
Average Costs£20,000 – 30,000 Per Year for international students$50,000 + Per Year for international students
Application ComponentsGrades, Personal Statement, Language Test, Academic Reference, (Subject-related) Extracurricular activitiesGrades, Personal Essay, Supplemental Essay, 2+ Letters of Recommendation, SAT/ACT/GMAT/GRE Scores, Language Tests, Extracurricular Activities
*With some
exceptions for specific courses and Universities
Personal: assessment based on extracurriculars, goals, and candidate qualities
Nature of Application ProcessAcademic: Grades and Subject-related motivationsHolistic: Consider Interests inside and outside classroom
Application Deadlines January via UCASNovember for Early Action/Decision, December-January for Regular Applications

Russell Group Universities in London

London is currently home to 5 Russell Group universities:

  • Imperial College London
  • King’s College London
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • University College London

Of these, Imperial College London is the best-ranked, while University College London is the largest university with nearly 40,000 students.

How can I study at a Russell Group University?

Russell Group universities are selective and have high admissions requirements. They pride themselves in academic excellence, which influences their admission criteria. However, some courses at a Russell Group university might be easier to get into than others. Follow these guidelines to maximise your admission chances:

  • Prioritise Academics – study hard while still in school, as Russell Group universities focus on academic strengths when ranking applicants
  • Include extracurriculars in your education – you could join clubs and societies or even volunteer to work for charitable organisations to show that you care about what’s going on around you. Choose a cause close to your heart so that there will be something motivating and inspiring you everyday, while also highlighting your character to Russell Group universities
  • Get Work Experience – preferably related to your desired course. It’s even better if an established senior employee would write you a reference letter about how great they think your skills are, as well-written references go a long way with admissions officials

When choosing your desired Russell Group university, take into account every important factor such as university location and student body size when making application decisions; make sure you take advantage of virtual or on-campus open days, read student reviews and order prospectuses before taking the final step and applying. All the Best for your journey!

Thinking about studying in the United Kingdom? Read more about studying in the UK as an international student.

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