The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

What is a “Russell Group” university?

Read our guide to the Russell Group universities in the UK. Which institutions are considered a Russell Group university? And why should you study at one of these institutions?

University of Nottingham, a Russell Group university

If you’re thinking of studying in the UK, you may have heard the term, “Russell Group university”; but what does this refer to?


What is a “Russell Group” university?

The Russell Group is a collection of 24 universities in the UK that are renowned for the quality of their research. They are also characterised by outstanding teaching standards and are set up to have good links with businesses and the public sector. Russell Group universities are not confined to one single location or campus, nor a specific field of study; instead the Russell Group is a conglomerate of independent institutions that are united by their status of high quality education. Russell Group universities are similar to America's Ivy League schools.


What are the Russell Group universities?

University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
Cardiff University

University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
University of Leeds
University of Liverpool
Imperial College London

King's College London
London School of Economics & Political Science
University of Manchester
Newcastle University
University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
Queen's University Belfast
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University College London
University of Warwick


What are the origins of the Russell Group?

In 1994, 17 British universities came together to form the Russell Group to protect & represent their interests to government and parliament. These were made up of the universities above, excluding Cardiff University and King’s College London (which joined the Group later in 1998) and and Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary University of London; and York (which joined in 2012). 


Why study at a Russell Group university?

Russell Group universities are made up of some of the UK’s leading higher education institutions. Places at these institutions are competitive with around 7 applicants for each spot (and as many as 20 for some of the most popular courses). Here are a few reasons why you should study at a Russell Group university:


Student satisfaction

The National Student Survey, the NUS/ HSBC survey and the i-Graduate international student survey all found higher rates of satisfaction with the teaching quality at Russell Group universities.


Lowest dropout rates

Completion rates at Russell Group universities are higher, with the lowest rates for those who dropped out before completing their qualification.



Universities like Oxford and Cambridge are known worldwide for their academic excellence, high profile alumni and standing in official league tables. Therefore, obtaining a qualification from a Russell Group university means you will receive a qualification from a globally-recognised institution, distinguishing you from other candidates when you begin seeking employment.


Progression to further study

Are you looking beyond undergraduate study? Russell Group universities have some of the highest rates of undergraduate students proceeding on to postgraduate study. In fact as of 2004, over half of all doctorates awarded in the country were awarded by Russell Group institutions.


Graduate lifestyle

A study found that, on average, graduates from Russell Group universities attract a top salary of approximately 10% more over a lifetime compared to other graduates.



How to study at a Russell Group university

As mentioned above, competition for places at Russell Group universities is fierce; so you should ensure that any application you make to a Russell Group university is perfect! You can read our guides to university applications and personal statements to get some tips.

You should also be aware that many top institutions have slightly varying application and admissions processes, compared to other institutions in the UK. These might include earlier application deadlines, so find out about these as soon as possible. These may also include specific admissions tests which you must take too.


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To learn more...

Check out the official Russell Group website

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About Author

University of Nottingham, a Russell Group university

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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