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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

What is a Russell Group university?

Find out all you need to know about the Russell Group of universities in the UK, including which institutions are considered Russell Group universities and why should you study at one of these universities.

What is a Russell Group university?

If you’re thinking of studying in the UK, you may have heard an institution being described as a “Russell Group university”, but what exactly does this refer to? We answer all of your questions. 

What is a Russell Group university?


The Russell Group of universities is a collection of 24 premier institutions in the UK that are renowned for the quality of their teaching and research. They are 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, such as Harvard University and Yale University. 


What institutions are part of the Russell Group of universities?

You may not be familiar with exactly which institutions are on the Russell Group universities list. They are:



Where did the Russell Group come from?


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


Where do the Russell Group universities rank?


Universities that are part of the Russell Group are ranked highly on a number of the key rating scales including the QS World University RankingsTimes Higher Education World University Rankings and the Complete University Guide University League Tables


In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 four of the top 20 universities in the world belong to the Russell Group namely the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London.


According to the QS World University Rankings 2021 five Russell Group universities make the list of the top 20 institutions in the world, including the University of Edinburgh. The Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021 has 60 per cent of its top 10 universities in the UK made up of Russell Group institutions. This includes the London School of Economics and Political Science and Durham University.  


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 seven applicants accepted for each spot and as many as 20 applicants for some of the most popular courses. There are a few reasons why you should study at a Russell Group university:


Student satisfaction and quality

Numerous international student surveys have all found higher rates of satisfaction with the teaching quality at Russell Group universities. This also extended to the graduate outcomes experienced by alumni of these institutions, with good job prospects and international degree recognition. 


Lowest dropout rates

Completion rates at Russell Group universities are higher, with the lowest rates for those who dropped out before completing their qualification. In the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021, nine out of 10 of the universities with the highest graduate completion rate were Russell Group institutions. 



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


Progression to postgraduate study

Are you looking beyond undergraduate study? Russell Group universities have some of the highest rates of undergraduate students proceeding on to postgraduate study. 60 per cent of all PhD degrees awarded in the UK are awarded by Russell Group institutions. What is also notable is that Russell Group Universities often secure significant research funding meaning they can attract world-class academics and produce high-quality research.


Graduate outcomes

A study found that, on average, graduates from Russell Group universities attract a top salary of approximately 10 per cent 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 as perfect as possible. 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.


Start looking for a Russell Group university now by using our course matcher tool to see if you’re a match. 


Study in the UK


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