What is the Russell Group?
Cast your eyes over the current list of top UK universities as ranked by Times Higher Education and you may notice something that each of these universities have in common; they are all part of the Russell Group – 24 prestigious universities across the nation. In a nutshell, each promises excellent tuition from leading academics in their fields, provides top notch facilities and maintains strong bonds with the business industry which helps graduates find employment. They receive the majority of the research funding in the United Kingdom. Due to this, Russell Group universities often have more bursaries and scholarships available. These universities also have a strong intentional appeal, at present 39% of academic staff and 34% of students are of non-UK nationality.
The cherry on top is that the Russell Group also has a higher than average student satisfaction rating which corresponds with the positive reviews left about these institutions by EDUopinions student reviews, and results in low dropout rate – so you will be in the company of many happy students!
Which Universities Make the Cut?
So where are they? The universities are dotted across the UK. Five are located in London, where you can take your pick from Imperial College, King’s College London, London School of Economics (LSE), Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and University College London (UCL). In the midlands and south, you will find the University of Bath, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, University of Exeter, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Southampton and the University of Warwick.
If you are looking north, your options are Durham University, the University of Leeds, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Sheffield and University of York. In Scotland – the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. Cardiff University represents Wales, and in Northern Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast.
Within the group, the universities do not have a league table. They function individually, each doing their own thing – what links them is their ethos and mission statements. Prospective students often ask if this is the UK’s answer to the Ivy League in the US, however the two serve different functions and are only loosely comparable.
Employability and Application
Are employers aware of the Russell Group? Yes there are. Will a degree from one of these universities guarantee more job security? Possibly. Graduate schemes and FTSE companies in the UK do not specify that their intake be educated at a Russell Group university, although reports suggest that certain places recruit a higher percentage from these 24. For example, many law firms in the City of London appear more likely to recruit graduate solicitors/lawyers who graduate from a Russell Group university. If you have a career path or particular firm in mind that you would like to work for upon graduation, it is worth doing a bit of extra digging to see if they favour Russell Group students or have any ties to them.
If you are applying to study and feeling unsure about what career path you might want to follow, or are opting to take a subject you are passionate about but are not committed to pursuing a career in that field – attending a Russell Group university might give you a layer of security. This is the route I took, when I chose Ancient History for my bachelors at the University of Warwick.
With the exception of Oxford and Cambridge (you can only apply to either or!) you can can submit to as many or as little universities in the Russell Group as you wish – they are individual unities. Some students might only apply for Russell Group universities, some mix it up. As with all universities, you research – just ensure you check the requirements, and research the departments you are interested in. You may find that other UK universities rank more highly in certain fields, for example both St Andrews and Loughborough are in the current top 5 for Business and Management Studies and considered top rated universities – yet neither sit within the Russell Group.
Oxford and Cambridge are known for their grueling admissions process of early applications, interviews and academic and social profile. There are no additional hurdles when applying to the other 22 universities in the Russell Group, and it is not necessary to apply early – you submit your UCAS form (this is how you apply to UK universities) in the usual way.
The key takeaway about the Russell Group is that, as the student, you can rest assured that you are receiving an impeccable level of teaching, and that your overall satisfaction as a student is likely to rate higher. A degree from one of these universities might give you an edge in some professions, and you will stand out on paper. If you fancy a career in academia, a Russell Group university is likely to offer more prospects. Around 200 Nobel Prize winning academics are Russell Group university graduates, if you want to really aim high!