Maybe you have heard the term “Russell Group university” or “RG university” when looking for universities and study options. Let’s have a look at what that means:
The Russell Group is an association of 24 universities in the UK, many of which are considered to be among the top universities in the country and the world. The Group was originally founded in 1994.
Some have called the Russell Group the “British Ivy League”, referencing the Ivy League of universities in the USA which includes prestigious institutions like Harvard and Yale.
|University||Year joining Russell Group||Total students|
|Imperial College London||1994||18,400|
|King's College London||1998||32,300|
|London School of Economics and Political Science||1994||11,600|
|Queen Mary University of London||2012||20,100|
|Queen's University Belfast||2006||24,500|
|University College London||1994||40,000|
|University of Birmingham||1994||34,900|
|University of Bristol||1994||24,900|
|University of Cambridge||1994||20,500|
|University of Edinburgh||1994||32,900|
|University of Exeter||2012||24,000|
|University of Glasgow||1994||29,700|
|University of Leeds||1994||34,400|
|University of Liverpool||1994||28,800|
|University of Manchester||1994||40,100|
|University of Nottingham||1994||33,100|
|University of Oxford||1994||24,900|
|University of Sheffield||1994||29,700|
|University of Southampton||1994||24,600|
|University of Warwick||1994||25,700|
|University of York||2012||18,800|
More details on the official RG website.
Twenty and thus almost all Russell Group universities are located in England; two are in Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and one each in Northern Ireland (Queen's University Belfast) and Wales (Cardiff).
If you look at national and international rankings, you will find that almost all of the top-ranked British universities are members of the Russell Group. You can be reasonably sure that a degree from one of those institutions will give you great opportunities later in life.
However, it is difficult to generalise what “better” really means. Most British universities receive an official government rating for the teaching quality in their undergraduate degrees, i.e. Bachelors. This rating is called TEF (Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework) and looks at how many students finish their studies, employment rates after graduation and other factors. Universities can be graded Bronze, Silver or Gold.
Among the Russell Group, only less than half of the universities carry a Gold rating; the others are rated Silver, Bronze or not at all. On the other hand, there are many non-Russell universities that receive a Gold rating. So depending on your individual circumstances and what you are looking for, the ideal university for you might be a non-Russell university.
No. It is true: Many of the UK’s top-ranked universities are part of the Russell Group; but there are other non-member institutions that 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 (in the THE or the QS rankings) but are not members of the Russell Group:
Expect high admissions requirements when applying to a Russell Group university. Oxford, Cambridge and the other member institutions pride themselves with academic excellence, and this influences their admissions criteria.
But it is also very hard to generalise this assumption. Economics at the LSE might be a harder course to get into than, say, History at Cardiff.
That said, follow these general guidelines to maximise your chances of getting into a Russell Group university:
All that is no guarantee to get admitted to a Russell Group university. But if you follow this advice you can definitely increase your odds!
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