The Russell Group represents 24 leading universities in the UK which are committed to maintaining excellence in research and teaching.
These top UK universities play an important role in the country’s intellectual, economic and cultural life.
If thinking about Russell Group, read our guide How to apply to Russell Group Univeristies?
So, to find out what are the Russell Group universities and a full list of members continue to read our in-depth guide.
History of the Russell Group
We need to scratch a little in the past to better understand where you are applying.
The Russell Group was formed in 1994 when the heads of 17 of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities began informally meeting at the Hotel Russell in London to discuss common interests and challenges.
The group was named after the location of these initial meetings – Hotel Russell.
In 2006, the Russell Group was formally established as a non-profit organisation.
Dr Wendy Piatt was appointed as the first Director General to represent and promote the interests of member institutions.
The aim was to help create conditions for member universities to continue delivering world-class research, education and impacts for the benefit of the UK.
Over the years, the membership has grown to the list of 24 universities that are spread across the UK and includes prestigious institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.
What is the Russell Group?
The Russell Group represents 24 research-intensive universities in the UK that are committed to maintaining excellence in teaching and research.
Some key facts about the Russell Group:
- Established in 1994, formally incorporated in 2006
- 24 leading UK universities focused on research and teaching excellence
- Includes top global universities like Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial, Edinburgh
- Accounts for over 75% of university research grant income in the UK
- 15% of UK universities but award 60% of doctoral degrees
- Educates around 600,000 students every year
The main aims of the Russell Group are to:
- Promote excellence in research and teaching in UK universities
- Attract talented students and academics from around the world
- Engage with businesses to drive innovation and economic growth
- Contribute to public policy and civil society through research
- Sustain diverse academic communities and outstanding student experiences
- Collaborate internationally to address global challenges
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What are the Russell Group universities?
There are 24 Russell Group universities located across the UK.
Here is the full list of Russell Group universities members:
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- Cardiff University
- Durham University
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Exeter
- University of Glasgow
- Imperial College London
- King’s College London
- University of Leeds
- University of Liverpool
- London School of Economics
- University of Manchester
- Newcastle University
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- Queen Mary University of London
- Queen’s University Belfast
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University College London
- University of Warwick
- University of York
The Russell Group is sometimes likened to the American Ivy League colleges in terms of prestige and research intensity.
However, there are some notable differences – Ivy League universities are all private, focused only on undergraduate education, and have a shared athletic conference.
Is the Russell Group still relevant in 2024?
Despite being formed over 25 years ago, the Russell Group remains highly relevant and influential in UK higher education today. As leading research powerhouses, Russell Group universities continue to:
- Drive innovation through world-class research and business collaboration
- Attract top students and academics from across the globe
- Produce distinguished leaders in every profession and field
- Anchor economic growth in towns and cities across the UK
- Generate billions in revenue through research, contracts, exports
- Address global issues like climate change, inequality and healthcare
While the landscape of UK higher education has evolved, Russell Group universities have maintained their commitment to excellence and reputation as being among the best in the world.
Their enduring prestige helps the UK sustain its position as a global leader in education, research and knowledge economy.
How many Russell Group universities are there?
One more time to mention – there are 24 universities that are current members of the Russell Group, which makes up around 15% unis in the UK.
This number has gradually grown over the years, as new members that meet the criteria for excellence in research and teaching have joined.
The original membership in 1994 was 17 universities. By 2006 there were 20 members, including Cardiff, King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh.
The latest additions were in 2012 when Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary University of London and York joined.
While the Russell Group represents around 15% of UK universities, these 24 leading institutions are important.
Russell Group universities educate over 600,000 students annually, employ 190,000 staff, and generate billions in economic activity.
Their concentration of research power allows the UK to punch above its weight globally.
Russell Group members produce 68% of all university research grant income in the UK.
What is the goal of the Russell Group?
Its core mission is to promote conditions that allow member universities to thrive and continue delivering world-class research, education and broader impacts that benefit society.
The Russell Group universities attract 155,000 international students from outside the UK.
By promoting conditions for member universities to thrive, the Russell Group strengthens the UK’s reputation for world-leading higher education and research.
Their universities aim to discover new knowledge, create opportunities for students, drive innovation, and engage with society.
Why Russell Group universities have the best universities in the UK
There are several reasons why Russell Group universities dominate higher education in the UK:
- A critical mass of research excellence: Concentrating research talent and funding creates a virtuous cycle of discovery and impact across disciplines.
- Global talent magnets: Renowned expertise and facilities attract the brightest minds as academics and students.
- Prestigious brands: Long histories and famous alumni breed loyalty and recognition worldwide.
- Robust funding: Billions in competitive research grants, donations and contracts fund cutting-edge work.
- Close industry links: Proactive collaboration with business and the public sector drives innovation.
- Outstanding teaching: Students learn from leading experts at the forefront of their fields.
- Top facilities: State-of-the-art labs, libraries, equipment and learning spaces enable excellence.
- Selective entry: Highly competitive admissions attract the most ambitious and capable students.
Are Russell Group universities good?
Yes, Russell Group universities are widely regarded as the best in the UK and among the best in the world in terms of teaching, research, facilities, student outcomes and reputation.
There is intense competition for entry to Russell Group universities each year.
Undergraduates at Russell Group institutions scored an average of 480 UCAS points, equivalent to AAAA at A-level, compared to 335 points at other UK universities.
93% of Russell Group students reported they were satisfied with their course in the 2022 National Student Survey, higher than the 89% national average.
Russell Group graduates also enjoy higher employment rates and average salaries compared to other universities, according to government data.
They make up around 68% of the UK’s research programmes.
Globally, 18 of the 24 Russell Group universities rank in the top 150 institutions worldwide in major rankings like Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings.
Do employers prefer Russell Group graduates?
When we talk about employment rate, graduates from Russell Group universities are highly sought after by top employers.
Surveys show employers actively target Russell Group institutions for recruitment owing to the reputation for attractiveness and preparedness of their graduates.
According to 2022 High Fliers research, the most-targeted universities by major graduate employers were all Russell Group institutions – with Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Bristol and Durham making up the top five.
Russell Group graduates develop valuable skills like independent learning, problem-solving and critical thinking.
They benefit from world-leading teaching, research-led curriculums and high-calibre peers.
As a result, Russell Group graduates enjoy higher employment rates and salaries.
For example, median salaries for Russell Group graduates were £24,000 six months after graduating compared to £22,000 for graduates from other universities.
What are the tuition fees for Russell Group Universities?
Tuition fees for full-time undergraduate degrees at Russell Group universities are around £9,250 per year for UK and EU students, the current maximum cap set by the government for English universities.
Most courses and subjects have the same annual fee.
International students studying at Russell Group universities pay higher fees that average between £19,000 to £38,000 per year depending on the institution and course.
For UK/EU postgraduate degree courses like Masters and PhDs, fees are set by universities themselves.
Among Russell Group institutions they typically range from £7,000 – £26,000 per year. Costs are usually higher for international postgraduate students.
However, Russell Group universities provide millions in bursaries and scholarships to help students fund their studies. On average, Russell Group universities spend around £6 million per year on student financial support for UK undergraduates.
Scholarships available at Russell Group universities
All Russell Group universities offer various bursaries, grants and scholarships for students, including:
- Merit scholarships – for academic excellence, awarded automatically or via competitions
- Subject-specific scholarships – for students in key focus areas like engineering or sciences
- Sports scholarships – for outstanding athletes and performers
- Needs-based bursaries – for students from lower-income backgrounds
- International scholarships – aimed at top overseas students
- Chevening Scholarships – British government scholarship for talented students around the world
Scholarship amounts vary between £500 – £10,000 per year. Eligibility criteria also differ depending on the university, course and the student’s circumstances.
In addition, external organisations provide scholarships for studying at Russell Group universities – like the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships which support postgraduates to study at Oxford.
Students are encouraged to explore all possible sources of funding and assistance. University admissions and student services teams can advise on scholarships available.
Final thoughts on the Russell Group
The Russell Group represents 24 of the UK’s most prestigious universities which play an outsized role in Britain’s intellectual, economic and cultural life.
While the group itself is less than 30 years old, its members include some of the oldest, most respected higher education institutions in the world.
Russell Group universities consistently rank among the best globally for research, teaching, graduate outcomes and reputation. They aim to sustain excellence and provide outstanding education and research that benefits society.
What is a Russell Group university?
The Russell Group is a self-selected association of 24 research-intensive universities in the UK committed to maintaining excellence in teaching and research.
What are the top 3 Russell Group universities?
The top 3 Russell Group universities according to global rankings are generally agreed to be Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London.
Is the Russell Group equal to the Ivy League?
No, there are some key differences. The Ivy League are all private US universities focused on undergrad education. Russell Group universities are public and also renowned for their research and postgraduate study.
How can I apply to study at a Russell Group university?
You apply through UCAS for undergraduate courses, directly to the university for most postgraduate courses, and through certain scholarships for overseas students. Entry is highly competitive.