The Best Non-Russell Group Universities

The Best Non-Russell Group Universities in 2024

Deciding where to study for your undergraduate degree is an important choice that can impact your future career prospects, life and earnings potential. With tuition fees rising across the UK, applying to a university that provides good value for money and an engaging student experience is crucial.

In this expert guide, we analyse the top 10 best non-Russell group universities for 2024. You will be surprised that some of the most prestigious UK universities are non-Russell Group universities.

The Russell Group represents 24 of the most prestigious, research-intensive universities in the UK. We look beyond these institutions at other excellent options for students wanting a world-class education without the premium price tag.

Our non-Russell Group universities rankings are based on factors including undergraduate acceptance rates, student satisfaction scores, and the number of undergraduate students enrolled

Read on for a breakdown of each university along with advice on applying to and choosing a good non-Russell Group university.

The 10 Best Non-Russell Group Universities

The 10 best non-Russell Group universities are below, presented from position 10 to 1. 

10. Northumbria University, Newcastle

With an average undergraduate acceptance rate of 20%, Northumbria strikes an excellent balance between accessibility and student quality. Newcastle itself is one of the UK’s top student cities, renowned for its vibrant nightlife and music scene.

Northumbria University, Newcastle
Northumbria University

Northumbria scores very highly for student satisfaction at 85%, suggesting most undergraduates thoroughly enjoy their time here. The university has a substantial undergraduate cohort of around 17,000 students, meaning lots of opportunities to make new friends while studying.

9. University of Reading

Reading welcomes a diverse mix of UK and international students to its parkland campus situated close to London. 

The university scores very well for student satisfaction at 88%, with undergraduates praising the engaging teaching, modern facilities and abundant sports teams and societies. With an average undergraduate acceptance rate of around 28% Reading University is considered competitive.

University of Reading
University of Reading

Reading enjoys strong links with global businesses such as Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco Systems. These corporate partnerships create opportunities for internships, mentoring schemes and guest lectures. 

An impressive 96% of Reading graduates secure employment or further study within six months of finishing their degree.

The average entry requirement for the University of Reading is AAB, however, keep in mind it can be different depending on the subject you choose.

8. University of Strathclyde

Based in the heart of Glasgow city centre, Strathclyde provides Scottish charm coupled with a powerhouse business education. Undergraduates can take courses across science, engineering, humanities and social sciences disciplines. The average acceptance rate is around 22%.

With 83% student satisfaction, most students are happy with the teaching quality, state-of-the-art campus and friendly student culture. 

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is the most recognised Business School, winning the Times Higher Education University of the Year award twice.

Strathclyde welcomes undergraduates from over 100 countries, making it a wonderfully diverse and multicultural place to study. To secure an offer you will need to have a typical AAA in A-Levels. 

7. University of the Arts London

Spanning 6 unique arts colleges, the University of the Arts London allows students to develop creative talents while collaborating with industry partners like the BBC, Vivienne Westwood and O2. 

The university scores 79% for student satisfaction, with undergraduates praising the specialist creative facilities and tutor support.

University of the Arts London

Prospective students face fierce competition for places with the university accepting just 12% of undergraduate applicants on average

Successful candidates can immerse themselves in a thriving local arts and culture scene across London’s design and fashion districts.

6. University of East Anglia

Set in parkland just outside the cathedral city of Norwich, the University of East Anglia provides a tranquil setting to focus on academic studies. With 86% student satisfaction ratings, undergraduates are very happy with the teaching quality, picturesque campus and community atmosphere.

University of East Anglia

The acceptance rate for undergraduates is around 24%.

The university punches well above its weight on graduate employment outcomes, ranking in the UK’s top 15 for graduate prospects

Students have access to work experience schemes with big local employers like Aviva, Mars Petcare and the BBC to boost employability.

5. University of Surrey

Located on a beautifully landscaped campus just 30 minutes from central London by train, Surrey manages to offer small university charm alongside global connections. 

University of Surrey, in the top non-Russell Group Universities

With stellar student satisfaction scores of 89%, undergraduates praise the engaging teaching style, abundant sports teams and societies and friendly atmosphere. Also, it’s considered a very competitive university with an average acceptance rate of 18% for undergraduate degrees.

Surrey shines for student experience in the Times Good University Guide 2022, ranking an impressive 4th place nationally. Graduates are also highly prized by employers, with 91% securing professional jobs or postgraduate study shortly after finishing their degree.

4. Lancaster University

Lancaster balances academic pedigree with a friendly campus lifestyle in the historic city of Lancaster. It’s one of the best non-Russell Grup universities. The Lancaster University acceptance rate is around 25%. 

With 87% student satisfaction ratings, undergraduates speak highly of the varied course choices, flexible degree structures and sense of community. 

Lancaster University, on of the best non-russell group universities
Lancaster University, photo credits: Lancaster University Facebook page

You will need to get at least AAB in A-Levels or 32 points in International Baccalaureate. 

Internationally, Lancaster enjoys partnerships with elite universities worldwide including Yale, Melbourne and Leiden Universities. These global links create exciting exchange program opportunities for adventurous students. 

Impressively, over 50% of Lancaster graduates go on to further study after their bachelor’s degree.

3. Loughborough University

We could not agree more, Loughborough University is in the top 3 non Russell Group universities. It’s even better than some Russell Group institutions. 

Renowned for sports excellence coupled with outstanding graduate employment rates, Loughborough provides superb career preparation alongside a fun student experience. 

Beautiful building of Loughborough University

The university ranks an incredible 90% for overall student satisfaction, with positive reviews across teaching, accommodation, sports facilities and nightlife.

Based in the East Midlands, Loughborough enjoys enviably high graduate prospects including the best rating for graduate employment among all mainstream English universities. 

Over 30% of graduates go straight into professional occupations.

2. University of Bath

The University of Bath is one of the best UK universities in general. It’s non-Russell Group. Accepts only around 14% of undergraduate applicants per year.

With a supreme 92% student satisfaction score, Bath emerges as one of the UK’s happiest universities and a hidden gem among non Russell Group institutions. 

University of Bath, the leading UK university and one of the best non-Russell Group Universities
University of Bath

Surrounded by a green campus in the delightful city of Bath, the university excels across teaching, research, graduate prospects, community spirit and facilities.

Don’t be surprised if get rejected, entry requirements are very high. To get the contextual offer you will need at least A*AA or A*A*B in A-Levels. 

Bath punches well above average on graduate outcomes, ranking 5th nationally for graduate prospects with over 80% entering professional occupations or postgraduate study six months after finishing their degree. 

Students speak glowingly of the engaging, supportive teaching staff and innovative degree programs.

1. University of St Andrews

As Scotland’s first university founded way back in 1413, St Andrews combines first-class education with captivating history and architecture. It’s the best non-Russell Group university in the UK. 

University of St Andrews, the best non-Russell Group university and the leading Higher Education institution in Scotland
University of St Andrews

On top of that, it’s one of the best UK universities right behind Oxford and Cambridge. These 3 best unis are often called Stoxbridge.

The University of St Andrews has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the UK with just 8%. 

With stunning Gothic buildings dotting coastal parkland overlooking the North Sea, the university provides an unforgettable backdrop to student life.

Scoring an exceptional 95% satisfaction rating, St Andrews students rave about the intimate teaching style, abundance of traditions and societies and close-knit college community. 

St Andrews graduates are highly sought after by top employers, with one in five securing jobs in London.

Why Choose a Non-Russell Group University?

Beyond the academic prowess, beautiful campuses and glowing graduate prospects highlighted above, non Russell Group universities beat their more illustrious Russell Group rivals in a few key areas:

Acceptance Rates Non-Russell Group universities generally have higher undergraduate acceptance rates averaging between 12-28% versus 15-16% for Russell Group institutions. This makes non-Russell universities more accessible to a wider pool of applicants.

Teaching Quality with student satisfaction scores mostly exceeding 85% for the non-Russell Group universities listed earlier, undergraduates are extremely happy with the teaching standards, personalized tuition support and engaging curriculum.

Fees Non-Russell Group universities have lower tuition fees on average compared to elite Russell Group institutions. This reduces financial barriers, making universities more affordable and accessible for disadvantaged students.

When combined with lower living costs and student accommodation away from expensive cities like London, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Oxford, studying at a non-Russell university is generally cheaper overall.

With excellent teaching, enviable graduate outcomes and more reasonable pricing, non-Russell Group universities compete admirably with their more upmarket Russell Group counterparts on the key metrics that matter most.

For a life-changing university experience without the premium fees, a non-Russell Group institution makes perfect sense for many students.

Acceptance rates for Non-Russell Group Universities

Below are acceptance rates and the number of undergraduate students for the top 10 non-Russell Group universities.

UniversityAcceptance RateNo of Undergraduate Students
Northumbria University, Newcastle20%16,965
University of Reading28%13,715
University of Strathclyde22%15,430
University of the Arts London12%7,295
University of East Anglia UEA24%10,680
University of Surrey18%13,685
Lancaster University25%12,225
Loughborough University15%7,150
University of Bath14%7,245
University of St Andrews8%4,980
Acceptance rates for the best Non-Russell Group Universities

Are Non-Russell Group Universities Cheaper?

University tuition fees at publicly-funded universities are capped at £9,250 per year for UK and EU students across England. So superficially, annual fees are identical regardless of university status or prestige.

However, Russell Group universities have more freedom to set higher fees of over £10,000 for lab-based science and engineering degrees requiring extra facilities and equipment costs. The government relaxes fee caps in these niche cases.

Delve deeper, and non-Russell Group universities reveal lower costs in a few key areas:

  1. Lower living costs

Non-Russell Group universities are typically based outside of expensive big cities like London. With cheaper rents and lower general living costs, student outgoings are reduced.

  1. Fewer additional course costs

Students claim niche Russell Group science, engineering and clinical degree courses include substantial additional costs for field trips, materials, one-on-one tuition and external exams. 

These can add several thousand pounds over a 3-4 year degree.

In contrast, breadth subjects like business, humanities and social sciences have fewer lab materials or compulsory extras at non-Russell Group universities. This greater fee transparency helps students budget accurately.

While annual tuition fees run fairly equally between universities, delve deeper and non-Russell Group institutions reveal lower living and additional course costs for UK students. 

This improves affordability and access for students from low-income backgrounds.

With world-class education, standout graduate employment rates and more reasonable pricing, studying at a non-Russell Group university brings superb value for money alongside life-changing experiences.

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