The 1994 Group of universities fuelled its quest for more political influence this week by taking on four new members.
A number of institutions had expressed interest in joining the lobby group, which is composed of small research-intensive universities, including Exeter and Durham.
But this week the group confirmed that it would be admitting only four new institutions - Leicester University, Loughborough University, the School of Oriental and African Studies and Queen Mary, University of London. This will bring the total number of members to 19.
The 1994 group has stepped up its behind-the-scenes lobbying in Westminster and is keen to establish itself as an important voice for the higher education sector.
Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of Leicester, said: "This is a milestone for Leicester - the impact of which extends far beyond one of perception."
Paul Webley, director-designate of Soas, said: "Membership of the 1994 Group is an important step for Soas, which has an outstanding international profile but has been a little less visible in the UK.
"This will help it to play a much fuller part in the higher education sector."
The 1994 Group has begun working with the Russell Group on issues of shared interest where the two can have more impact if they work together.
But the group distinguishes itself from the Russell Group by stressing the quality of student experience at smaller research- intensive universities.