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What is the Russell Group?

You may have heard the phrase Russell Group, but perhaps you aren’t sure what it means. Here we explain what the Russell Group is and what its application process looks like.

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Grace McCabe

Content Writer, THE Student
June 21 2022
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What is the Russell Group? 

The Russell Group is an association that represents 24 public research universities in the UK. The group believes that “people and ideas are the key to meeting global challenges. Through world-class research and education, we are helping to create a dynamic economy, stronger communities, and a better future for the UK”.

Established in 1994, the 17 original universities used to meet in the Hotel Russell in London, which inspired their name. More universities joined over the years and the group became an established organisation in 2007.

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It is sometimes thought that these universities are the most prestigious in the UK, however it really depends on which course you choose to study, as it’s unlikely your day-to-day learning will be different from studying at a non-Russell Group university.  

The aims of the Russell Group include working together to lobby the UK government, creating and writing reports, having a forum to discuss concerns and issues, and working together across research projects. 

Which universities are in the Russell Group? 

The Russell Group is made up of the following 24 institutions:

Together these universities generate approximately £87 billion every year for the UK economy. They employ a quarter of a million people and teach one quarter of the UK’s undergraduate students. 

How do you apply to universities in the Russell Group?

Russell Group universities can be applied to through the same central system that all UK universities can be applied to - Ucas. The Ucas application portal allows students to apply to up to five universities in the UK and these include Russell Group universities too. 

Russell Group universities do not have any differences in the application process from any other university in the UK. 

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What are the benefits of attending a university in the Russell Group? 

As an undergraduate, your day-to-day lessons may be delivered by tutors at the top of their field, and you’ll have access to high-quality research facilities.

As a postgraduate student you may find the impact of a Russell Group university more apparent. Students will have access to many research opportunities and top-quality facilities, and can benefit from funding attracted by the Russell Group. 

It is important to note here that you will not be disadvantaged if you do not study at a Russell Group university. It is better to research which universities are good for your chosen course and to choose a location that suits you, rather than focusing on simply choosing a Russell Group university.  

Do employers prefer Russell Group graduates? 

All candidates are judged on their grades, experience and interview performance when applying for a job. However, a degree from a Russell Group university can be seen as an extra level of prestige by employers. When it comes to competitive, research-based roles, a degree from a universally recognised research-led universities can be a bonus. 

Graduates from Russell Group universities have access to several schemes during their studies that provide them with real-world work experience and may set them apart from other graduates when entering the professional world. 

What is the difference between Russell Group and red-brick universities?  

You may have come across the phrase “red-brick university” when researching universities in the UK.

Red-brick universities originally referred to institutions that were in industrial cities and were best known for their engineering courses at the time. This classification is rarely used now, and attending one of these universities will not provide students with any extra benefits (although all the red-brick universities are now part of the Russell Group). These universities are: 

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