The Russell Group is a collection of 24 leading UK universities. They aim to set a high standard of teaching and research, and it’s true that many of the universities take research very seriously indeed. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Russell Group produced 68% of the UK’s ‘world leading’ research.
So where did the name come from? The Russell Group wasn’t put together by a man named Russell, or for the damp squib of a joke you can make with their name: “What universities can you find hiding in bushes? The Russell Group.” Russell, rustle – geddit? Go on, force a laugh at that. The name actually derives from the fact that their first meetings took place in the Russell Hotel in Russell Square, London.
However, despite its slightly flimsy name, the Russell Group is a bit of a heavyweight in the higher education sector. One in five of all higher education students in the UK attend a Russell Group university and they are particularly renowned for the sciences, producing 30% of UK’s science and engineering graduates, and a staggering 80% of doctors and dentists.
What are the Russell Group universities?
Russell Group universities are dotted around the UK. London is the city with the most Russell Group universities, whilst most of the major cities in the UK have one:
- Cardiff University
- Imperial College London
- King’s College London
- London School of Economics & Political Science
- Newcastle University
- Queen’s University Belfast
- University College London
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Glasgow
- University of Leeds
- University of Liverpool
- University of Manchester
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of Warwick
New Members in 2012
- Durham University
- Queen Mary, University of London
- University of Exeter
- University of York
So should I be making a beeline straight for a Russell Group university?
There are those who’ll tell anyone who will listen that the only universities worth going to are part of the Russell Group, but this kind of snobbery isn’t necessarily justified.
Whilst being part of the Russell Group might be a measure of prestige, there are plenty of well-respected universities who aren’t members. For starters, some non-Russell Group universities frequently score higher than some members of the Russell Group in national university rankings. Top universities, such as St Andrews, Lancaster, Bath, Loughborough, Sussex and Leicester, are regularly ranked highly but don’t belong to the Russell Group.
Equally, you might find that a non-Russell Group university better caters for your educational requirements, or is better for your desired course. Russell Group universities also have come under criticism in the past for having a particularly high intake of private school students and for creating a two-tier system in higher education.
Ultimately, whether or not a university is part of the Russell Group shouldn’t be a key factor when deciding which university to attend. Pop it into your pros and cons list maybe, but, to quote Mr. T, “pity the fool who only considers Russell Group universities.”