What Are Russell Group Universities?

You’ve probably heard of Russell Group universities, but what the term actually means and its relevance to your university search is not always clear. When it comes to deciding which universities to apply to at undergraduate or postgraduate level, having all of the information you need to make an informed decision is invaluable.
To make the process a little easier, we’ve put together this quick and easy guide to Russell Group universities. Whether you want to know which universities belong to the Russell Group, which of its universities are the best, or how to get into one, our experts have all of the insights and top tips to help.

Looking to apply to a Russell Group university? Our team has helped thousands of students get into top Russell Group universities. In fact, over 90% of our undergraduate and postgraduate students receive an offer from their first or second choices. Get in touch with our admissions experts for tailored advice and the best quality tutoring.

What does Russell Group mean?

The Russell Group is a collection of universities in the UK that prioritise high-quality research and academic standards. It was officially established in 2007 and now consists of 24 universities, generally considered ‘the best’ universities in the UK. Together, these universities account for more than two-thirds of the world-leading research produced in UK universities.

Which universities are Russell Group?

There are 24 universities in total that make up the Russell Group. Some of these universities are top-ranking institutions while others sit further down the league tables.
They are:

  • 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 (LSE)
  • 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 (UCL)
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York

What are ‘Red Brick’ universities?

8 of the 24 Russell Group universities are also ‘red brick’ universities. Red brick universities are a collection of 9 long-established institutions that have been producing high-quality research since their founding in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Where do the Russell Group universities rank?

The table below shows each Russell Group university and its ranking in relation to the other Russell Group universities and all universities nationally (according to the latest Complete University Guide league tables). The red brick universities are shown in red.

Russell Group RankingNational RankingUniversity
11University of Oxford
22University of Cambridge
33London School of Economics (LSE)
45Imperial College London
56Durham University
68University College London (UCL)
79University of Warwick
812University of Edinburgh
9=13=University of Exeter
9=13=University of Manchester
1015University of Southampton
1116University of Glasgow
1217University of Bristol
1318University of York
1419University of Birmingham
1520University of Leeds
1621King’s College London
1724University of Nottingham
1825Cardiff University
1926University of Sheffield
2030University of Liverpool
2134Queen’s University Belfast
2237Newcastle University
2341Queen Mary University of London

Are Russell Group universities the best?

Russell Group universities are known for their high-quality research, which is among the best in the UK. However, though belonging to the Russell Group is one marker of a great university, it is by no means the only significant indicator. Several of the UK’s top universities are not Russell Group universities, including the University of St Andrews, Loughborough University, University of Bath and Lancaster University, all of which consistently rank within the top 15 in national league tables.
The Russell Group universities have an exceptional reputation for the quality and quantity of their research. This is especially important when it comes to applying for postgraduate courses, which are more research-based than teaching-based undergraduate courses. Again, though belonging to the Russell Group isn’t the only indicator of a quality university, studying a research Masters or PhD at a Russell Group university will unlock access to leading researchers and resources. If you’re looking to apply to a postgraduate course at a Russell Group university, get in touch with the Profs’ postgraduate admissions team for one-to-one support.

Do graduates from Russell Group universities earn more?

There is some evidence (based on the LEO data set) that graduates from Russell Group universities earn more than non-Russell Group graduates. Recent data has suggested that jobseekers from Russell Group universities can expect to earn up to £13,500 more per year than jobseekers from non-Russell Group universities five years after graduating.
However, there are more significant factors that will affect students’ employability than if they attended a Russell Group university or not, like what course you studied, which degree classification you achieved, and the work experience you have.

What’s the difference between Russell Group and Ivy League universities?

The Ivy League is made up of 8 internationally renowned universities. Unlike Russell Group universities, which are known for their high-quality research (making it particularly attractive for postgraduate study), Ivy League colleges focus primarily on undergraduate study.
Ivy League schools rank far more highly in the world university rankings than Russell Group universities, typically occupying mainly positions 1-10, alongside Oxford and Cambridge. Other Russell Group universities score 10-150 in the international rankings.

Should I apply to a Russell Group university?

Regardless of whether you’re applying for undergraduate or postgraduate study, when you’re deciding which universities to apply to, it’s important to consider a multitude of factors. While looking at league tables and whether the university belongs to the Russell Group is helpful, it’s also worth giving considerable weight to aspects such as:

  • Which grades and admissions tests are required for entry
  • Which modules and academics teach on your chosen course
  • How well-connected a university is with the jobs market and wider industry
  • What percentage of students get a job within 6 months of graduating
  • The student satisfaction rate

Ultimately, the university you choose will set you up for your future academic or professional career, so it’s important that you find which one is right for you. If you’re unsure of which universities are best suited to you or which you are eligible for with your predicted grades, reach out to the Profs’ university admissions team today.

How do you get into a Russell Group university?

Each Russell Group university has its own requirements depending on the course. The top Russell Group universities, like Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial, require top grades ranging from A*A*A to AAA. These universities also require additional entry requirements, including the famous Oxbridge admissions tests and interviews.
The entry requirements of the lower-ranking Russell Group universities, such as Queen Mary University of London and University of Liverpool, range from AAA-BBB. Most of these universities do not require admissions tests or interviews, except for specific courses such as Medicine.

How can The Profs help?

On the whole, places at Russell Group universities are competitive and it’s important to focus on getting the best grades you possibly can to secure a place at the best university for you. The Profs’ expert admissions tutors can help to boost your A Level grades so that you’re in with the best shot of meeting these entry requirements.
We can also guide you through the process of applying to Russell Group universities, as well as other top non-Russell Group universities. Get in touch with us today to access one-to-one support.