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What is the Russell Group, and why does it matter?

26 Oct 2018 - Barni Homden

A number of universities in the UK belong to what is known as the ‘Russell Group’, and are keen to point the fact out. But what is the Russell Group, and why does it matter? This blog aims to explain the history and purpose of this famous British organisation, and its significance for international students.

So, what is the Russell Group?

In 1994, a group of 17 public research universities joined together, forming an association to represent their interests to the UK government. This association became known as the Russell Group, as its first meeting took place at the Hotel Russell in London’s Russell Square.

Owing to the prestige and reputations of its members, the Russell Group has become a sign of excellence in higher education. Many of the UK’s top universities, across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, are members of the group, which now consists of 24 institutions.

In this way, the UK’s Russell Group is similar to the Ivy League in the USA, which is made up of some of America’s top universities.

What does being a member of the Russell Group mean?

Apart from being a symbol of academic prestige, the Russell Group has a set of stated objectives. These include being leaders of research within the UK, attracting the best staff and students, and encouraging collaboration between members.

Between them, the Russell Group universities receive two-thirds of all research grants from the government. They produce 68% of the UK’s ‘world-leading’ research, and 68% of the country’s research with an ‘outstanding impact’, according to the Research Excellence Framework.

It can also prove beneficial to graduates, as many employers will be impressed with a degree from a Russell Group university.

Studying at university in the UK

However, that doesn’t mean to say that you need to go to a Russell Group university to get a good degree. There are still many superb universities in the UK that are not members, including those frequently ranked in the top 10. There are also other networks of universities to be aware of, such as Universitas 21. It is always best to find the university that suits your needs, and is best placed to help you achieve your academic and career goals.

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