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What are Russell Group universities: all you need to know

08 Jul, 2024
What are Russell Group universities: all you need to know

Are you interested in attending a Russell Group university but are still new to the process? Or are you a parent who wants to know more? This article will give you useful information about the group, its history, and what sets them apart from other UK universities.

We will also tell you how Kings Education fits in as an academic pathway, helping aspiring students (UK and international students) prepare for and access a Russell Group university successfully.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Russell Group

The objectives of Russell Group institutions

The history of the Russell Group

List of Russell Group universities in 2024

Admission criteria for Russell Group universities

Advantages of attending a Russell Group university

Key application deadlines for Russell Group universities

The competitive edge: admissions in 2024

Clearing and Russell Group universities: what you need to know

The impact of a Russell Group degree

The daily life difference at a Russell Group university

Understanding the Russell Group

The Russell Group is a prestigious association which represents 24 leading universities in the UK.

They are spread across every region and nation of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and are renowned for their world-leading research, excellent teaching and outstanding learning experiences.

The Russell Group have a world-class status. In the QS World University Rankings 2025, four of the top 10 universities in the world - Imperial College London (#2), University of Oxford (#3), University of Cambridge (#5), and University College London (#9) - are UK universities and members of The Russell Group.

The Times Higher Education world rankings 2024 has all Russell Group Universities in the top 200.

The high ranking of these universities reflects:

  • the employability of their graduates
  • student satisfaction
  • the positive impact graduates have on private and public sector
  • their research excellence

The objectives of Russell Group institutions

Member universities have formed the Russell Group for the purpose of improving peoples lives/ communities, and by large, the society; The Russell Group’s ethos being "a better future for the UK".

But how is this done? Research.

An attractive factor to the Russell Group for high achieving academics is the research funding dominance. These research-intensive universities receive two thirds of all research grants.

The student benefits:

  • you will have the assurance of being in a hub of high quality, cutting edge knowledge
  • you will have the best possible teachers in your chosen field
  • you will have more resources for postgraduate studies if that is the path you choose

The history of the Russell Group

The origins of the Russell Group stem from wanting a better future for the UK; the 17 original members trying to get their interests better represented to government. This is how it was formed in 1994.

The Hotel Russell in London, where the university heads met, served as the inspiration for the name. But only in 2007 did the Russell Group become a recognised body, and at this point, seven more universities joined.

The Russell Group of universities are long established, and rank highly in the university league tables. The membership does not change often, but it is possible. The current universities that make up the group are as follows.

List of Russell Group Universities in 2024

*listed by their ranking in The Times Good University Guide 2024

Admissions criteria for Russell Group universities

Here, we look at some of the factors relating to admissions at Russell Group universities.

Required A-levels for Russell Group admission

While you can expect the entry requirements to be high for Russell Group universities, make sure to compare between them, as they will differ within your chosen subject.

For example, if you would like to study computer Science:

  • University of Cambridge requires A*A*A
  • Cardiff University requires ABB/BBB

And remember courses may require a specific grade with a specific subject.

Russell Group's acceptance of BTEC qualifications

BTECs are accepted by up to 95 percent of universities and colleges in the UK, including the Russell Group. Alongside A-levels, they are considered a valuable qualification. The BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma is worth three A-levels.

However, just as with A-Levels, if you are using your BTEC grades, make sure you know the entry requirements for your desired particular course.

For example, if you wish to study History:

  • UCL requires 144-168 UCAS points
  • Queen Mary University of London requires 128 UCAS points

Both are members of the Russell Group and in London, but have different entry requirements.

Find out more about UCAS tariff points

Advantages of attending a Russell Group university

For academic students, attending a Russell Group University has a sure advantage in terms of research. Being awarded two thirds of all research grants, this can benefit students doing final year research, or undertaking a postgraduate degree. Moreover, this will attract the top academics in your respective field.

Russell Group universities also tend to have higher completion rates. In the Complete University Guide’s 2024 League Tables, seven out of the top 10 universities that ranked highest for degree completion were in the Russell Group.

Lastly, research has shown that graduates from these universities tend to earn higher salaries and have better job prospects than those from other universities.

Key application deadlines for Russell Group universities

The UCAS application portal allows students to apply to up to five universities in the UK and these include Russell Group universities.

Whilst Russell Group universities do not have any differences in the application process from any other university in the UK, two of its member universities do have slightly different deadlines (University of Oxford and University of Cambridge).

  • For Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) and most Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry courses, the application deadline is in mid-October. The 2024-5 deadline is 15 October 2024
  • For almost all other courses, the application deadline is 31 January 2025. However, students can still apply after this deadline, up until the beginning of Clearing in July.

The competitive edge: admissions in 2024

Typically most Russell Group universities set higher entry requirements than many other universities, although they do vary by university and of course, by degree programme.

When making your final five shortlist of courses to apply for, it can be wise to ‘stretch’ your choices. In essence, this means including one option that you are very interested in but may have a slightly lower chance of getting into, some options that you believe you have a stronger chance of getting into and one safer option. That way, you cover all of your bases.

Clearing and Russell Group universities: what you need to know

Russell Group universities do sometimes have courses available through Clearing but they are likely to be taken up very quickly. If you’re planning on applying to Russell Group universities in Clearing, ensure that you research your choices before you get your teacher assessed grades, so that your results day can be focussed on calling those universities and trying to secure your place.

The impact of a Russell Group degree

Ultimately, your academic achievement, experience and interview will have the most impact when it comes to getting a job – but a top-class honours degree from a Russell Group university can be seen as an extra level of prestige by employers.

  • Renowned for their academic excellence, Russell Group universities are highly respected by employers and can provide students with a competitive edge in the job market.
  • Russell Group universities have extensive cross-sectoral links, including with businesses big and small, public sector partners such as the NHS, and with charities and other partners throughout the whole education, research and innovation systems in the UK.
  • Research has shown that graduates from these universities tend to earn higher salaries and have better job prospects than those from other universities. This can be attributed to the quality of education and the connections made during their time at a Russell Group institution.
  • A survey by graduate recruiter Milkround also found that graduates of these top 24 UK universities are more likely to find work soon after graduating than those from other universities. According to their research, four-fifths of Russell Group graduates entered full-time work within weeks of leaving compared with two-thirds of those from other institutions.

Is daily life at a Russell Group university any different?

Each Russell Group university is a unique institution with its own heritage, culture and strategy. But they all share common characteristics, including high-quality research on a huge scale, an outstanding research-led student experience, and a truly global perspective.

While daily life at a Russell Group university may not be vastly different from other universities in terms of structure, the atmosphere, facilities, and academic communities are second to none.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the top 3 Russell Group universities?

According to the current Times Higher Education world university rankings (2024), the top 3 Russell Group universities are the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Is Russell Group the same as Ivy League?

Both the Russell Group and the Ivy League represent prestigious institutions, but they are separate and located in different countries; the Russell Group are in the UK, the Ivy League in America. One specific difference is that Ivy League universities are all private universities.

Are Russell Group universities popular with international students?

Russell Group universities attract students and staff from around the world who are attracted by the quality, relevance and reputation of research. 32% of students are of non-UK nationality.

Admission requirements and application processes may differ from university to university and programme to programme, so it's important for international students to carefully review the specific entry requirements and application procedures for each.

University pathways with Kings

As we have explored, Russell Group universities are highly regarded both in the UK and internationally, and for good reason.

It is important to note however, that you will not be disadvantaged if you do not study at a Russell Group university. The best advice is always to research which universities are good for your chosen course and to choose a location that suits you, rather than focusing on simply choosing an institution because it belongs to the Russell Group.

Of course, just as important as your choice of university, is your choice of pre-university programme and the school where you complete it. This can also have a big impact on your academic achievements and future success.

At Kings, we offer a range of pre-university programmes at our four UK colleges, from A-levels to specialist foundations for international students, such as the Advanced Level Foundation.

By selecting to study at our UK schools, you will maximise your potential, and be sure of a place at the best possible UK university. All 24 universities in the Russell Group have welcomed Kings students, along with all others in the current Top 50.

For those who require English preparation, we also offer a range of English language programmes, from general English tuition to exam preparation courses and specialist English for career success.

If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programmes, please get in touch with us at