What is a Russell Group university?

Cardiff university campus

When researching which university in the UK to study at, there are many factors to consider and you may encounter some new phrases too. One that you may have seen is ‘Russell Group’, but what is a Russell Group university? This association of 24 public research universities was established in 1994. They all value a focus on research and impact, and work together to create stronger communities and ideas for the future. They are considered to be some of the top universities in the UK and in the world.

Which universities are in the Russell Group?

The group is a self-selected association and includes Cardiff University, Durham University, University of Oxford and University of Sheffield among others. Cardiff joined the group in 1998.

Full Russell Group universities list:

  • Cardiff University
  • Durham University
  • Imperial College London
  • King’s College London
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Newcastle University
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • University College London
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Exeter
  • 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
  • University of York

History of the Russell Group

The association started in 1994, when the heads of each of the foundation institutions began to meet at the Hotel Russell in London to share advocacy strategy to the UK government. More universities joined in the following years, and in 2007, the group developed into an organisation with an agenda to ensure that universities can maintain their high standards and world-leading status as research bodies.

What makes a Russell Group university?

There are many benefits of studying at a Russell Group university, which will have an ongoing positive impact on your career long after you have graduated.


Russell Group universities offer world-class research led by academics who involve students in their own work so you can learn by practice. Research topics can range from finding the cures to different forms of cancer to cyber security and beyond.

The benefits of studying alongside academics with Russell Group-level expertise include experience with high-profile projects. Another advantage is that the Group collaborates to win research funding, which not only develops the universities’ reputation, but also increases the chances of further funding in the future. The more high-profile research your university publishes, the greater the reputation for both the university and you.


By learning from academics who work on high-profile research, you will benefit from their experience as well as insight into research methods and existing theories. Teaching at Russell Group universities is often recognised as high quality and includes research-led approaches among other teaching methods, such as mentorship and blended learning. This means you will experience many learning styles to suit your needs.

Learning experiences

It is also important to consider how you will learn at university. Part of the experience is about using the latest equipment in your chosen field and accessing the best opportunities. With reputation comes important funding, which can make a big difference in the facilities and experiences you can access during your studies. These experiences will make you stand out as a candidate when you come to apply for work after graduating.

Links to other sectors

It’s not just your degree that will help you find a job when you graduate, it’s the work experience you have gained too. Studying at a world-class university opens up work experience opportunities and placements across sectors that each university forges with its local and national contacts. By choosing a Russell Group university, you are giving yourself the best chance of accessing these great employment outcomes. Find out more about career skills and employability.

How to get into a Russell Group university?

  • Attitude and preparation - admissions will be looking for students who work hard, are inquisitive when they meet and thorough in their research. If you meet with a representative at a university fair or on the phone, make sure you demonstrate these skills.
  • Grades - these universities expect academic excellence so expect this to be reflected in their entry requirements. However, these do vary across subjects so you may find that one has lower entry requirements for physics, but the highest criteria for engineering. It’s worth researching.
  • Subject choice - choose your high school subjects carefully because some degrees will require a basic knowledge for you to be accepted. For example, to study medicine, you will need to have studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics to the highest level at high school.

Cardiff University is a member of the Russell Group. If you are an international student you can join by starting at the International Study Centre as a pathway to studying your degree. Find out more about the programmes available.


Is a Russell Group degree better?

By choosing a Russell Group university you will be taught by academics who work on high-profile research, benefitting from their experience. Russell Group universities are considered to be some of the top in the world and focus their values on research and working to create stronger communities and ideas for the future.

Do employers prefer Russell Group?

A degree from a Russell Group university can be seen as an extra level of prestige by employers, however, it is important to remember that your skills and knowledge are what counts most. 

What grades do Russell Group universities prefer?

As Russell Group universities are held in high regard, they expect academic excellence from their applicants. The minimum grades required varies depending on your subject choice, which university you apply to and your level of study.