Russell Group

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Russell Group
Formation 1994
Type Association of United Kingdom-based universities
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Region served
United Kingdom
Key people
Wendy Piatt
(Director General)
David Eastwood (Chairman)

The Russell Group is a self-selected association of 24 public research universities, with a shared reputation for academic prestige,[1][2][3][4] situated in the United Kingdom. The group is headquartered in London and was established in 1994 to represent its members' interests, principally to government and parliament; 19 smaller British research universities formed the 1994 Group in response, which has since dissolved. In 2010, Russell Group members received approximately two-thirds of all university research grant and contract income in the United Kingdom.[5]

As of May 2004,[update needed] Russell Group members awarded 56% of all doctorates awarded in the United Kingdom, and over 30% of all students studying in the United Kingdom from outside the EU.[5] In the 2001 national Research Assessment Exercise,[update needed] 78% of the staff in Grade 5* departments and 57% of the staff in Grade 5 departments were located in Russell Group universities.[5]

The Russell Group is so named because the first informal meetings of the Group took place at the Hotel Russell in Russell Square, London, generally shortly before meetings of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK) in nearby Tavistock Square, close to the University of London buildings and, particularly, Senate House.[6]


The Russell Group was formed in 1994 by 17 British research universities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, University College London and Warwick. Three Russell Group members are constituent colleges of the University of London. In 1998 Cardiff University and King's College London joined the group.[7] In March 2001 the Russell Group decided against selecting a preferred option for the future funding of higher education, stating that endowments, a graduate contribution, increased public funding and top-up fees should all remain options.[8] In December 2005 it was announced that the Russell Group would be appointing its first full-time director-general as a result of a planned expansion of its operations, including commissioning and conducting its own policy research.[9] In November 2006 Queen's University Belfast was admitted as the twentieth member of the group.[10] In the same month Wendy Piatt, the then deputy director in the Prime Minister's strategy unit, was announced as the group's new Director General and chief executive.[10]

In March 2012 it was announced that four universities – Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary University of London; and York – would become members of the Russell Group in August of the same year.[6] All of the new members had previously been members of the 1994 Group of British universities.[6]

In January 2013 it was announced that the Russell Group would establish an academic board to advise the British exams watchdog Ofqual on the content of A-Levels.[11]



The Russell Group states that its objectives are to:

  • lead the research efforts of the United Kingdom;
  • maximise the income of its member institutions;
  • attract the best staff and students to its member institutions;
  • create a regulatory environment in which it can achieve these objectives by reducing government interference; and
  • identify ways to co-operate to exploit the universities' collaborative advantage.[5]

It works towards these objectives by lobbying the UK government and parliament; commissioning reports and research; creating a forum in which its member institutions can discuss issues of common concern; and identify opportunities for them to work together.


The Russell Group is led by Wendy Piatt, the Director General and chief executive, and chaired by Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. Piatt previously worked as Deputy Director in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit and as former head of education at the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).[12]


The Russell Group currently has twenty four members,[13] of which twenty are from England, two from Scotland, and one from each of Wales and Northern Ireland. Of the English members, five are from Greater London; three from the Yorkshire and the Humber region; two from each of the North East, North West, West Midlands, South West and South East regions; and one from each of the East Midlands and East regions.

The table below gives the members of the group, along with the date in which they received Royal Charters and their Vice-Chancellors.

University[14] Year of
Royal Chartera
Year of joining Total students (2013/14)[15] Total income
(2013/14, £ millions)[16]
Research income
(2013/14, £ millions)[16]
Current vice-chancellorb
University of Birmingham 1900 1994 32,335 528 112 Sir David Eastwood
University of Bristol 1909 1994 20,170 486 132 Hugh R. Brady
University of Cambridge 1231 1994 19,580 1,504 f 371 Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
Cardiff Universityg 1884 1998 30,180 456 94 Colin Riordan
Durham University 1837 2012 17,190 304 54 Stuart Corbridge
University of Edinburgh 1583 1994 27,625 780 216 Sir Timothy O'Shea
University of Exeter 1955 2012 19,520 324 60 Sir Steve Smith
University of Glasgow 1451 1994 27,390 511 134 Anton Muscatelli
Imperial College Londonc 1907 1994 16,225 865 351 Alice Gast
King's College Londonc 1829 1998 27,645 604 172 Edward Byrne
University of Leeds 1904 1994 30,975 591 133 Sir Alan Langlands
University of Liverpool 1903 1994 21,345 435 84 Janet Beer
London School of Economicsc N/A 1994 10,145 279 27 Craig Calhoun
University of Manchester 2004 d 1994 37,925 886 214 Dame Nancy Rothwell
Newcastle University N/A 1994 22,410 450 102 Chris Brink
University of Nottingham 1948 1994 33,270 572 105 Sir David Greenaway
University of Oxford 1248 1994 25,905 1,174 478 Andrew Hamilton
Queen Mary University of Londonc 1989 e 2012 15,420 349 87 Simon Gaskell
Queen's University Belfast 1908 2006 23,320 298 65 Patrick Johnston
University of Sheffield 1905 1994 26,600 521 129 Sir Keith Burnett
University of Southampton 1952 1994 24,040 484 111 Sir Christopher Snowden
University College Londonc 1836 1994 28,430 1,022 375 Michael Arthur
University of Warwick 1965 1994 25,245 481 90 Sir Nigel Thrift
University of York 1963 2012 16,680 312 55 Koen Lamberts

a The year in which a Royal Charter was granted, where known; in some cases the year of foundation may be earlier. Not all members have Royal Charters.[17]
b Several universities do not use the title vice-chancellor for the administrative head of the university, and some use it in addition to other titles. The Russell Group lists all university heads as vice-chancellors[18]
c Four of the five London-based members (King's College London, University College London, London School of Economics and Political Science and Queen Mary University of London) are constituent colleges of the federal University of London, although all gained degree awarding powers between 2005 and 2014 and now award their own degrees. The fifth London member, Imperial College London, was a college of the University of London but left in 2007 on gaining University status.
d Date of merger of UMIST and Victoria University of Manchester. (Gained their Royal Charters in 1956 and 1880 respectively.)
e Date of merger of Queen Mary College and Westfield College. (Gained their Royal Charters in 1934 and 1933 respectively.)
f Includes Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press; excludes colleges.[19]
g Cardiff University was awarded independent degree-awarding powers by the privy council in 1997. It was awarded university status in 2004, having previously been a constituent institute of the University of Wales (founded 1893).[20]


In 2010/11, 19 of the 20 UK universities with the highest income from research grants and contracts were members of the Russell Group.[16] In terms of total research funding allocations from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in 2007/8, the top 15 universities were all Russell Group institutions.[21] LSE was 21st, due to its focus on less costly social sciences research. Queen's University Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh, were not included in this table, as they are not English institutions. The Russell Group institutions received 82% of the total HEFCE research funding allocation.[21]

The research funding figures depend on factors other than the quality of research, in particular there are variations due to institutional size and subject spread (e.g. science, technology and medicine tend to attract more money).

In 2008, 18 of the 20 members were positioned in the top 20 of Research Fortnight's Research Assessment Exercise 'Power' Table (the other two places being occupied by then non-Russell Group members, Durham University and Queen Mary University of London).[22]


For 2015-16, the top 15 UK universities as ranked by the ARWU[23] and 14 of the top 15 UK universities as ranked by both the QS[24] and THE[25] are members of the Russell Group (the other place being occupied by the University of St Andrews).

University ARWU (Global)a[23] QS (Global)a[24] THE (Global)a[25] Complete (National)b[26] Guardian (National)b[27] The Times (National)b[28]
University of Birmingham 101–150 76 119 18 17 17
University of Bristol 63 37 69 15 35 20
University of Cambridge 5 3 4 1 1 1
Cardiff University 101–150 122 182= 31 27 33
Durham University 201–300 61 70 5 6 5
University of Edinburgh 45 21 24 21 20 22
University of Exeter 201–300 161 93 10 9 7
University of Glasgow 101-150 62 76= 30 24 26
Imperial College London 22 8 8 4 8 3
King's College London 59 19 27 23 36 27
University of Leeds 101-150 87 133= 19 23 14
University of Liverpool 101–150 151 157 39 59 38=
London School of Economics 101–150 35 23 3 13 9
University of Manchester 38 33 56= 28 29 28=
Newcastle University 201–300 162 196= 26 29 23=
University of Nottingham 101-150 70 143 25 28 25
University of Oxford 9 6 2 2 2 2
Queen Mary University of London 201–300 109 98 36 38 34
Queen's University Belfast 301–400 182 200 33 45 31
University of Sheffield 101–150 80 97 27 42 21
University of Southampton 101-150 81 110= 14 14 16
University College London 20 7 14 13 12 10
University of Warwick 151–200 48 80 7 6 6
University of York 201–300 103 131= 17 22 15

a Global ranking; latest available year (2015-2016)
b National ranking; latest available year (2016)

Aldwych Group

In response to the Russell Group's support for tuition fees (and other issues), in 1994 the students' unions of the member universities formed the Aldwych Group[29] as a parallel organisation to represent what they perceive to be the common interests of their students. It was established by money saving expert Martin Lewis (who was general secretary of LSE Students' Union in 1994/5) as a watchdog in response to the creation of the Russell Group.[30][31][32]

The Aldwych Group is so called because it was established at a meeting at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which is located on Aldwych.

Aside from the unions of the Russell Group universities (above), the Aldwych Group is also observed by two other bodies:


'Elite' status questioned

A Durham University academic, Vikki Boliver, published a report in 2015 claiming that the prestigious position of the Russell Group was not based on evidence, but rather successful marketing. Only the universities of Oxford and Cambridge stand far apart from other universities in the UK when analysis was performed on data on academic selectivity, research activity, teaching quality, socio-economic exclusivity and economic resources. The other 22 members of the Russell Group sit in a second tier of universities along with 17 other old universities (which includes University of Aberdeen, University of Bath, University of Dundee, University of East Anglia, Goldsmiths, Heriot-Watt University, University of Kent, Lancaster University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Reading, Royal Holloway, University of St Andrews, SOAS, University of Strathclyde, University of Surrey and University of Sussex). The main difference in results was seen between "old" universities and post-1992 universities.[33]


The Institute of Economic Affairs has argued that the Russell Group acts out of protectionist interests. It is claimed that this will "restrict competition, discourage innovation and encourage inefficiency, thereby depriving students of lower prices and/or greater choice".[34]

Tuition fees

The Russell Group has been prominent in recent years in the debate over the introduction of tuition fees, a measure which it has strongly supported – much to the dismay of the universities' students' unions. Indeed, members of the Group argued that even the fees proposed by the controversial Higher Education Bill would not be sufficient to cover the rising cost of undergraduate teaching, and successfully argued for the right to charge variable fees at much higher rates, so-called top-up fees.[citation needed]

See also


  1. "What is the Russell Group?". Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  2. "A-level students: if you don't get into a Russell Group university, skip going altogether". Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  3. "Do Russell Group Unis Actually Offer Better Teaching?". Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  4. "Four universities join elite Russell Group". Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "The Russell Group Homepage". Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Four universities join elite Russell Group". BBC News. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  7. "Do you want to be in my gang?". Times Higher Education. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  8. "Russell Group keeps funding options open". Times Higher Education. 23 March 2001. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  9. "Russell Group seeks leader to oversee its expanded role". Times Higher Education. 9 December 2005. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Queen's gets key to Russell club door". Times Higher Education. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  11. "Russell Group to advise on A-level content in post-16 shake-up". Times Higher Education. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  12. Crace, John (14 November 2006). "Wendy Piatt: The vice-chancellors' new velvet glove". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  13. "Russell Group extends membership to four more universities". Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  14. "Russell Group: Our Universities". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  15. "2013/14 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (XLSX). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "University financial health check 2015". Times Higher Education. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  17. "Chartered Bodies". Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  18. "Russell Group: Vice-chancellors". Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  19. "Reports and financial statements for the year ended 31 July 2013". Cambridge University Reporter. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  20. "History". Cardiff University. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Hefce funding allocations 2007–08: All institutions". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  22. [1]'s RAE 2008 Power table
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015 – United Kingdom". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "QS World University Rankings 2015/16". Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "THE World University Rankings 2015–2016". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 1 October 2015. 
  26. "Top UK University League Tables and Rankings 2016". Complete University Guide. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  27. "University league table 2016 - the complete list". The Guardian. London. 27 May 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  28. "The Times Good University Guide 2016". The Good University Guide. London. Retrieved 21 September 2015. (subscription required)
  29. Aldwych Group homepage
  30. Student group threatens to boycott national survey, Guardian, 20 January 2006
  31. Universities slam Willetts' 'cut-price' degrees scheme, Independent, 13 May 2011
  32. "What about tax incentives for parents paying university fees?". The Guardian. London. 8 May 2001. 
  33. "Most Russell Group universities ‘little different to other pre-92s’". Times Higher Education. 19 November 2015. 
  34. Institute of Economic Affairs: James Stanfield

External links