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Russell Group universities: everything you need to know

What is a Russell Group university? Who are the Russell Group universities? Is attending a Russell Group university important? We answer it all...

Eleanor Foulds
by Eleanor Foulds
Last Updated:
17 Aug 2023

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What's a Russell Group university?

Founded in 1994, the Russell Group universities tend to be long-established and rank high in university league tables. These universites have a focus on research and often have high entry requirements.

Russell Group universities 2023

Membership of the Russell Group doesn't change often, though it's possible for unis to join or to leave the group. At the moment, the universities that make up the group are:

Russell Group university requirements

What A-levels do I need?

Russell Group universities have high entry requirements for most courses. But, the entry requirements will vary depending on the course you're applying to.

For example, if you wish to study psychology at the University of Edinburgh, the standard entry requirements for A-level students is AAA-ABB. However, if you are wanting to study psychology at University College London, you will require an A*AA.

Make sure to check the entry requirements on Whatuni before you apply. This will allow you to plan your A-levels in advance, to ensure that you are taking the subjects necessary for you to be accepted.

Some subjects will require you to have taken particular A-levels. For example, if you wish to study a BSc in biology from the University of York, not only will you need a minimum AAB but this will need to include two science-related subjects.

Do Russell Group universities accept BTECs?

Yes, BTECs are accepted by up to 95 percent of universities and colleges in the UK. Along with A-levels, they are viewed as a valuable qualification. Gaining a Level Three BTEC Extended Diploma is the equivalent to 3 A-levels.

If  you are using your BTEC grades, make sure you know the entry requirements for that particular course. Check out the entry requirements for any courses you’re interested in through Whatuni’s ‘Find a Course’ tool. Note that some courses will require a specific grade in a particular subject.

Benefits of studying at Russell Group universities

Russell Group universities are awarded two thirds of all UK research grants and contract income. This benefits students undertaking research as part of a final year or postgraduate degree dissertation. However, it’s important to note that non-Russell Group universities also offer an equally-high level of research to students.

Due to the scale of research grants Russell Group universities are afforded, this can attract academics at the top of their respective field. Many of these academics do choose, however, to lecture at non-Russell Group universities too.

Russell Group universities also tend to have higher completion rates. In the Complete University Guide’s 2021 League Tables, 9 out of the top 10 universities that ranked highest for degree completion were in the Russell Group.

Russell Group university deadlines

It’s important that you take note of the Russell Group university deadlines.

  • For Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) and most medicine, veterinary and dentistry courses, the application deadline will fall in mid-October. The 2022 deadline is 15th October 2022.

  • For almost all other courses, the application deadline is 25th January 2023. However, students can still apply after this deadline, up until the beginning of Clearing on 5th July.

Regardless of your deadline, ensure that you have the final copy of your personal statement ready to attach to your application. This is one of the most vital components to your application and it is important that you do your research into what makes a winning personal statement.

If you are applying for an Oxford or Cambridge course, make sure your personal statement is well-written and will stand out. Thousands of students apply to Oxbridge every year, so be sure to convey your story, share your thoughts and opinions critically on the subject you’re applying to and display your individuality through your personal statement. Some Oxbridge courses require an interview, where you’ll be asked to expand upon what you have mentioned in your personal statement.

Are Russell Group universities harder to get into in 2021?

Typically most Russell Group universities set higher entry requirements, with these varying between universities.

However in January 2021, the Russell Group chief executive reassured applicants that Russell Group universities will be willing to accept more applications than previous years. He advised that "Russell Group universities will be as fair and flexible as possible to ensure they [applicants] are not disadvantaged in their applications."

When making your final five shortlist of courses to apply for, we suggest stretching your choices. What we mean by this is include one option that you are really 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.

Are Russell Group universities available in Clearing?

Yes, Russell Group universities have courses available through Clearing but they will be limited. It is unlikely that a Russell Group university will have any of its popular courses in Clearing, due to how quickly places are filled.

If you’re planning on applying to Russell Group universities in Clearing or Adjustment, 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 negotiating your place.

To see if any Russell Group unis have Clearing spaces available, use our handy Clearing search tool.

Does going to a Russell Group university matter?

Being in the Russell Group is an indication that a university is research-heavy and is long-established. Depending on what you choose to study, this research element may be an important factor that matters to you.

There can also be a lot of societal pressure to study at a Russell Group university, whether that be from parents, other family members or how these universities are perceived amongst you and your peers. Given that most universities in the Russell Group have traditionally held a highly-esteemed reputation, it is not hard to see why studying at one of these universities is highly-regarded.

But while Russell Group universities may be known for their high academic standards, they are by no means the only institutions which can offer you an excellent education. Being a part of the Russell Group doesn’t give the complete picture of how well your student experience will turn out. What is most important when it comes to choosing a university is that it is a good fit for you. If you are not happy, you are less likely to do well, no matter where you study.

Don’t just choose a university because it is a part of the Russell Group. Take a holistic approach, considering all of the factors that are important to you such as location and size. Make sure that you are attending open days, reading student reviews and ordering prospectuses so that you can make the best, most informed decision.

Feeling ready to look for a uni? Take our snazzy university search tool for a spin!

Who to watch

If you’re interested in learning more about the Russell Group, we recommend tuning into these student influencers, who are documenting their journey...

Made up of Lydie & Hazal, two Queen Mary, University of London students navigating their way through medicine, the girls share their Med School journey, providing tips, advice and insight for those considering being a med student.

Rosie is a 22 year-old Oxford University student who offers advice on all things from writing a personal statement and tips for setting up your room, to advice on productive study and giving an inside peek into life as an Oxford student.

Making her way through an economics degree at the University of Edinburgh, Nayna has amassed a big following both through her Youtube page. Her vlog-style videos touch on what happens in her day-to-day, the tips she has on working productively and how to take care of that all important wellbeing.

If you’re wondering what it’s like being a student in London, then King’s College London student Mei-Ying is the person to check out. Through her Youtube channel she’ll take you through what it's like learning online, how life’s been as a student in lockdown and how to be your best student self.

Through her vlogs, University of Exeter graduate Claire shares all of her tips on how she survived life as a student. Now living in London, Claire still regularly gives her thoughts on how to make the most of your time at university.

"I loved my time at Exeter. It was the perfect fit for me - beautiful campus, my course had a wide variety of modules to choose from and when I wanted a break from studying, I could get involved with anything from cheerleading to cocktail-making through societies on campus."


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