Student Advice

Everything you need to know about red brick universities

Sarah Jones  · Nov 1st 2023  · 3 min

While the term “red brick” universities arose due to the building’s features, it has become a distinct group of universities in the UK. While the look may be less red brick, the universities still hold many unique qualities.


What are the red brick universities?

The original red brick universities are those that received their Royal Charter to become independent universities in the 20th century. This was after they were created in response to the growing demand for a technical and scientifically skilled work post-Industrial Revolution.

Universities that labelled "red brick" get their name from the fact they are newer than more established universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge as well as newer, but pre-Victorian, universities like University of Durham.

Due to the architectural trends of the time, with distinct terracotta brick used for the buildings across the sites of these institutions, so came the name red brick university. The University of Liverpool was built with red bricks, which led to the term being coined by Professor Edgar Allison Peers to describe this group of institutions.

Which universities are red brick?

The answer will depend on who you ask. There isn't an official list, the as universities that are categorised as 'red brick' is up for debate.

Many will tell you there are six red brick universities, which are:

However, at the end of the First World War, many other institutions from the Victorian era become universities. These include Newcastle University, the University of Reading and the University of Nottingham. Despite their different architectural styles, these universities can be considered ‘red brick'.

Red Brick vs. Russell Group universities

Interestingly, these are not two distinct groups. Most of the red brick universities are also listed as part of the 24 institutions that make up the Russell Group of universities. However, not all the Russell Group are red brick. The Russell Group also includes University of Durham, University of Oxford and more.

It has been previously been believed that red brick universities don't hold the same regard as other, older universities that are part of the Russell Group. However, it's important to look beyond the name and see how each university stacks up against the rest for your chosen course and the features of a university you care about the most.

Should I attend a red brick university? Are red brick universities better?

As with considering any university to attend, you should look at how it aligns with what you want out of your course. Red brick universities historically offer more technical training for science and engineering.

While many still excel in these areas, they also now offer a wider range of courses from literature to arts. Have a look at the specific courses they offer and how they rank against other universities.

What are the entry requirements for a red brick university?

Each of the universities and courses will vary as to the entry requirements they require. One thing is guaranteed, you'll need to submit a UCAS application and personal statement for the course of your choice. Don't miss a deadline with our student calendar!

At the time of applying, you will need your predicted grades. Later, when the university accepts your place, this will be based on your results on A-Level Results Day and the UCAS points this is equal to. For international students, you are likely to also need to take the International Language Test System (IELTS) or similar.

Are red brick universities harder to get into?

Like many others in the Russell Group, these universities are among some top-rated in the country. Generally, this means the A-Level result entry requirements are likely to be higher than most other universities. Each subject and university will be different, so be sure to check out the individual universities for more information.

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