Student Advice

What are the different university groups?

Ben Maples  · Jul 11th 2024  · 7 min

Lots of universities belong to specialised groups. These groups can focus on everything from advanced research to creating employment opportunities for students.


It seems as though every time you look up a university, they’re announcing a new partnership of some kind. Don’t worry, it’s not different higher education institutes feeling lonely; these groups all help different institutes achieve specific goals.

What are university groups?

What is a university group?

A university group is a collection of universities working towards a common goal. This can be anything from preserving historically significant buildings to collaboration towards research.

Despite this, there is criticism of certain groups and how they operate. Academics and students see many as “elitist” or are simply questioned on what they provide students with altogether.

Not all of these groups will mean a lot to the average student. The university itself generally takes precedence when picking what university to attend or what course to study. Despite this, university groups can be useful for students to consider when making informed choices.

Ancient Universities of Scotland

There are only four universities in this particular group. This relatively informal group contains Scotland's oldest medieval and renaissance universities. The key point of these universities is that they were founded between 1413 and 1583.

These universities are:

The University of Dundee is also occasionally mentioned in this group. The four main universities are also part of 27 different culturally significant institutions that are recognised as privileged bodies in the UK by the British monarchy.


GuildHE is one of two formal bodies of higher education institutes in the UK. The group is a mixture of colleges, schools and universities. The group's main goal is to advocate for smaller, more specialist universities in different fields.

The members of GuildHE are:

As a group, GuildHE has advised on a number of issues, including governmental procedures and higher education issues. The main specialisms of the members are: agriculture, art, design, drama, music and teacher training.

What are the different university groups?


The Million+ group (sometimes known as MillionPlus) are universities that aim to promote the role of "modern universities". The group is a non-profit organisation and is funded by the members of the group itself.

The members of the Million+ group are:

The name is chosen as, all in all, the total number of students that attend these universities is over a million. The group is considered by many to be a public policy think tank. The Million+ group also aims to improve international business through cooperation for a quality university system.

N8 Research Partnership

The N8 Research Partnership is a group of Northern England's eight most research-intensive universities. The aim of the group is to co-ordinate powerful research teams across the North of England.

The universities in the N8 Research Partnership are:

The group takes its research exceptionally seriously. The group has spent just over £650m per annum on research alone and employs well over 15,000 academic staff. The partnership also has close links to various industries, locally, nationally and internationally.


Okay, to be honest, Oxbridge isn’t really a university group. ‘Oxbridge’ is a portmanteau of the two biggest universities in the UK, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

In all honesty, it makes sense why these two are separated the way they are. Both universities operate very differently from the rest of the UK. Students have to apply to these two unis by October while all other unis have their application deadline at the end of January. . Also, if you’re applying for one, then the other cannot be your insurance choice.

Both universities are collegiate universities and the colleges operate in a very different way to the rest of the UK. The college sare a of tuition, with lecturers and professors from different colleges helping students out.

Fun fact: Oxford has something called ‘local time’. This means that Oxford runs a full five minutes and two seconds behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and their classes are always scheduled for five minutes past the hour. Who knew?

How do university groups work?

Red Brick Universities

Red Brick Universities is a group that comes under a fair amount of debate and discussion in terms of who is a part of the group. Most commonly it’s agreed that there are six members of the group but other universities have unofficially joined being referred to as Red Brick over the years.

The main members of the Red Brick Universities group are:

The University of Nottingham, the University of Reading and Newcastle University have all claimed to be members too.

Russell Group of Universities

The Russell Group of Universities is the most well-known university group in the UK. It’s a university group that focuses on representing the needs and wants of the members of both government and Parliament.

The 24 members of the Russell Group are:

These universities are all research universities. This means that all of these universities specialise in advanced research and will often make hefty investments in this sector.

The group is thought to be a collection of the best universities in England, but this is not necessarily true. Though the Russell Group has several highly sought-after universities such as Oxbridge and Durham, they aren’t impossible to join and don’t all have the highest university degree entry requirements.

Is the RUssell Group the best university group?

Universities UK

Universities UK is an organisation for all universities in the UK. Basically, every single university, college or higher education institute belongs to this group.

There are well over 120 different members. The group is mainly devised as an “advocacy group” which means it’s tasked with supporting universities and promoting them and their interests. The group works to ensure that UK universities are the best in the world and helps universities to learn from each other.

University Alliance

The University Alliance is a group of technical and professional universities. The group looks to drive growth, innovation, and research in the different regions of the UK.

The members of the University Alliance are:

The group has links to the business industry and those in applied research. The group was previously known as the Alliance of Non-Aligned Universities.

Why do these groups exist?

These groups all exist for different reasons. The main goal is to improve the quality of teaching within the UK.

The aims of each group are ongoing. None of these groups have achieved their goals just yet and are always looking to improve as best they can.

Should I take these groups into account when choosing where to study?

Honestly, the group a university belongs to doesn’t make much difference to a student. That isn’t to say that they aren’t useful, though! If you want to work in a specific sector or industry, attending a university that is part of a group with connections to that area may prove useful.

All in all, the groups give students and parents/guardians an insight into how the universities are funded. Most universities will receive a large portion of funding from the various groups they belong to, allowing them to offer more specialised and niche courses to students.

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