Explaining Russell Group Universities To Your Students

Between studying for their A Levels and deciding which degree course appeals to them most, students have very little time to thoroughly research all of their options in the last year of college or sixth form. As their careers advisor they will look to you for guidance, so ensure you cover all grounds and explain that there is more than one type of university out there…

What is The Russell Group?

The Russell Group is an organisation that represents the top 24 UK universities. Established in 1994 by 17 universities, it has since expanded its membership to include the following prestigious institutions:

Often described as the elite institutions, universities in the Russell Group carry out some of the most highly rated research in the world and welcome students and researchers from across the globe into their academic communities. Each member of the Russell Group is unique although they share some distinguishing characteristics, with each one having immense social, economic and cultural impacts throughout the UK and across the globe.

Although it’s synonymous with world-class education, the Russell Group is self-selected group and wasn’t formed to measure university excellence. To help better advise your students on their higher education choices, we’ve put together some key facts to determine the difference between normal universities and this prestigious high-ranking group…

Why will my student benefit from studying at a Russell Group university?

Populated by world-leading academics, students who choose to study in a Russell Group university will have access to the best facilities available and will be given the opportunity to work with world-class experts.

According to the Times Higher Education the Russell Group is well funded; in 2015/16 the 19 universities with HEFCE research funding allocations in excess of £20 million were all members of the group. This extra funding will benefit students not only for the research possibilities but they will enjoy generous bursary and scholarship schemes to help aid with their studies and day-to-day life.

With universities situated in the main cities of the UK, college and sixth form leavers who choose to study at a Russell Group university can enjoy an outstanding student experience both educationally and socially. According to the 2015 National Student Survey, 88% of students at Russell Group universities were satisfied on their course, 90% of students found their course intellectually stimulating and 89% of students were satisfied with the teaching at their institution.

Graduate employability is high both nationally and internationally with many top recruiters concentrating on Russell Group universities when running events or exhibiting at careers fairs. According to the Russell Group themselves, graduates from one of their universities can expect to earn on average 10% more than graduates of other universities over a lifetime.

Are they really better than non-Russell Group universities?

The facts and statistics are certainly impressive, but there are plenty of well-respected universities that aren’t a member of the Russell Group.

In your student’s day-to-day life, studying at a Russell Group university will have little impact on their studies. The likelihood is that they may only benefit from the world-class research opportunities once they reach their final year and write a dissertation, or if they decide to take a Masters or PhD after graduation.

What’s more, non Russell Group universities often score higher than some members of the group in national university rankings. Renowned institutions such as Lancaster University, University of Bath, Loughborough University, University of St Andrews and University of Leicester regularly rank highly but aren’t a member of the prestigious Russell Group and according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Aston University ranks above Oxford in terms of employability.

Because of the little funding they have compared to Russell Group universities, non Russell Group universities offer less bursaries and scholarships and place more emphasis students gaining work experience to help keep themselves financially stable. This is beneficial not only because it helps to prepare them for working life and build up their confidence, if they get experience in their field of study they will begin to make invaluable contacts within the industry to give them a head start after graduation.

Despite the student satisfaction figures the group states on their own website, research has found that the Russell Group universities are so large the student satisfaction levels may be lower than those who attend smaller universities. The 2014 National Student Survey found that of the 20 universities who scored 90 percent or more in overall satisfaction, nine were campus universities outside of the Russell Group compared with six within the mission group.

What’s more, six of the group’s members including King’s College London, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Bristol scored below average satisfaction ratings in the same survey.

The benefits of studying at smaller universities are vast; students can enjoy a better sense of community amongst campus as well as a greater connection between themselves and the university staff.

Is my student eligible to apply for a Russell Group university?

The Russell Group universities not only look for students with top class A Levels, they also want them to be in subjects that are relevant to the course they are applying for.

Many courses offered at Russell Group universities build on the knowledge and skills the student acquired during sixth form or college. For example, if your student is looking to study a general engineering degree, it will almost always be essential that they have studied physics and mathematics at A Level.

Each institution and each degree course will have its own entry requirements, some universities will publish a list of preferred A Level subjects which are acceptable for general admission, whilst some will require specific grades and subjects for individual courses.

If your student has their mind set on a Russell Group university, encourage them to research the website and take a look at the entry requirements. The majority of the institutions will have similar requests to non Russell Group universities, with the exception of University College London, which requires its students to have a Modern Foreign Language GCSE at grade C or above.

Ensure you discuss the pros and cons of a Russell Group university with your student and advise them not to make a university choice based solely on the institution being part of the prestigious group.

Although they are considered to be the top institutions in the UK, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will provide a better education for your student. A university experience is personal to each individual & as long as they choose the right location and degree course for them they will excel in their studies.