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Russell Group

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, 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, 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.[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 Total income
(2012/13, £ millions)[15]
Research income
(2012/13, £ millions)[15]
Current vice-chancellorb
University of Birmingham 1900 1994 26,073 493 105 Sir David Eastwood
University of Bristol 1909 1994 18,770 459 120 Hugh R. Brady
University of Cambridge 1231 1994 18,448 1,438 f 332 Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
Cardiff Universityg 1884 1998 30,930 437 88 Colin Riordan
Durham University 1837 2012 16,355 283 51 Stuart Corbridge
University of Edinburgh 1583 1994 30,377 738 200 Sir Timothy O'Shea
University of Exeter 1955 2012 17,950 299 54 Sir Steve Smith
University of Glasgow 1451 1994 23,162 469 128 Anton Muscatelli
Imperial College Londonc 1907 1994 13,410 823 330 Alice Gast
King's College Londonc 1829 1998 18,630 586 164 Edward Byrne
University of Leeds 1904 1994 33,585 548 129 Sir Alan Langlands
University of Liverpool 1903 1994 20,655 473 125 Sir Howard Newby
London School of Economicsc N/A 1994 8,810 263 24 Craig Calhoun
University of Manchester 2004 d 1994 39,165 827 200 Dame Nancy Rothwell
Newcastle University N/A 1994 22,874 415 93 Chris Brink
University of Nottingham 1948 1994 34,377 561 112 Sir David Greenaway
University of Oxford 1248 1994 21,535 1,087 437 Andrew Hamilton
Queen Mary University of Londonc 1989 e 2012 14,820 324 81 Simon Gaskell
Queen's University Belfast 1908 2006 24,955 289 62 Patrick Johnston
University of Sheffield 1905 1994 26,960 485 114 Sir Keith Burnett
University of Southampton 1952 1994 23,315 447 102 Don Nutbeam
University College Londonc 1836 1994 23,250 940 335 Michael Arthur
University of Warwick 1965 1994 28,165 460 84 Nigel Thrift
University of York 1963 2012 15,265 295 50 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.[16]
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[17]
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.[18]
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).[19]


In 2010/11, 19 of the 20 UK universities with the highest income from research grants and contracts were members of the Russell Group.[15] 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.[20] 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.[20]

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).[21]


University ARWU (Global)a[22] QS (Global)a[23] THE (Global)a[24] Complete (National)b[25] Guardian (National)b[26] The Times (National)b[27]
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 10 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[28] 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.[29][30][31]

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:



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".[32]

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.

See also


  1. ^

External links

  • Russell Group website
  • Aldwych Group website
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