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 by Mark Bennett
, posted on 30 Oct '19

Why Study Your Masters at a Russell Group University?

Considering postgraduate study in the UK? Chances are you've heard of the Russell Group. This network of highly-ranked institutions brings together top 'research-intensive' universities, pooling resources and sharing objectives to 'produce excellent research on a grand scale'.

Sounds impressive, but what does it actually mean?

Well, for Masters students, it could mean quite a lot.

The Russell Group produces almost twice as much world-leading research as other UK universities and its members educate more than a third of UK postgraduates .

So, if you're thinking about a Masters, it's definitely worth knowing something about the Russell Group and what its universities can offer you. This blog offers a quick introduction.

Or, if you're already persuaded, why not come meet Russell Group members at one of our dedicated events?

Who are the Russell Group?

The Russell Group was formed in 1994, at a meeting in London's Hotel Russell (hence the name). It now has 24 members, in all parts of the UK:

Russell Group members

Russell Group Universities in England:

Russell Group Universities in Scotland:

Russell Group Universities in Wales:

Russell Group Universities in Northern Ireland:

The Russell Group is very diverse, with no specific membership criteria beyond the quality of a university's research and teaching and its belief in the organisation's wider mission and objectives.

The oldest Russell Group universities are Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow and Edinburgh with histories stretching back hundreds of years. Younger members, such as the University of Exeter and the University of Warwick were established in the mid-twentieth-century.

All Russell Group members are public universities. This means their fees and funding are regulated by the UK Government – along with the quality of their teaching and research.

Individual Russell Group members are independent universities, with the freedom to pursue their own research objectives and put together their own courses.

Are Russell Group universities really that good?

The short answer is "yes."

We can be a bit more detailed though. There are three simple ways to assess the quality of Russell Group members (or other universities) for postgraduate study: rankings, research performance and graduate employment.

Russell Group university rankings

If rankings are to be believed then, yes: some of the best universities in the world are in the Russell Group.

Russell Group University Rankings: 2019-20
University THE 2020 QS 2020 ARWU 2019
University of Oxford 1 4 7
University of Cambridge 3 7 3
Imperial College London 10 9 23
University College London 15 8 15
London School of Economics (LSE) =27 44 151-200
University of Edinburgh 30 20 31
King's College London =36 =33 51
University of Manchester =55 27 33
University of Warwick 77 62 101-150
University of Bristol 87 49 64
University of Glasgow =99 67 151-200
Queen Mary University of London =110 126 151-200
University of Birmingham 112 81 101-150
University of Sheffield =117 =78 101-150
University of Southampton 122 97 101-150
University of York =128 148 301-400
Durham University 133 =78 201-300
University of Exeter =146 =163 151-200
University of Nottingham =152 96 101-150
University of Leeds =155 =93 101-150
University of Liverpool 165 =181 101-150
Cardiff University =198 =154 101-150
Newcastle University 201-250 146 201-300
Queen's University Belfast 201-250 =173 301-400

Taken as a whole, Russell Group members are far and away the highest performing UK institutions in global rankings.

Research performance at Russell Group Universities

Research is a key factor in creating great postgraduate degree programmes (even taught Masters courses draw on current research work).

So, how good is the research produced by Russell Group universities? Thankfully, there's an easy way to check.

The UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a regular official assessment of the research carried out at UK versities.

The most recent REF was carried out in 2014. We've put together a guide to the full REF results on

Graduate employment at Russell Group Universities

Russell Group universities also pride themselves on offering excellent graduate employment prospects. This is partly due to the reputation of their members, but is also the result of top employers actively seeking Russell Group graduates for in their recruitment campaigns.

In fact, the Russell Group even provides advice for businesses looking to recruit its students.

Statistics back up the Russell Group's reputation, with data suggesting that its graduates earn up to 10% more over their lifetime.

So, how much does all of this matter for prospective postgraduates?

At the end of the day, the right Masters for you will depend on far more than a university's membership of a specific 'mission group'.

But there's no denying that Russell Group universities have an impressive track record – and many of their strengths are particularly relevant to postgraduate study.

The following are some of the broad benefits a Russell Group university may be able to offer you.

Research opportunities

Even taught postgraduate courses are informed by current research and it's a statistical fact that Russell Group members are some of the UK's most active research universities.

They produce the most world-leading work, attract the most funding for it and go on to produce more of it. It's a virtuous circle. And your postgraduate course be a part of it.

Facilities and resources

Top research requires excellent facilities – whether that's access to expensive digital archives, unique historical collections or cutting-edge laboratories and workshops.

Russell Group members have the incentives and the means to procure these. This capacity can have a dramatic effect on the opportunities they offer postgraduates.

It's not simply a case of having access to beneficial equipment or resources as an 'optional extra'. A well-equipped laboratory or a rare archival collection can be the definitive factor that actually makes some postgraduate work possible.

Postgraduate funding

The statistics don't lie: Russell Group universities are very good at attracting funding for their research work and some of this directly benefits postgraduate students.

Postgraduates can also benefit from their university's own financial resources – or leverage its reputation when seeking competitive funding elsewhere.


Reputation is central to the Russell Group's mission. At its core, the network exists to protect its members' association with great research and teaching and its activities are designed to ensure that prestige is deserved.

As a Russell Group (post)graduate you'll be able to draw on that reputation. This can carry some not-insignificant weight with certain employers. Universities and funding bodies will also have a certain amount of respect for Russell Group graduates and this may be a beneficial factor in applications for further postgraduate research degrees, funding or academic positions.

It's important to approach reputation in the right way though – and not put the proverbial cart before the horse.

A Russell Group member's reputation should be based on the quality of the research and training it offers. But it's that quality research and training you should focus on when looking for a Masters – not the reputation based on it.

Find out more

So, we've established that Russell Group membership is worth paying at least some attention to in your search for a Masters or PhD. But how do you find out if one of these 24 universities offers a Masters you're interested in?

You could look at all of their courses and projects on FindAMasters, but that would take a while.

A faster way is to attend our Russell Group Universities Postgraduate Roadshow. These events feature all 24 Russell Group members and will be coming to five different cities across the UK in the coming weeks.

You'll be able to meet representatives from Russell Group universities, talk about the courses they offer, hear about funding and learn about the added value a Russell Group university can bring to your Masters.

Oh – and if you need an added incentive, there's also a £1,000 bursary up for grabs.

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