Just looking at the Russell Group? You could be missing these top universities!

Here at UNI4U we talk to a large number of young people who are applying to university. A significant proportion of these young people either say they are only applying to Russell Group universities or that Russell Group membership is a major factor in their decision-making. 

Before we continue, let’s take a second to explain what the Russell Group is. Basically, it’s a self-selecting group of research-intensive UK universities. All 24 of its members have a strong track-record for high-quality academic research and they are often spoken of as the equivalent of the US ‘Ivy League’ universities.

However, many of the UK’s top universities are not members of the Russell Group. So, while it’s fair to say that all Russell Group universities are ‘top universities’ it is NOT true that all top universities are members of the Russell Group. Sadly, our research shows that many applicants may be missing the opportunities available at many top universities as they are (mis)guided by their teachers and careers advisers only to “aim for the Russell Group.”

Schools may think that having lots of their students accepted to Russell Group universities makes them look good, but it’s a lazy metric! So, if you are dismissing universities simply on the basis that they are not Russell Group you could be missing some of the UK’s best higher education gems like these:

The University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is a highly academic and research intensive institution and a world leader in Chemistry, Bioscience, Space Science and Engineering.

It has a well established medical school and is also where the technique of genetic fingerprinting was invented!

And, for real trivia lovers: Leicester was the first university to win ‘University Challenge’ back in 1963!


The University of Bath

The University of Bath has roots going as far back as the 1500s and officially gained university status in the 1960s. Its main campus is in a stunning location overlooking the city of Bath.

The University is particularly strong in STEM subjects including Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering, Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Technology. It also prepares its students well for future careers by actively encouraging students to take a year out in industry. 


The University of St Andrews

The third oldest university in the English speaking world (after Oxford and Cambridge) and highly academic and steeped in history. St Andrews is about as traditional as it comes and this idyllic Scottish seaside town is famous world-wide both for its university and as the home of golf.

It’s also the university where our future King and Queen (Kate and Wills) met, so we think that sums up its ‘establishment credentials’!


Loughborough University

Loughborough is considered to be Britain’s first technical university. It is therefore unsurprising that it ranks very highly for technology and engineering subjects (recently winning the Queen’s award for High Value Manufacturing).

It is also widely regarded as one of the top universities in the world for sports and sports-related subjects. 




Located in an enviable coastal location Swansea University has one of the UK’s best medical schools and also rates amongst the top universities for Engineering, especially Aerospace and Materials Engineering. The University has invested heavily in these areas lately, with a whole new ‘Bayside Campus’. So, if your a budding Medic or Engineer Swansea is a university you should certainly consider!



University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is a research-intensive university based on a self-contained campus in Guildford, Surrey. It has a strong reputation across a range of subjects but particularly Science, Technology, Engineering and Business.

It is world renowned for its research and innovation in Satellite Engineering and Communications. It is also highly regarded for its medical science programmes and will soon establish its own medical school.


These are just a few of the universities you could be missing if you’re only applying to Russell Group universities. What do you think? Which institutions would you add to the list and why?