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The Russell Group is a collaboration of twenty UK universities that together receive two-thirds of research grant and contract funding in the United Kingdom. It was established in 1994 to represent their interests to the government, parliamentmarker and other similar bodies. It is sometimes referred to as the British equivalent of the Ivy League of the United Statesmarker. The Russell Group contains many of the United Kingdom's leading universities; 18 of its 20 members are in the top 20 in terms of research funding. Nineteen smaller research universities formed the 1994 Group in response.

In May 2004, Russell Group universities accounted for 65% (over £1.8billion) of UK universities' research grant and contract income, 56% of all doctorates awarded in the United Kingdom, and over 30% of all students studying in the United Kingdom from outside the EU. 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, and in 2004/5 Russell Group universities were allocated approximately 64% of the total quality-related research funding (QR) allocated by the Funding Councils.


The Russell Group states that its objectives are to:

  • lead the UK's research effort;
  • maximise income for its member institutions;
  • attract the best staff and students to those institutions;
  • create the regulatory environment in which it can achieve these objectives by reducing government interference; and
  • identify ways to co-operate in order to exploit the universities' collaborative advantage.

It works towards these objectives by lobbying the UK government and parliament by commissioning reports and research, creating a forum in which the universities can discuss issues of common concern and identify ways to work together.


The group is chaired by Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College Londonmarker. Dr Wendy Piatt was appointed in January 2007 as Director General. Formerly, she 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).

The group's Director of Research is Libby Aston, a former advisor to the Select Committee for Education and Skills specialising in higher education policy. She has also worked at the Higher Education Funding Council for England from 2000 and at the Higher Education Policy Institute from its establishment in 2003 as their Senior Researcher.


The Russell Group is so named because the first informal meetings of the Group took place at the Russell Hotel in Russell Squaremarker, Londonmarker, generally shortly before meetings of Universities UK (formerly known as Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, or CVCP) in Tavistock Squaremarker.

Research funding

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. LSEmarker was 21st, due to its focus on less lucrative social science research. Queen's University, Belfastmarker, Cardiffmarker, Glasgowmarker 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.

It should be noted that 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 RAE 'Power' Table (the other two places being occupied by non-Russell Group members, Durham Universitymarker and Queen Mary, University of Londonmarker).

Policy on 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.

Aldwych Group

In response to the Russell Group's support for tuition fees (and other issues), the students' unions of the member universities formed the Aldwych Group as a parallel organisation to represent the common interests of their students.


The current membership of the Group is:

See also


  1. Russell Group: Home
  2. Can an Ivy League work here? | higher news |
  3. [1] Research Fortnight's RAE 2008 Power table
  4. Wendy Piatt: The vice-chancellors' new velvet glove | Higher |
  5. Russell Group: Libby Aston
  6. Hefce funding allocations 2007-08: All institutions | Higher |
  7. [2] Research Fortnight's RAE 2008 Power table

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