Are Russell Group Universities Always the Best Choice?

Russell Group universities have a great reputation. They’re elite universities who receive a large portion of the UK’s research funding, and attract high quality staff. But, are Russell Group universities always the right choice for your students?

Russell Group universities have a great reputation. They’re elite universities who receive a large portion of the UK’s research funding, and attract high quality staff. But, are Russell Group universities always the right choice for your students?

It’s important to remember that the Russell Group is a self-selected category, and being in the Russell Group isn’t a measure of a university’s excellence by itself. While these universities often score very well on most metrics, many specialist universities are better for specific courses.

When you’re thinking about Russell Group universities with your students, it’s important that you bear the following things in mind.

Not all Russell Group universities are the same

Universities in the Russell Group aren’t all the same. There are big variations in their size, specialisms, focus, and even in the feel of the universities. Some are modern campus unis, while others have long histories.

This means that it’s essential that you investigate and research each university with your students, as you would any other. Look at the full range of metrics, including course-specific ones, to make sure your students are making the right decision.

Sometimes Russell Group unis have lower student satisfaction scores

Russell Group universities are often large institutions. Because of this, many of them do struggle on some student satisfaction metrics, including staff per student and NSS responses.

While this may also be because students who attend these unis have high expectations, it’s important to consider what’s important to your students. If they’re looking for academic excellence, these scores may be less important. But if their primary aim is to attend a university that they know they’ll enjoy, it may be that another institution is a better option for them.

Other universities may have better links with industry

While Russell Group universities are successful and have high graduate employability rates, you may find that for some vocational courses the employability offer is better, especially with small and medium sized businesses.

For students looking to enter niche vocations, often a smaller and more specialist university will have better links with companies. Think about which subjects your students are thinking of studying, and look carefully at the employability offer, especially for students who are particularly concerned about their graduate careers.


Centigrade is COA’s higher education destination matching tool, which can help guide your students' research into their university choices. Find out more about it here.