If you have been reading my articles on universities, you must have come across the ‘The Russell Group’ quite often. If not, well it is time you learned about it. In the world of Higher Education and research, the reputation of the Russell Group is solid. Why? In the simplest words, it is an association of some of the world’s most distinguished universities known for their exemplary academic and research achievements. You can imagine the kind of influence these universities, as a group, must impose on the global landscape of Higher Education.
Of course, the Russell Group isn’t just that. What else you need to know to appreciate the group has already been written down. All you are expected to do is to read along. I have mentioned a few facts about the Russell Group of Universities which everyone should know.
What exactly is the Russell Group?
Let us start afresh. So, about the Russell Group, it is a group of 24 universities that was founded in the year 1994. Presently, it is headquartered in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The universities that form a part of the group are accorded special treatment in the United Kingdom. The special treatment includes preferential research grants in the country. All of these universities are based in the country and are known to exercise maximum influence in the country’s education sector. The name of the group is taken from the namesake Hotel in Russell Square where many of the earliest informal meetings of the group took place.
Which of the universities are the members?
There are 24 universities in the group. These universities are the University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, Durham University, University of Edinburg, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, Imperial College London, King’s College London, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, London School of Economics, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, Queen Mary University of London, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, University College London, University of Warwick, and the University of York.
The influence of the Group
All the member universities are influential not only in the country but also in the world. They are among the highest-ranked and exercise a lot of influence in global academia, research, and employment. In the United Kingdom, they are treated as ‘elite’ universities. The very high standing of these universities allows them, as a group, to have greater representation in government and parliament. As already noted above, these universities are often commissioned to undertake gigantic public research works and are extended generous funding.
Clout in research
It is an understatement to say that the Russell Group produces quality research. The high-impact research activities conducted by the member universities of the Group are nothing to sneeze at. Almost every university in the group has received the highest income from among the research grants offered by the state. In the year 2008, when the Research Assessment Exercise ‘power’ table was released, 18 of the Russell Group Universities made it to the list. In the year 2014, all of the 24 member universities occupied the first 24 spots in the Research Excellence Framework.
The Elite status has invited controversy
I think it was fairly obvious that controversies would stem from the ‘elite’ status and preferential treatment given to the university. In fact, and interestingly, the dissent has come from within the Group as well. Many claim that reports showing the high performance of the member universities are largely influenced by the tactical marketing of the universities rather than the real facts. It has been argued that many non-member universities have fared better than several Russell Group Universities. Aside from this, the Russell group, as argued by the Institute of Economic Affairs, can dangerously thwart competition and exercise authoritarian control on the affairs of education in the country.