Real Question of the Week from the CollegeLab Inbox:
Is the Russell Group the Ivy League of the UK?
The topic of university prestige never fails to spur debate. What role, if any, does university prestige play in the short term for a student, and in the longer term? Is a university's prestige relevant globally, on a country-by-country basis, regionally, locally, or within a specific industry? Is it relevant at all? Is prestige about creating a network of contacts for life? Can a university name on a resume lift it from the middle of a pile for a first-time job seeker? Or is prestige a potential negative for a student, perhaps attaching concerns about elitism or a "silver-spoon" mentality in the minds of some employers? What confers prestige: reputations dating back hundreds of years, perceived quality of job placements, low rates of admission, number of famous professors, consistently strong sports legacies, production of well-known graduates, or other factors? It's all debatable.
Let's look at some facts and widely-held beliefs about the UK's Russell Group.
What it is:
The Russell Group is a consortium of 24 universities in the United Kingdom, officially formed in 2006. The universities share a significant commitment to research through public and private sector funding, in addition to other characteristics. See the online list of universities for full details and read about the Russell Group via this link.
What it is not:
The Russell Group is not an athletic conference like the Ivy League in the United States.
Whether being a member of the Russell Group confers "elite" status to a university remains controversial. Some believe it is akin to an informal club of university chancellors. Others view it as an elite group of universities defined primarily by each member university's strength in garnering significant research funding. The group has also been referenced as a lobby for research funding for its member universities.
In any case, although membership in the Russell Group might carry some prestige, the most important rankings are not overall university rankings but rankings by course.
The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group, but University of St. Andrews is not. Does that mean that St. Andrews is not as "good" a university as Edinburgh or as the other members of the Russell Group? No. For example, St. Andrews and University of Bath rank in the top ten in most League Tables for a course in business or management. Yet neither is in the Russell Group.
Prestigious or not? Take a closer look at who's who on the list of Russell Group member universities. You’ll find significant research funding among their ranks, as well as a few ivy-covered buildings.