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Russell Group

(46 Posts)
Changingnames32 Tue 18-Nov-14 21:04:26

Can I ask a question about the Russell Group? My DS will hopefully get decent A level results, around AAB. How important is it really that he goes to a Russell group uni?

He's quite keen on Bath for example. Is that considered to be good?

Sorry for my ignorance, I didn't go to university and the school aren't being very helpful.

serin Tue 18-Nov-14 21:13:29

Well I went to a RG one 25yrs ago and I really wouldn't recommend that one to anybody these days. It has really gone down the pan for lots of subjects.

Bath is a great university, DD has also just applied there.

LineRunner Tue 18-Nov-14 21:16:49

RG membership is more about research, really.

Obviously it helps universities attract funding and high fliers but that can be irrelevant to many undergraduate courses.

Research the course and the university - some non RG ones are excellent.

MadameJosephine Tue 18-Nov-14 21:49:16

I didnt know what a Russell group uni was until I came on mumsnet and I went to one!

Changingnames32 Tue 18-Nov-14 22:24:42

He's looking at degrees in finance or economics, but has seen that the entry requirements are likely to be as high for Bath as for Exeter or Bristol and isn't sure if employers prefer a RG uni.

It's a bit confusing!

UptheChimney Wed 19-Nov-14 11:02:08

Your DC needs to go online and look at the department websites for the degrees at the places he's interested in. Not just the prospectus, but the day-to-day websites we all maintain for teaching current students. Some of it will be password-protected, but there'll be enough there for him to get a good sense of what being a student in each department is like, and how each course is constructed.

Then go to Open Days, or just visit the University & have a wander around. It's public space.

It really doesn't matter what the perceived status in the press/broadcast media is of a university: it's the detail of what course & how it's taught that he needs to be looking at.

BlueStringPudding Wed 19-Nov-14 12:17:04

I hire graduates, from a wide variety of universities, and yes some universities are seen as more desirable on a CV than others, although it should just form part of a picture. Universities like Bath and St Andrews are usually seen as equally good as those in the Russell Group in my opinion. The course itself is important and many employers have relationships with particular universities, which can help with either getting summer placements, or a year in industry type placements - so these are all things to consider.

Poisonwoodlife Thu 20-Nov-14 01:42:29

The Russell Group is named because a group of Unis met at the Russell Hotel in Russell Square London to discuss ganging together to lobby government so that is what it is, a gang. It discovered along the way that it could also be a brand synonymous for quality amongst people too lazy to actually assess the quality of university courses by more objective criteria even though there was absolutely no quality related requirement for membership. A few other unis, including Bath, Durham, York, originally joined another gang that wasn't quite so successful with branding, the 1994 group, named because it was founded in 1994 (probably sounding a bit too "modern" and dangerously activated a few prejudices). But what with the power of the brand a few defected to the RG and it folded.

There are plenty of very good courses at non RG unis and plenty of not so good courses at RG unis. There is no substitute for digging deeper as up the suggests but also look at the various league tables, and the subject tables, and the scores for research, employment, student satisfaction etc according to what matters to your DC. It really does not take much effort to see beyond the lazy shorthand of RG status.....

Changingnames32 Thu 20-Nov-14 07:07:58

Thanks for all your help. Bath has a great sports department which is one of the things attracting him I think.

He's been looking at different ones too. It's interesting to see what employers think too.

TheWordFactory Thu 20-Nov-14 08:09:52

The RG tag once meant very little in terms of quality it us true.

However, the branding has been so successful that this in turn has affected the quality of applicants and to some extent academics who teach,which in turn has affected the quality of education on offer.

It is a self fullfilling prophesy to some degree.

There are notable exceptions though in some subjects.

BrendaBlackhead Thu 20-Nov-14 11:29:50

Quite, WordFactory.

It is quite exasperating how some people bang on that the UniversityofJustFoundedLastWeek is quite equal to, say, Bristol. Especially when the subject is a traditional one.

I heard some idiot on the radio suggesting that all universities were equal and everyone should go to their local one. Well, that's very fortunate for someone living in Oxford and most unfortunate for a student whose parents live in Bedford. Can you just imagine the house price inflation around favoured universities?!

UptheChimney Thu 20-Nov-14 12:33:00

Well, yes, the Russell Group is named because of meeting in that hotel (and the drinks there are extortionately expensive, I can attest!) but those particular universities did not arrange to meet randomly.

They are a group of research intensive universities, formed because pressure was, and still is, needed to maintain the UK's research excellence. The UK university system, after that of the US, is one of the best in the world. But it's in danger. So a lobby group is much needed.

The idea that RG universities are the "best" or "good" universities for undergraduates was not the principal reason for the formation of the group. It's always been about research: the sort of research that wins Nobel Prizes and the like.

lljkk Thu 20-Nov-14 12:52:47

Then why not make the lobby group more powerful by inviting more members? Why are they keen to keep it so exclusive? What is the marker that determines why Lancaster, Reading, Loughborough, Bath, UEA (etc.) are all out but others get in? Other than total research funding, which isn't adjusted per capita or even per output publication.

TarkaTheOtter Thu 20-Nov-14 13:01:40

I think this is quite interesting. RG is clearly an imperfect signal for quality because when you look at the highest rated courses by discipline you will see that some are at non RG universities. But if it is the signal that employers use then maybe it is worth focussing on for your dc's application.

I don't believe that all universities are equal, but neither do I believe that all RG universities are good and all non-RG are bad. You need to compare different individual courses.

If you tell us broadly what subject area I am sure there will be a MNer who can tell you how Bath ranks.

UptheChimney Thu 20-Nov-14 13:51:38

Why are they keen to keep it so exclusive? What is the marker that determines why Lancaster, Reading, Loughborough, Bath, UEA (etc.) are all out but others get in

It may not be so much that the RG executive is trying to keep places like UEA or Lancaster out -- rather that those universities don't want to be in? It cost York around £500,000 to join. Maybe UEA et al. don't think it's worth it?

I don't know, not being an RG V-C, nor Gayle Peppiatt.

And no-one in the university sector believes, or would try to argue, that all RG university members are all good, or that all non-RG universities are all bad.

The RG as the "best" for UG courses is largely an invention of newspaper league tables feeding and fed by ambitious aspirational parents & their children.

The formation of the group was as a group for university research, to lobby the OST, HEFCE, and whichever Department whichever government decided to sling responsibility for universities into. They're trying to protect the complex fragile & increasingly endangered ecology of curiosity driven research in this country.

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 20-Nov-14 18:00:22

Can you just imagine the house price inflation around favoured universities?!

Ok, totally not the point, but the Guardian had an article last week pointing out Cambridge house prices are rising faster than London, and that London, Oxford and Cambridge are the most expensive cities in which to live. So let's please hope what you describe never happens as it'd make it unimaginable!

I am very ignorant, but someone will correct me so I might as well speculate - I do think universities prioritize different things, not just research. Loughborough has excellent links with industry. Maybe they don't actually suit the kind of research the REF rewards? But if you do postgrad engineering or similar, you might actually prefer to be somewhere with the strong industry links, mightn't you?

MillyMollyMama Thu 20-Nov-14 22:49:02

Exeter is also Russell Group! Bath is a first class university and generally there would not be much between Bath, Exeter or Bristol. All of them are great and all offer excellent courses. Bristol is more of a city university and is not campus so that makes it attractive to some students. Choosing a university based on course, location, reputation and opportunities like sport makes sense. It is also useful to have a bit of gut feeling when choosing too! A great course is not everything and employment rates are also pretty important these days.

lljkk Fri 21-Nov-14 17:08:05

@Upthechimney: I do work/have worked/have had friends who work at those Unis. imho, Those non-RG Unis have mahoosive insecurity complexes about not being in the RG club.

It seems to me like British Unis are increasingly encouraged to compete directly with each other on same narrow criteria, in a misguided attempt to drive standards "up". Rather than being encouraged to offer diversity of approaches or innovation.

Coconutty Fri 21-Nov-14 17:51:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MillyMollyMama Fri 21-Nov-14 21:48:29

But that does not explain why some RG universities are more sought after than others. If it was just marketing then there would be no difference between Durham and St Mary's London, but there is .

Poisonwoodlife Sat 22-Nov-14 10:59:48

However, the branding has been so successful that this in turn has affected the quality of applicants and to some extent academics who teach,which in turn has affected the quality of education on offer.

Really word ? and you have some empirical evidence to support that?

It's just that with two DCs applying in 2009 and 2014, both for competitive courses I would say that the competitive environment has changed out of all recognition for unis. Whilst in 2009 even one mark meant many applicants missing their conditional places and a year out and retakes because good quality courses simply did not appear in Clearing this year the options available to applicants including unconditional offers (at RG and non RG unis), the grades for conditional offers being relaxed sometimes even before exams were taken and plenty of good courses available in Clearing were far wider. Clearly it is due to changes in quotas, fees etc rather than branding but from the buyer end it has certainly translated into students being able to be more aspirational in their applications, and courses accepting students with lower grades at RG and non RG alike.

I am not denying the power of the brand in the minds of the public, media etc. I am just not convinced that it translates into having much effect on the buyer behaviour of students, and the unis recruiting better quality applicants especially in a more competitive market. As it happens both of my DCs have ended up at RG unis but that was because of the pull of the courses and the universities themselves not their RG status. Perhaps it is idealistic to think that students intelligent enough to go to uni are intelligent enough to make the decision based on more objective basis than the subjective perceptions that make up a brand, especially one that really is not bedded in any objective measures of superior quality over the better courses at the better non RG unis. They can all turn to the Guardian, Complete university Guide, the Student Room etc and work that out for themselves hmm

Poisonwoodlife Sat 22-Nov-14 11:29:02

coconutty I am not even sure it is down to proactive marketing, as far as I am aware the Russell Group have always acted within their brief of representing their interests in the political / public sphere, and especially in protecting as upthe highlighted the capacity to carry out high quality research, rather than acting as a marketing organisation.

The first I heard of the Russell Group as a parent was the Heads at school open days trumpeting their success in getting pupils to "the prestigious Russell Group of universities" I think they were just the beneficiaries of a public need to have a brand encompassing the most prestigious universities. As I say I suspect the 1994 "brand" was sunk by sounding a bit too modern even though it represented some excellent universities as well. It does not quite trip as lightly off the tongue to trumpet your success in say getting pupils on the courses that feature in the top 20 of the subject tables, or that match their aspirations for employability or whatever factor matters most to them, though perhaps that is what parents should be seeking ......

Poisonwoodlife Sat 22-Nov-14 13:25:04

I was wrong but I suppose that once they had the brand they had to act on it.

This is definitely slick marketing but it applies to Natural Sciences at Cambridge and Sociology at Queen's Belfast (39th in the subject tables, Bath is second) alike?

jamakatab Sun 30-Nov-14 21:02:53

When my son was applying for jobs all the top companies asked for a 1st class degree or a 2:1 from a RG uni.
(He got a 1st in maths from a RG university and two years in to his career he earns less than £17k a year - although this will double in three years!!)

DontGotoRoehampton Mon 01-Dec-14 20:13:40

DH asked about this last night and I banged my head on the table grin. (Am lay member of Council at a non-Russell Group Uni). Forget 'Russell Group' - look at what courses your DC are interested in, and then look on TSR and other fora for stats on student satisfaction, employment stats etc and make a holistic decision. ( And don't go to Roehampton grin)

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