Applying to Russell Group Universities in the UK

By Logan Bright Modified on January 14, 2020

24 of the UK's leading universities are at your fingertips!

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Tower Bridge in London, England, home of many of the Russell Group universities.

Applying to Russell Group Universities contents:

What is the Russell Group?

The Russell Group is a self-selected association of 24 research-intensive universities in the United Kingdom. Together, they teach over half a million undergraduates and post-grads every year. The group attracts over a third of its staff and student body from outside the UK, a testament to the quality of the group's research and reputation. This includes nearly 60,000 undergraduates from outside the European Union!

The Russell Group's aim is to support world-leading and world-changing research and teaching. If this sounds like the right academic environment for you, read on to learn about applying to a Russell Group university.

Before applying

Before applying, do some research. Lots of research! Consider which schools you want to apply to, then find the right courses for you. (Note that in Canada, we typically say "program," while in the UK you'll usually hear "course.") A great way to compare schools is SchoolFinder.com. Browse profiles and find direct links to universities' websites, so you can make an informed choice. Once you've decided on some institutions, check out their websites to browse course offerings. Note that most bachelor's degrees can be completed in the UK in only three years!

University applications are made through UCAS, the Universites and Colleges Admissions Service. Be sure to note the UCAS codes associated with the courses you're interested in. You'll need them when you start your UCAS application.

Also take note of the entry requirements. Each school and course has its own, so you'll have to be scrupulous. The University of Oxford, for example, requires an academic average of at least 85% across several advanced subjects, including math, English, and the sciences. Most schools have international pages for specific countries, so you can find out the exact eligibility for Canadian students.

Students from outside the UK must typically prove English language competency, too. You may be able to get around it — if, for example, you've already earned a bachelor's degree in English — but for many, this will mean a TOEFL, IELTS, or other language competency test. You'll have to schedule and finance this on your own.

Next up is to consider your visa requirements. As an international student, once you've been offered a place in a course, you'll need a Tier 4 (General) visa to study in the UK. The earliest you can apply is three months before your course starts; all the same, be sure you know what you're in for when applying so you don't get your visa too late.


Big Ben and Parliament in London, England, home of many of the Russell Group universities.

Applying through UCAS

First, you'll have to register with UCAS. Be aware that you can only apply once per admissions cycle! Since you're applying independently, you'll be asked a few extra questions. Just follow the prompts and you'll reach course selection shortly.

You can choose up to five courses, in any order of preference. Some courses and schools have additional restrictions: for example, you can only apply to one course at either the University of Cambridge or the University of Oxford, so make sure you've done your homework.

Once you've chosen your courses, you'll fill in details of your educational and employment history. If your previous school(s) aren't listed, you may be asked to send proof of your results.

The UCAS personal statement

This is your opportunity to convey a bit of your personality, and make clear why you're a stellar applicant. Remember that you'll write one single statement which all the schools you apply to will see!

Share details of your personal story, achievements, goals and aspirations. Stand out! Bear in mind you have a maximum of 4,000 characters, so be concise. For detailed advice on writing your UCAS personal statement, click here.

That's most of your application! Read it over, make any edits, and confirm your changes. Once you've read and agreed to the declaration, UCAS sends your application to schools. Only one step left!

References and fees

In almost every case, you'll need a reference letter. This could be from a teacher, adviser, or other professional who knows you well, academically and professionally. For more on finding a good reference, check out this article.

The application fee is ?25 (roughly $42 CAD) for multiple courses (or late applications), and only ?20 (roughly $34 CAD) if you're applying to just one course. After your reference letter is added, you can pay online via credit or debit, then send your completed application package to UCAS.

After applying

Wow, you're done! Congratulations, you've applied to some of the best schools in the United Kingdom and the world. As you wait to hear back, check out some (virtual) campus tours, attend information sessions, and participate in webinars — anything to give you a leg-up on what to expect when you attend university in the United Kingdom.

Also consider looking into financial aid for international students. Each school in the Russell Group operates its own program, so check out their individual websites. You can also try ScholarshipsCanada.com for a searchable database of thousands of awards.

Good luck, have fun, and bon voyage!