University Tips Blog
An image of a computer - before a student starts their university application

by Jen Barton

Student Recruitment Manager at Durham University

posted on 15 May '21

A school and college guide to supporting students applying to Russell Group universities

What is a Russell Group University?

The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities. Through their world class-research, they help to create a dynamic economy, stronger communities and a better future for the UK. These universities provide students with research-led teaching, which means that most teaching staff will be activity involved in research. Their teaching will be informed by their research - so students will be learning from some world leading experts and learning about some of their findings as they are being discovered!

An image of a university

Applications to Russell Group universities

Students won’t find the application process much different to applications outside the Russell Group. But the level of competition, especially for certain courses, tends to be more intense, making it more important to stand out from the crowd. You can usually tell if a course is competitive as it may have very high entry requirements and it will probably rank highly in the subject league tables.

We often find that our applicants will have similar academic profiles. Their opportunity to stand out is therefore through the personal statement. This is often their only opportunity to ‘speak’ with those making admissions decisions.

Personal statement tips for Russell Group applications

Universities are really interested to hear from motivated students, who are inquisitive and have the potential to study the subject at university. The personal statement is a real opportunity for your students to stand out and show us this, to give them the best possible chance of being made an offer.

Most leading universities will look for an approximate 80% / 20% split of academic vs non-academic information. It is important for universities to see an applicant’s subject knowledge and keen interest in the subject area.

Within that 80% we want to see evidence of critical engagement and I would advise applicants to include a research paragraph to their personal statement. By that I mean that we want to see evidence of how they have engaged with the subject beyond what the school curriculum demands.

For example, an English applicant might do this by evidencing some wider reading. They should write about a text that they have read and tell us their opinion, providing a critical reflection of the text. Also describing any further studies it might have inspired them to undertake. Or it could be that they are applying for Law and they write about a case that they have been following and discuss what they have learned about the English defence system as a result of it - and what questions were also raised.

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