The group has been prominent in recent years in the debate over the introduction of tuition fees, a measure which it has strongly supported - much to the dismay of their Student Unions. In response to this and other issues, the Student Unions of the Russell Group universities have formed the Aldwych Group.
In terms of total research funding in 1998/9, the top 17 are Russell Group institutions. Cardiff comes in 19th, with non-Russell Group institutions Leicester in 18th and Queen Mary in 20th, Overall, the Russell Group had over 60% of the total research income of HE institutions in the UK. From the examples above, York comes in 24th, Durham 28th, and St Andrews 36th. LSE - which is very much out of place in the Russell Group in terms of its size - is down in 37th with less than half the research income of Cardiff, and the only Russell Group member not to make the top 20. However the gap between the largest and smallest institutions in the Russell Group is huge, even ignoring LSE. The so-called 'Golden Triangle' of institutions (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, and Imperial College - the London institutions of UCL and Imperial forming a single point on the triangle) have 40% of the research income of the Russell Group, while Cardiff has less than a quarter of the income of fourth-placed Cambridge.
The group's purpose is to represent the views of their institutions (especially in lobbying government and parliament) and to commission reports to support their case. Their concerns are to lead the UK's research effort; to maximise income; to attract the best staff and students; to reduce government interference; and to exploit their collaborative advantage.
The group is so named because meetings take place at the Russell Hotel in Russell Square, London, generally shortly before Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals (CVCP) meetings in Tavistock Square. The group is chaired by Professor Michael Sterling, the Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham.
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