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The Russell Group of Universities
World-class institutions: the national and
international picture
Dr Wendy Piatt
Director General of The Russell Group
The Russell Group of Universities
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
Cardiff University
University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
Imperial College London
King’s College London
University of Leeds
University of Liverpool
London School of Economics and Political Science
University of Manchester
University of Newcastle
University of Nottingham
Queen’s University Belfast
University of Oxford
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University College London
University of Warwick
Characteristics of world-class universities
Research-intensive, with high levels of research excellence
Scotland’s research is strongest in the world, in terms of citations relative to
GDP.1 The UK ranks second after US in total publications and citations.2
The Russell Group accounts for over 60 percent of the highest rated research,
and the majority of all public and privately-funded research activity in UK HE.3
The highest quality of research-led teaching
Non-completion averages only 4% at Russell Group universities4 and graduates
enjoy an additional wage premium of around 10% over other UK graduates.5
Powerful drivers of innovation and economic development
Russell Group universities have created over 400 successful spin-out companies.6
and Edinburgh and Glasgow have contract and collaborative research
partnerships with business and industry valued at £65m per year7.
A strong commitment to community and society
The Russell Group works hard to ensure that talented students from every
background have the chance to benefit from HE. In England in 2008, additional fee
income spent on bursaries and outreach averaged £2.8m per RG institution.8
Our research and teaching supports society in addressing medical, environmental
and social challenges, and in its understanding of culture and the arts.
1. New Horizons, 2008; 2. DIUS, International comparative performance of the UK Research Base, 2008; 3. RAE 2008, HESA, HE-BCI; 4.
HESA; 5. Chevalier & Conlon, Does it Pay to Attend a Prestigious University?, 2003; 6&7. HE-BCI 2006/07; 8. OFFA, 2008
Benefits of world-class universities
There has been growing interest in world-class universities because of:
•Changes in the operating environment for universities: influence of expansion,
globalisation and privatisation.
•Recognition of the vital contribution that higher education will make to national
competitiveness in tomorrow’s global, knowledge economy.
•The particular value placed on research universities, in training the high-level
specialists and generating the new knowledge necessary for innovation.
Evidence suggests that ‘world-class’ universities:
•Are able to deliver research at ‘the frontier’ – which tends to offer the greatest benefits.1
(eg Major benefits of Prof Ken Murray’s pioneering work on Hepatitis B vaccine -Edinburgh)
•Offer a critical mass of research activity associated with the highest quality research
•Facilitate the formation of clusters of research and innovation
•Offer the scale of research and facilities to attract investment from global companies.
•Attract the very best global talent as staff and students. (Glasgow and Edinburgh
universities account for 23% of international postgraduate students in Scottish HEIs.)
•Build networks with leading centres of knowledge around the globe. (eg Glasgow Sleep
Centre is working with National Institutes of Health in US to tackle persistent insomnia)
1. Aghion, Dewatripont, Hoxby et al Higher Aspirations: an agenda for reforming European universities (2008); 2. Page, A Review of Volume
Indicators, HEFCE, (1999)
World-class universities – Scotland’s advantage
•If size of population is taken into account, Scotland boasts more highly ranked research
universities in major league tables than the UK, the US or Europe.
•Scotland’s research-intensive universities compete with the best in the world, and are a
major national asset.
Highly ranked universities, per capita (2008)
Ranked universities per million population
Shanghai, Top 300
THE-QS Top 200
Source: Shanghai Jiaotong University, Academic Ranking of World Universities (2008); THES QS World University Rankings
The international picture
Other countries have been increasing investment in higher education…
The US invests 2.9% of GDP in HE and the OECD average is 1.5%.1 In comparison, the UK
spends 1.3%, and Scotland 1.05%2.
Taking public spending on HE institutions alone, the UK spends 0.9% of GDP – the same as
Hungary and Mexico. The US spends 1.1%, Canada 1.4% and Sweden 1.5%.3
…and in research.
In 2002 the UK fell to last place amongst G8 countries in the proportion of GDP spent on publicly
funded R&D (UK figure is 0.58% of GDP).4
The Chinese Government now spends more on R&D than the UK. China’s total publications
have increased fourfold in the past decade and may be about to overtake the UK.5
US total expenditure on R&D increased from $277 billion in 2002 to $343 billion in 2006. Total UK
expenditure rose from $31 billion to $36 billion during the same period.6
Increasing global competition for talent
30% of academic staff within the Russell Group are from overseas (compared to 21% in UK
sector as a whole).7 There is growing international competition for the best staff.
A critical shortage of homegrown postgraduate students restricts the supply of early-career
academics from within the UK.
There is growing competition for internationally mobile students and postgraduate researchers.
1.&3. OECD, Education at a Glance, 2008;2. Universities Scotland. 4. DTI/OSI, PSA Target metrics for the UK Research base, 2007 5. DIUS,
International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base, 2008; 6. OECD, Main Science and Technology Indicators, 2008; 7. HESA, 2006/07
The international picture
Universities ranked in world top 500 by the Shanghai Jiaotong
league table, China and UK, 2004-2008
Since 2004:
•China’s universities
have been moving up
the league table
•The UK’s performance
remains static
•US universities
continue to dominate
(159 in top 500 in
Source: Shanghai Jiaotong University, Academic Rankings of World Universities, 2004-2008
The international picture
• Soon to have the largest annual output
of graduates in the world and the
majority of PhDs in S&T
United States
•Stimulus package includes an additional
$20 billion for scientific research.
•The top 20 universities received over $8
billion in charitable donations in 2008,
and endowments still vastly exceed those
in the UK.
• HE reforms will increase
operating budgets by
50% over 5 years and
improve university
research performance.
• 11 leading institutions receive more than
US$120 million per year from
• The Excellence
Initiative is increasing
research funding for
selected ‘elite’
Middle East
• The new KAUST in Saudi Arabia is the
richest university in the world outside US.
• £millions are being invested to develop HE
in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai
• World Class
University Project is
providing additional
funding for research in
• In 2007, the government made £7 billion
investment over 5 yrs for HE. PM plans to
create 40 new Institutes of Technology and
• By 2015, India will be producing 1.4 million
graduate engineers a year.
• 10,000 PhDs and 30,000
Masters students will graduate in
2009 – 10 fold increase in 20 yrs.
• New measures proposed to increase market
share of international postgraduate research
• In 2007, Government announced a £2.5 billion
World-class universities - implications for Scotland and the UK
In the current era of knowledge-intensive growth, good average higher education is not
enough… It is crucial to also foster some ‘world-class’ universities.1
Characteristics of a world-class university (WCU): Alignment of key factors2
1. Aghion, Dewatripont, Hoxby et al Higher Aspirations: an agenda for reforming European universities (2008); 2. Jamil Salmi The
Challenge of Establishing World-Class Universities, The World Bank (2009)
World-class universities – implications for Scotland and the UK
In order to ensure that the UK continues to benefit from world-class universities we
Ensure adequate funding of our leading research-intensive universities: Increase
total investment (public and private) in research and teaching to internationally
competitive levels. (Will new funding arrangements in Scotland achieve this?)
Maintain a regulatory environment (including policies for education, science,
immigration, trade and taxation) which enables universities to compete internationally.
Continue to improve efficiency and management, safeguard institutional and
academic autonomy, whilst also ensuring proper use of public funds.
To safeguard the UK’s world-class universities the Russell Group is committed to:
Maintaining the highest international standards of higher education and research.
Being attractive and accessible to the most talented people in the UK and
internationally. (Support from Government for international scholarships is important)
Engaging with others to maximise the benefits to the UK economy and society of
ground-breaking research and innovation. (eg Translational Medicine Research Collab.)
Collaboration and partnership with other leading global players in higher education
and research (Edinburgh and Glasgow have bilateral partnerships with several hundred
universities worldwide and are members of international groups of research universities:
Universitas 21, LERU, IRUN).