1. Top Russell Group constitutes, for sake of argument, the 10 universities listed below. If you feel that only some of the listed uni's are good enough to make their 1sts better than Oxbridge's 2:1s, weigh up those that do against those that don't and then decide. The 1st will be the median mark for a 1st, the 2:1 likewise the exact median, for the sake of balance.
2. Different uni's, different strengths in different courses blah blah blah. Just try to envisage a 'General' course, equally as prestigious and well-taught etc at all the uni's and where all else is equal except the prestige of the uni's and the degree classes. On this basis, is a top RG 1st better than an Oxbridge 2:1 in your eyes?
3. 'Better' here = superior career prospects and just what you'd rather have under your belt.
Not a debate that hasn't been had before, but just thought I'd reignite it to see today's opinions with my own twists.
Firstly, 'Top Russell Group', (though not meaning to judge against those which, for argument's sake, are excluded - please don't let this deteriorate into that) will constitute the likes of:
- St Andrews
There will be some who feel that while, say, an Imperial 1st would exceed
an Oxbridge 2:1, the same should not be said of KCL. I ask those people to weigh up those 1st's which they would consider superior to an Oxbridge 2:1 from the universities mentioned against those they wouldn't and come to a conclusion by majority rule.
Secondly, courses. Different uni's have different strengths, how can we possibly say for all courses whether a 1st is better than an Oxbridge 2:1 blah blah blah. Just try to imagine a kind of 'General Studies' course at these uni's, except without the ridicule. A kind of fit-all course which is equally as served by all the aforementioned uni's and whose degree class prestige is dependent entirely on the prestige of the uni. When all else is equal but the prestige of the universities, is a top RG 1:1 better than an Oxbridge 2:1?
Better. What is 'better'. Largely which has more weight generally-speaking with employers, though again of course there will be some variation here try to envisage the general impressions. Which will give superior career prospects generally. Also just which would you rather have under your belt.
Before TSR launches into one of its all time most favourite debates once more, you probably need to specify the 'type of First/2.1.
There's quite a difference between 60 vs an 85 or a 69 vs 70.
A 1st at a top Russell Group university is usually a higher standard, but to your specific question, 1sts don't matter that much for career prospects.
I would hope that how you've applied yourself and transferred skills from the degree towards a particular career will greater affect your employability than the difference between those universities. An employer is always going to know the different between someone great on paper and someone less so but more competent regarding the role at hand.
I'd rather have rich parents tbh.
I don't think there'd really be much to call between them. Employers might slightly favour the 1st over the 2:1 but as Observatory says above, at the level of jobs you'd be looking to get into with that kind of degree, it's the relevant skills that are far more important (they'd just look for a decent 2:1 from a top uni and then not be insistent on any more than that).
If we're talking objective standard of work, rather than value to employers, I'd suggest it was again close. The Oxbridge 2:1 certainly isn't far behind if at all in terms of how much effort you have to put in to achieve it, I'd wager. Obviously it's difficult to judge this because virtually nobody will have experience of BOTH a RG 1st and Oxbridge 2:1; however I'd wager that an Oxbridge 2:1 is certainly better than a RG 2:1 in terms of effort put in and standard of work - I just scraped a 2:1 in my first year at Cambridge, after working my ass off literally every day and during the holidays as well, and then I know people who got 2:1s in their first year from RG unis who seem to be having a far more relaxed time. I wholeheartedly accept that this is almost certainly a biased analysis though and won't count for much!
Top RG 1st any day of the week. Getting a First is super important in my line of work. No First= no scholarship, reduced chance of Studentship for PhD.
Just thought I'd point out St. Andrews isn't RG :P But I'd rather have a first from LSE than a 2.1 from Oxford.