Types of University

There is some 'jargon' applied to different types of British Universities.

The following lists explain some it it.

For a simple list of British Universities, see here.

Ancient Universities

Refers to medieval and renaissance universities that have continued to exist. An 'Ancient university' effectively means one that was founded before the 1800s.

the wikipedia article on ancient universities has more information

Red Brick or Civic Universities

Civic universities, originally called Red Bricks, were founded in the nineteenth century in major industrial cities as a reflection of the increasing need for University level study of technical, science, design and engineering subjects. They are usually built in the middle of these cities on an undefined campus with public roads running through them with an eclectic range of range of building styles.

The wikipedia article on red brick universities explains more detail on the history behind the term red brick.

The term is often extended to include the group of universities granted a charter between 1900 and 1963 including:

Plate Glass or 1960s Universities

Refers to Universities founded between 1963 and 1992 (mainly in the 1960s) as part of Education reforms to increase the number of Universities in the UK. Often also referred to as 'Campus Universities' as most were built on designated green-field sites as self-contained US style campuses.

The wikipedia article again gives more detail on the background behind the term.

So called New Universities

Universities that were originally Polytechnics, Further Education Colleges, Teacher Training Colleges, University Colleges etc that were granted full University status as part of the Education reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. Most of these have elements that date back several hundred years - whilst their University degree awarding status may be 'new', their establishment is often older than some of the Civics and Red Brick Universities. This article explains the various routes to university status of the list below.

University of London colleges

Imperial College London used to be a constituent college of the University of London, but became independent in 2007.

Unique Institutions

University Colleges

A university college offers degrees and can award them themselves (though some choose to have the degrees awarded by a full university), but is not recognised as a university. A number of UK universities started out as university colleges. There are currently still six university colleges in the UK

Colleges of Higher Education, Music and Drama Schools and Art Schools

These are not Universities, but are able to offer degrees that are formally validated and awarded by a partner University.

Other 'groupings'


An amalgam term used to describe the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Russell Group

The Russell Group is an association of 24 British universities founded in 1994 'to represent the interests of its members'. They are predominantly research-led Universities and between them receive over 2/3rds of University research funding awarded by the British government. In recent years the title 'Russell Group' has been used as a marketing brand to suggest that these Universities are more 'elite' than others. For more information and a full list of Russell Group Universities see here.

1994 Group

The 1994 Group was a coalition of smaller research-intensive universities in the United Kingdom, founded in 1994 to defend these universities' interests following the creation of the Russell Group by larger research-intensive universities earlier that year. The coalition dissolved in 2013 and the term is now rarely used.