RFU announces new university partnership

  • New university partnership covers 15 universities 
  • The partnership aims to strengthen university rugby across the country

The Rugby Football Union has announced a partnership with 15 universities across the country, pledging to invest £220,000 into further strengthening the governing body’s commitment to supporting and growing the game within the higher education sector.

Those university partners will plan and deliver a rugby participation programme which incorporates the student rugby club and provide activity for players in all formats of men’s and women’s rugby.


Since 2015, the RFU has worked in a close partnership with the Students RFU (SRFU) and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) to develop and deliver university partnerships, inviting universities across the country to apply for a partnership.

The RFU carried out 1 to 1 interviews with universities in order to select the final 15 to be offered the three-year deal.

“The 15 selected partner institutions will be leading examples of universities who will provide a high level of commitment and a quality standard of rugby that will help enhance the experience for players of all abilities," said Mark Saltmarsh, Head of Education and Development at the RFU.

"Their commitment to this concept has been excellent and we can’t wait to get started with them. Our aim is that the new partnerships provide fantastic playing opportunities for students of all levels and abilities and further grow the game in the sector and the numbers of players continuing to play in rugby clubs when they leave.”


The 15 institutions will have a set of annual KPIs set against five areas:

  • Partnership delivery –ways of working together and general rules of engagement
  • Participation development – growing and maintaining participation levels in their rugby union programme
  • Men’s 15-a-side rugby aligned to a competition model for those participating teams
  • Sevens – both at a performance and recreational level linked to the England pathway
  • Women’s rugby – hubs providing support for players in the 15-a-side and Sevens programme


The England Women’s rugby programme has identified the university sector as a key potential source of support for its elite and emerging elite players.

Working across six hub sites, the partnership will drive improvements in the women’s elite game through focused on support for talented players.


There will also be four sevens hubs created with two further institutions delivering recreational sevens.

The university sector has been highlighted in the RFU Strategy for Sevens as a significant contributor to the growth of sevens in terms of the engagement of more university students on a recreational basis as well as the identification, development and support of talented players within the England Sevens pathway.


University of Leeds
Middlesex University
University of Essex
Durham University
Newcastle University
Northumbria University
Bishop Burton College
Leeds Beckett University
University of Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University
Loughborough University
University of Exeter
University of Bath
Hartpury University Centre
University of Bristol