The elite Russell Group of universities has accepted four new members.
The universities of Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary University London and York were selected to join the group, which represents the UK's top institutions of higher education.
The Russell Group produces almost 80% of Britain's doctors and dentists, and wields considerable influence on Government education policy.
Professor Michael Arthur, chairman of the Russell Group, said: "We are delighted to announce that the Russell Group board has invited four more members to join the group, all of whom have accepted.
"Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary and York have demonstrated that - like all other Russell Group members - they excel in research, innovation and education and have a critical mass of research excellence across a wide range of disciplines."
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said: "I look forward to working with our new members to make sure the UK remains a global leader in higher education and continues to reap the economic and social benefits that our leading research-intensive universities provide."
The other Russell Group universities are Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, King's College London, University College London, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics and Political Science, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Queen's University Belfast, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick.