University Challenge

University Challenge is a British television quiz programme which first aired in 1962. University Challenge aired for 913 episodes on ITV from 21 September 1962 to 31 December 1987, presented by quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne. The BBC revived the programme on 21 September 1994 with Jeremy Paxman as the quizmaster. Paxman will relinquish his role as host following the conclusion of the 52nd series in 2023, after which he will be succeeded by Amol Rajan.[2] In October 2022, an ITV documentary, Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson's, revealed how the disease has impacted him[3] and revealed that Paxman recorded his very last episode of University Challenge on 15 October 2022, which is to air sometime in 2023.[4][5]

University Challenge
GenreQuiz show
Presented by
Voices of
  • Don Murray-Henderson
  • Jim Pope
  • Roger Tilling
Theme music composerDerek New
Opening theme"College Boy" (performed by the Balanescu Quartet since 2000)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series52
No. of episodes1,792 (as of 4 February 2019)[1]
Production locations
Running time30 minutes
Production companies
DistributorITV Studios
Original network
Audio format
Original release21 September 1962 (1962-09-21) 
  • College Bowl
  • University Challenge: The Professionals
  • The 3rd Degree
  • Christmas University Challenge

The current title holders are Imperial College London, who won the 51st series on 4 April 2022.[6]

The show has always been produced by the same company (originally named Granada Television, renamed ITV Studios in 2009 and renamed again Lifted Entertainment in 2021), under licence from Richard Reid Productions and the College Bowl Company.[7] It was recorded at Granada Studios in Manchester from its inception until the studios closed down in 2013; it is now recorded at Dock10 studios in Salford.[8]


Format continuity

Despite periodic changes to the sets, studio layout, and presentation, University Challenge has preserved a high level of continuity from 1962 to the present. Some commentators have cited this as an essential element of its success.[9] Elements of this continuity include:

  • The longevity of its quizmasters, with only two presenters in the programme's history;
  • The split-screen presentation during the starter question phase, which appears to place one team physically above the other. In the final years of the original Bamber Gascoigne era, the studio set genuinely was two-tiered, although the split-screen effect returned for the revived series and has been used ever since;
  • Long serving voiceover announcers, with only three in the programme's history – Don Murray-Henderson from 1962 until his death in 1971, then Jim Pope until his death in 2001, then Roger Tilling. Tilling's delivery typically becomes increasingly high-pitched as the episode progresses;[10]
  • The theme tune "College Boy" by Derek New, which has been with the series since the 1960s (although the first series used "Ting A Ling" by Duke Ellington).[9] "College Boy" was originally scored for an ensemble of tubular bells, flugelhorn, harpsichord, brushed hi-hat, bass drum and double bass. The original theme returned for the early Paxman-era episodes, and was later replaced by a string quartet arrangement of the theme recorded by the Balanescu Quartet.

ITV (1962 to 1987)

The programme had its beginnings in an American television quiz show called College Bowl. Cecil Bernstein, brother of Sidney Bernstein who founded Granada Television in 1954, had seen the programme in the United States and liked the format. It was decided that Granada would produce a similar programme with competing teams from universities across the United Kingdom.[11] From its inception in 1962, University Challenge was hosted by Bamber Gascoigne, who died in 2022. The show was a cult favourite with a small but loyal core audience, and was one of a select few ITV programmes that was transmitted without any advertising breaks. Originally, the series started off in many areas, being broadcast at peak times or just after the nightly news around 22:30; by the early 1970s, the series was relegated to irregular timeslots by the various ITV regional companies, with some broadcasting the show during daytime, at weekends or late at night. In the absence of a regular networked slot, audience figures would often fall, leading the producers to make changes to the long-standing format of the programme. LWT stopped broadcasting the show in October 1983, with Thames following suit shortly afterwards.[12] The programme was not broadcast in 1985 and returned in April 1986, when it was finally networked by ITV and broadcast at 15:00 on weekdays. The gameplay was revised, initial games were staged over two legs; the first in the classic format and the second played as a relay, where contestants selected questions from specific categories such as sport, literature and science, passing a baton between players whenever a "lap" of two correct answers was scored. The final series was also networked, but broadcast around 11:00 during the summer holiday period. Even so, the new networked time did little to save the series from the axe. The last ITV series was broadcast in 1987.

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge could each enter up to five of their constituent colleges as separate teams, which are not themselves universities: they have far fewer students – numbering in the hundreds rather than thousands – than most universities. This was one ostensible inspiration for a 1975 protest, in which a team from the University of Manchester (which included David Aaronovitch) came second to Downing College, Cambridge, when they started a round by answering every question "Che Guevara", "Marx", "Trotsky" or "Lenin", in the hope of making the resulting show unbroadcastable.[13][14] It was, however, broadcast, although only portions of the episode still exist in the Granada Television archives. Granada subsequently banned the University of Manchester for several years.[15]


University Challenge was revived by the BBC in 1994, although still produced by Granada Television (branded since 2009 as ITV Studios), using the original format, with minor differences, and presented by Jeremy Paxman.

During the show's hiatus, a special edition of the show was made by the BBC, as part of a themed evening of programmes dedicated to Granada Television. It was presented by Bamber Gascoigne and broadcast on BBC2 on 28 December 1992. The teams included one of students from Keble College, Oxford, which had fielded the winning team in the final 1987 season, and a graduates team of celebrity alumni who had previously appeared on the programme as students, including journalist John Simpson and actor Stephen Fry. This show was preceded by a short documentary about the show's history. Bamber Gascoigne's final appearance as host was in Universe Challenge in 1998 (see below).


Since its revival in 1994, the programme has featured a number of teams of postgraduate and mature students, whose participation has been criticised.[16] The Open University won the 1999 series with a team with an average age of 46. In the quarter-final, they narrowly beat a slightly younger team from part-time and mature student specialist Birkbeck, University of London. Birkbeck won the competition in 2003, also with a substantially mature team. Host Jeremy Paxman said that the Open University team was "not in the spirit" of the competition.[17] The team publicly replied by challenging him to specify in what way this was "contrary to the spirit of the quiz – or of the university".[18]

Ineligible contestants

In 2009, Sam Kay, part of the team from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was accused of not being a student when the show was filmed.[19] Kay, who had completed a chemistry degree the previous summer, had been planning to go on to study for a Doctor of Philosophy, but dropped out as he did not have sufficient funding. He then became an accountant.[20] The team, whose captain Gail Trimble was dubbed the "human Google",[21] won the competition but was subsequently disqualified and the trophy awarded to the runners-up, the University of Manchester.[22]

A few days later, it was also revealed that Charles Markland, a member of the 2008 winning team from Christ Church, Oxford, had transferred his studies to Balliol College halfway through the series. He said that his team captain had contacted a researcher concerning the situation, and had been told that this was not a problem and that the same team should be maintained for continuity purposes.[23] It was also revealed that Freya McClements, captain of the 2004 winning team from Magdalen College, Oxford, was at the time studying at Trinity College, Dublin. Although it was mentioned in a BBC news story at the time, no action was taken because the BBC stated that the facts had not been brought to their attention.[24][25]


In 2016, at the Henley Literary Festival, Jeremy Paxman said that, when students were unable to answer several consecutive starter questions, those questions were often deleted before the show is broadcast.[26]

  • In an episode of the BBC comedy series Not the Nine O'Clock News, first broadcast on 15 December 1980, Griff Rhys Jones plays Bamber Gascoigne in a sketch that pitches two teams of criminals representing prisoners from Wormwood Scrubs and Parkhurst. The teams score "points" (remission of sentence) by "grassing" on possible suspects involved in a crime.[27]
  • In 1984 an episode of The Young Ones, entitled "Bambi" (a play on Bamber Gascoigne's name), centred on a parody of University Challenge with a match between the fictitious teams of Scumbag College and Footlights College, Oxbridge. The cast included Stephen Fry, who participated in the real competition in 1980 while at Cambridge, and fellow alumni and Footlights members Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie as part of the "Footlights College" team, and Griff Rhys Jones as the host. The teams are arranged physically one above the other, in a parody of the show's split-screen format.[28]
  • A quiz themed around BBC science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf, broadcast in 1998, is entitled Universe Challenge. It opens as if it were a regular episode, but with Chris Barrie impersonating Jeremy Paxman. Gascoigne comes from behind with a blaster gun and blows him out of the chair to take over as host. This was Gascoigne's last appearance as host.[29]
  • In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, University Challenge was placed 34th.[30]
  • Starter For Ten is the title of a novel, first published in 2003, by British author David Nicholls. The plot is about a first-year student, Brian Jackson, who attempts to join his university team competing in University Challenge. Nicholls also adapted the novel into the film Starter for 10 in 2006, starring James McAvoy as Jackson, with Mark Gatiss portraying Gascoigne.
  • In 2006 Armando Ianucci's Time Trumpet presented a parody of University Challenge, set in a future where students are 'too lazy to learn'; this parody was later referenced in an episode of the 2007–08 series of University Challenge by the team captain of SOAS, Joe Perry, who, not knowing the real answer, simply answered "Venezuela?"
  • The quiz was the subject of the hour-long BBC Two documentary The Story So Far, first broadcast in November 2006.[31]
  • In 2014, a two part documentary narrated by Richard Osman called 'Class of 2014' outlined a brief history of the programme and the team selection process both within the universities and by the production staff. The documentary attracted some criticism due to the large emphasis on Oxbridge and Manchester during the programme.[32]
  • In March 2017 semi-finalist team captains Bobby Seagull of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Eric Monkman of Wolfson College, Cambridge, appeared on BBC One's The One Show.[33][34] In August 2017 the two were featured on BBC Radio 4's Today programme[35] ahead of hosting their own show, Monkman and Seagull's Polymathic Adventure, on 21 August.[36]

Game play

From a 1994 episode of University Challenge


Teams consist of four members and most represent a single university. The exceptions to this are colleges of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, which enter independent teams. While a number of other British universities have constituent colleges, only those where some teaching is undertaken at the college level may enter independent teams. The competing teams each year are selected by the show's producers, based both on scores from a general trivia quiz and the producers' judging of the suitability of the teams for television.[37] Durham University has appeared most frequently in the post-1994 format.[38]

The contestants are identified by their surnames during gameplay, apart from at the beginning when they introduce themselves with their full names, where they are from and what they are studying.

The teams generally consist of mixed genders, mostly young adults but with some mature students also appearing.

Tournament structure

The current tournament format used for each series is that of a direct knockout tournament starting with 28 teams. The fourteen first-round winners progress directly to the last sixteen. Two matches, involving the four highest scoring losing teams from the first round, whose losing scores often exceed winning scores in other first-round matches, fill the remaining places in the last sixteen. Teams in the quarter-final round (last eight teams) have to win two matches in the round to progress to the semi-finals. Equally, teams must lose two quarter-final matches in order to be eliminated from that round. The pairings for matches are often chosen in order to keep stronger teams apart.[39]

Question format

Starter questions are answered individually and are worth ten points. The catchphrase "your starter for ten" inspired David Nicholls' 2003 novel Starter for Ten and the 2006 film based on it starring James McAvoy. An incorrect interruption of a starter question incurs a five-point penalty; during the Gascoigne era this took the form of five points being awarded to the opposing team, whereas in the Paxman era five points are deducted from the interrupting team.

The team answering a starter correctly gets a set of three bonus questions worth a potential fifteen points, for which they can confer. Sets of bonus questions are thematically linked. They rarely share a connection with the preceding starter question, except when they are bonuses following a picture or music question. Generally, there are three separate bonus questions worth five points each, but occasionally a bonus will require the enumeration of a given list with five, ten or fifteen points given for correctly giving a certain number of items from the list (for example, "there are seven fundamental SI units. Give five for five points, six for ten points or all seven for fifteen points"). It is the team captain's responsibility to give the answer to the bonus questions unless another member of the team is specified with the phrase "Nominate [name]". The team member so named may then give the answer instead.

In the course of a game there are two picture rounds (occurring roughly one quarter and three-quarters of the way through) and one music round (at the halfway point), where the subsequent bonuses are connected thematically to the starter; if a picture or music starter is not correctly answered, the accompanying bonus questions are held back until a normal starter is correctly answered. Usually, in the recent contests, the first picture round focuses on science and technology, geography, and languages, while the second picture round focuses on art, film, television, and literature. The 2010 Manchester University team included a visually impaired student, Rachael Neiman, and the picture rounds in episodes involving the team were word puzzles for which she was provided with Braille transcriptions.[40] Pieces of music played for the music round may be classical or popular – for example, on 25 July 2011, the pieces played were winners of the Eurovision Song Contest. Occasionally, audio clips other than music (e.g. speech, animal sounds or other field recordings) are used.

The pace of questioning gradually increases through the show. The sound of a gong signals the end of the game. At this point, the game immediately ends, even if Paxman is halfway through asking a question. In the event of a tied score at the sound of the gong, a sudden death question is asked, the first team to answer correctly being deemed the winner; this is repeated until one or other of the teams answers correctly, or a team loses by giving an incorrect interruption. The ending of the programme is usually signified with Jeremy Paxman saying "It's goodbye from ([name of losing team], who say goodbye), it's goodbye from ([name of winning team], likewise), and it's goodbye from me: goodbye!"


While the starter questions are being read out, the teams are shown on screen one above the other by means of a split-screen effect. When a player buzzes in, the shot zooms in to that player, accompanied by a voiceover identifying the player by team and surname, for example "Nottingham, Munro". The voiceovers are performed live in the studio by Roger Tilling and become more energetic towards the end of the programme. The 1986 series experimented with an actual two-tier set, which was discontinued the following year.

Notable contestants

Pro-Celebrity edition, 1992.

Notable contestants in the regular student competition. Special Celebrity Christmas editions, where all competitors are distinguished, are excluded.







The University of Manchester, Magdalen College, Oxford, and Imperial College London have the highest number of wins, with four each. The University of Manchester and Magdalen College, Oxford are also the only teams to successfully defend the title the year after their win (Manchester's 2009 win came only after the original winner was disqualified). Trinity College, Cambridge, holds three titles, and a further seven institutions have two titles: Durham, Sussex, the Open University, Sidney Sussex–Cambridge, Keble–Oxford, University–Oxford and Warwick.

Original series (Bamber Gascoigne)

Year Winners Runners-up
1963 University of Leicester Balliol College, Oxford
1965 New College, Oxford Worcester College, Oxford
1966 Oriel College, Oxford University of Birmingham
1967 University of Sussex King's College London
1968 Keele University Jesus College, Cambridge
1969 University of Sussex (2) University of Essex
1970 Churchill College, Cambridge Christ's College, Cambridge
1971 Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge Trinity College, Oxford
1972 University College, Oxford Keble College, Oxford
1973 Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
1974 Trinity College, Cambridge Balliol College, Oxford
1975 Keble College, Oxford University of Hull
1976 University College, Oxford (2) King's College London
1977 Durham University New College, Oxford
1978 Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (2) Magdalene College, Cambridge
1979 University of Bradford Lancaster University
1980 Merton College, Oxford Queens' College, Cambridge
1981 Queen's University Belfast University of Edinburgh
1982 University of St Andrews University College, Oxford
1983 University of Dundee Durham University
1984 The Open University University of St Andrews
1986 Jesus College, Oxford Imperial College London
1987 Keble College, Oxford (2) University College, Oxford

New series (Jeremy Paxman)

Year Winners Runners-up
1995 Trinity College, Cambridge (2) New College, Oxford
1996 Imperial College London London School of Economics
1997 Magdalen College, Oxford The Open University
1998 Magdalen College, Oxford (2) Birkbeck, University of London
1999 The Open University (2) Oriel College, Oxford
2000 University of Durham (2) Oriel College, Oxford
2001 Imperial College London (2) St John's College, Oxford
2002 Somerville College, Oxford Imperial College London
2003 Birkbeck, University of London Cranfield University
2004 Magdalen College, Oxford (3) Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
2005 Corpus Christi College, Oxford University College London
2006 University of Manchester Trinity Hall, Cambridge
2007 University of Warwick University of Manchester
2008 Christ Church, Oxford University of Sheffield
2009 University of Manchester (2) Corpus Christi College, Oxford (Disqualified)
2010 Emmanuel College, Cambridge St. John's College, Oxford
2011 Magdalen College, Oxford (4) University of York
2012 University of Manchester (3) Pembroke College, Cambridge
2013 University of Manchester (4) University College London
2014 Trinity College, Cambridge (3) Somerville College, Oxford
2015 Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge Magdalen College, Oxford
2016 Peterhouse, Cambridge St John's College, Oxford
2017 Balliol College, Oxford Wolfson College, Cambridge
2018 St John's College, Cambridge Merton College, Oxford
2019 University of Edinburgh St Edmund Hall, Oxford
2020 Imperial College London (3) Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
2021 University of Warwick (2) Magdalene College, Cambridge
2022 Imperial College London (4) University of Reading

Most series wins

Rank University/College Number of wins Win year(s)
1 Magdalen College, Oxford 4 1997, 1998, 2004, 2011
University of Manchester 4 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013
Imperial College London 4 1996, 2001, 2020, 2022
4 Trinity College, Cambridge 3 1974, 1995, 2014
5 University of Sussex 2 1967, 1969
University College, Oxford 2 1972, 1976
Keble College, Oxford 2 1975, 1987
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge 2 1971, 1978
The Open University 2 1984, 1999
Durham University 2 1977, 2000
University of Warwick 2 2007, 2021

Information in these tables obtained from Blanchflower – University Challenge Series Champions.[46]

Lowest scores

Little is known about the lowest scores from the Bamber Gascoigne series, except that the lowest score ever was in the 1971–72 season, when the University of Sussex, fresh from two series wins, managed only 10 points.[47] However, a low score was also achieved by Victoria University of Manchester in their first round match in 1975 when, for much of the recording, they answered only with the names of Marxists as a protest against the Oxford and Cambridge colleges being able to enter separate teams.[48]

Under Jeremy Paxman, the lowest score achieved by a student team is also 10 which, coincidentally, was also achieved by a team from the University of Sussex, in the first round of the 2021–22 series when they faced the University of Birmingham who scored 245. In the same series, the lowest winning score for a student team was achieved, by Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who scored 85 in a quarter final against King's College London who scored 80. The second lowest losing score is 15, which was achieved by the University of Exeter in a 2008–09 quarter-final against Corpus Christi, Oxford, whose team captain Gail Trimble amassed 15 correct starter questions. However, the Corpus Christi team were later disqualified from the competition after it was found that team member Sam Kay had been ineligible for the last three matches.[49] Therefore, the second lowest score officially achieved against eligible opponents under quizmaster Jeremy Paxman was by Lincoln College, Oxford, who totalled 30 in a semi-final against the eventual series champions the University of Manchester, in an episode televised on 9 February 2009, just two weeks after the Corpus Christi vs Exeter match. This was also matched in the grand final by St John's College, Oxford, against Peterhouse, Cambridge, on 18 April 2016.

Before these matches, the lowest score was 35, reached by New Hall, Cambridge, 1997.[50] This score would have been lower if all fines for incorrect interruptions had been applied.[51]

The lowest score during the Professionals series was achieved by the House of Commons team, who scored 25 in 2003. In the 2014 Christmas University Challenge series, a team of alumni from Newcastle University also finished with 25.

An all-time record low score for the series was achieved in the final of the 2017 Christmas series, when Keble College, Oxford, beat the University of Reading 240–0. The previous year's Christmas series saw the lowest winning score of all time, 75, scored by the University of Nottingham, who defeated their opponents, the University of Bristol, by just five points.

Highest scores

University College, Oxford, scored 520 points in the final ITV season in 1987.[52] In the Jeremy Paxman era, the team from Open University scored the highest score, 415, in the semi-final in 1997 against Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School.


Year Special Event Winners Runners Up
1978 College Bowl-University Challenge World Championship[53] University Challenge "all-stars" Stanford University
1979 College Bowl-University Challenge World Championship Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge Davidson College
1984 1984 Christmas special
1986 International best of three series Great Britain (Jesus College, Oxford, 1985) New Zealand (University of Auckland, 1985)
1987 International best of three series Great Britain (Keble College, Oxford, 1986) New Zealand (University of Otago, 1986)
1992 Celebrity match Celebrity Past Contestants (Alastair Little, John Simpson, Stephen Fry, Charles Moore)(Appropriately enough, all the celebrities studied at Cambridge colleges making this an Oxbridge match.) Keble College, Oxford (A team of current students from the college, as they were the "defending champions", having won the last series of the show, back in 1987.)
1997 College Bowl Challenge University of Michigan Imperial College London, 1996
1997 Mastermind Challenge Magdalen College, Oxford, 1997 The last 4 Mastermind finalists from the Magnus Magnusson era: Claire Ockwell, Andrea Weston, Colin Cadby (Captain) and Anne Ashurst (series champion)
1997 College Bowl Challenge USA UK
1998 Champions' Challenge Magdalen College, Oxford, 1997 Imperial College London, 1996
1998 Universe Challenge Red Dwarf Fans: (Darryl Ball, Kaley Nichols, Steve Rogers [Chairman of the Official Red Dwarf Fan Club], Pip Swallow, Sharon Burnett [Co-author of The Red Dwarf Quiz Book]) Red Dwarf Cast: (Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Chris Barrie, Chloë Annett, Craig Charles)
1998 Challenge Magdalen College, Oxford, 1998 Leicester, 1963
1999 Journalists Special Tabloids (Jane Moore, Peter Hitchens, Ann Leslie, Tony Parsons) Broadsheets (Decca Aitkenhead, Libby Purves, Boris Johnson, Richard Ingrams)
2002 University Challenge: Reunited Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1979 Keele, 1968
2003 Comic Relief match The Townies: (Jeremy Beadle, Gina Yashere, Danny Baker, Johnny Vaughan) The Gownies: (David Baddiel, Frank Skinner, Stephen Fry, Clive Anderson)
2003 University Challenge: The Professionals The Inland Revenue Royal Meteorological Society
2004 International "Grand Final": UK vs India Sardar Patel College of Engineering (SPCE), Mumbai: (Nirad Inamdar, Bharat Jayakumar, Nishad Manerikar, Shrijit Plappally) Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: (Laura Ashe, Darren Khodaverdi, Lameen Souag, Edward Wallace)
2004 University Challenge: The Professionals British Library Oxford University Press
2004 Christmas Special 1 Television (Monty Don, Martha Kearney, Andrew Neil, Clare Balding) Radio (Henry Blofeld, Jenni Murray, Ned Sherrin, Roger Bolton)
Christmas Special 2 Critics (Waldemar Januszczak, Russell Davies, Brian Sewell, Andrew Graham-Dixon) Theatre (Adrian Noble, Harriet Walter, Tim Rice, Ken Campbell)
Christmas Specials: Final Critics Television
2005 Comic Relief 2005 Match The South (Sarah Alexander, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Omid Djalili) The North (Colin Murray, John Thomson, Armando Iannucci, Neil Morrissey)
2005 University Challenge: The Professionals Privy Council Office Romantic Novelists' Association
2005 Christmas Special 1 News (Kate Adie, Nick Robinson, Michael Buerk, Bridget Kendall) Politics (Mark Oaten, Diane Abbott, Tim Yeo, Stephen Pound)
Christmas Special 2 Writers (Tony Marchant, Andrew Davies, Iain Banks, Jimmy McGovern) Actors (Robert Powell, Samuel West, Janet Suzman, Martin Jarvis)
Christmas Specials: Final Writers News
2006 University Challenge: The Professionals Bodleian Library Royal Statistical Society
2008 University Challenge: The Professionals Ministry of Justice National Physical Laboratory
2011 Christmas University Challenge Trinity College, Cambridge (Robin Bhattacharyya, Daisy Goodwin, John Lloyd, Edward Stourton) University of Warwick (Vadim Jean, Daisy Christodoulou, Christian Wolmar, Carla Mendonça)
2012 Christmas University Challenge New College, Oxford (Rachel Johnson, Patrick Gale, Kate Mosse, Yan Wong) University of East Anglia (John Boyne, Razia Iqbal, David Grossman, Charlie Higson)
2013 Christmas University Challenge Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (Quentin Stafford-Fraser, Helen Castor, Mark Damazer, Lars Tharp) Emmanuel College, Cambridge (Hugo Rifkind, Mary-Ann Ochota, Simon Singh, Rory McGrath)
2014 Champion of Champions University of Manchester (Henry Pertinez, Gareth Aubrey, Tristan Burke, Adam Barr) Magdalen College, Oxford (Matthew Chan, Freya McClements, Jim Adams, Sarah Healey)
2014 Christmas University Challenge Trinity Hall, Cambridge (Tom James, Emma Pooley, Adam Mars-Jones, Dan Starkey) University of Hull (Rosie Millard, Malcolm Sinclair, Jenni Murray, Stan Cullimore)
2015 Christmas University Challenge Magdalen College, Oxford (Robin Lane Fox, Heather Berlin, Louis Theroux, Matt Ridley) University of Sheffield (Sid Lowe, Nicci Gerrard, Adam Hart, Ruth Reed)
2016 Christmas University Challenge St Hilda's College, Oxford (Fiona Caldicott, Daisy Dunn, Val McDermid, Adèle Geras) University of Leeds (Louise Doughty, Gus Unger-Hamilton, Kamal Ahmed, Steve Bell)
2017 Christmas University Challenge Keble College, Oxford (Paul Johnson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Katy Brand, Anne-Marie Imafidon) University of Reading (Anna Machin, Martin Hughes-Games, Sophie Walker, Pippa Greenwood)
2018 Christmas University Challenge Peterhouse, Cambridge (Dan Mazer, Mark Horton, Michael Howard, Michael Axworthy) University of Bristol (Philip Ball, Laura Wade, Misha Glenny, Iain Stewart)
2019 Comic Relief 2019 Match Team Freeman (Luisa Omielan, Robert Rinder, Martin Freeman, Kerry Godliman) Team Manford (Darren Harriott, Vick Hope, Jason Manford, Emily Atack)
2019 Christmas University Challenge University of Leeds (Jonathan Clements, Henry Gee, Richard Coles, Timothy Allen) Wadham College, Oxford (Jonathan Freedland, Tom Solomon, Anne McElvoy, Roger Mosey)
2020 Children in Need 2020 Match Team BBC (Dane Baptiste, Anita Rani, Dara Ó Briain, Steve Pemberton) Team ITV (Iain Stirling, Charlene White, Fay Ripley, Joel Dommett)
2020 Christmas University Challenge The Courtauld Institute of Art (Tim Marlow, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jacky Klein, Jeremy Deller) University of Manchester (David Nott, Juliet Jacques, Ade Edmondson, Justin Edwards)[54]
2021 Children in Need 2021 Match Team BBC (Angela Barnes, Mishal Husain, Rick Edwards, Jon Culshaw) Team ITV (Russell Kane, Denise Welch, Kaye Adams, Ranj Singh)
2021 Christmas University Challenge University of Edinburgh (Catherine Slessor, Thomasina Miers, Miles Jupp, Phil Swanson) Hertford College, Oxford (Soweto Kinch, Elizabeth Norton, Adam Fleming, Isabelle Westbury)
2022 Christmas University Challenge Balliol College, Oxford (Elizabeth Kiss, Andrew Copson, Martin Edwards, Martin O'Neill) University of Hull (Katharine Norbury, James Graham, Sian Reese-Williams, Graeme Hall, Sarah Peverley)

Some information from this table was obtained from the web pages listed in "Special Series". Sean Blanchflower. Retrieved 26 February 2008.


Spin-off shows

The producers of the programme have taken the more recent inclusion of mature students to its logical conclusion by making two series without any student participants: University Challenge Reunited (2002) brought former teams back together, while University Challenge: The Professionals (from 2003) matched occupational groups such as civil servants, architects and doctors against each other. In 2003, the former was won by the 1979 team from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, the latter by a team from the Inland Revenue. The 2004 Professionals series was won by the British Library, and the 2005 series by the Privy Council Office. In 2006, Professionals was won by staff of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford.

The show has seen numerous specials, including those for specific professions and celebrity editions, such as Universe Challenge, presented by former host and Red Dwarf fan, Bamber Gascoigne, where the cast of Red Dwarf challenged a team of their "ultimate fans" to celebrate Red Dwarf's 10th anniversary on the air. The cast was Chris Barrie (captain), Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Chloë Annett and Craig Charles. The cast, who at times seemed amazed at the fans' knowledge, lost, but by only 15 points, 280–295.

Similar programmes

Sixth Form Challenge, hosted by Chris Kelly, appeared briefly between 1965 and 1967. The sixth form contestants represented leading public schools and grammar schools. An untelevised version, Schools' Challenge, continues to run at junior and senior secondary school levels.

Challenging Times was a quiz show for teams representing higher education institutes in Ireland, televised by RTÉ from 1991 to 2001.

Other countries

University Challenge ran in New Zealand for 14 seasons, from 1976 until 1989, with international series held between the previous years' British and New Zealand champions in both 1986 and 1987. It originally aired on TVNZ 1 and was hosted by Peter Sinclair from 1976 to 1977 and again from 1980 to 1989, from 1978 to 1979, Sinclair was briefly dropped from the show and was replaced by University of Otago lecturer Charles Higham, Sinclair returned in 1980 and from 1981 to 1982, the show briefly moved to TVNZ 2, it moved back to TV1 in 1983 and remained on the network until the series original conclusion in 1989. The series was revived in 2014 by Cue TV and aired on Prime with Cue TV owner Tom Conroy as host and ran until its second conclusion in 2017.

University Challenge, hosted by Magnus Clarke, ran in Australia on the ABC from 1987 until 1989. In the 1988 series, the University of New South Wales defeated the University of Melbourne in the final by 245 points to 175.[66]

University Challenge India started in summer 2003, with the season culminating in the finals of March 2004 where Sardar Patel College of Engineering (SPCE), Mumbai, beat Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. The 2004–2005 season finale saw a team of undergraduate engineering students from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), Delhi, beat a team of management students from the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode. The Indian winners of the 2003–2004 season went on to beat the finalists from the UK show, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. UC India is produced by BBC World India, and Synergy Communications, co-owned by Siddhartha Basu, who also hosted the show.[67]

University Challenge inspired the format of two Dutch-language shows: Universiteitsstrijd[68] (the Netherlands), which ran for one season in 2016 on NTR, and De Campus Cup[69] (Belgium), which ran since 2019 on Canvas.


  1. This figure included all episodes from both the ITV and BBC series, as well as the 2002 Reunited series and all special episodes. The figure does not include the spin-off University Challenge: The Professionals.
  2. Minelle, Bethany (18 August 2022). "Amol Rajan replaces Jeremy Paxman as University Challenge host". Sky News. Archived from the original on 18 August 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
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  4. Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson's – Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson's, retrieved 4 October 2022
  5. "TV tonight: Jeremy Paxman on Parkinson's, dissecting brains and quitting University Challenge". the Guardian. 4 October 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  6. Gaskell, Jacob (5 April 2021). "Magdalene College, Cambridge defeated by Warwick in the University Challenge Grand Final". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  7. "Richard Reid Productions". University Challenge. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  8. Metcalfe, Callum (17 December 2020). "Christmas TV specials filmed in Salford this year". Salford Now. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  9. See Don't ever change, University Challenge by Harry Mount, the Daily Telegraph, 7 April 2014.
  10. Roger Tilling Interview BBC Breakfast April 2017 on YouTube
  11. Taylor, Paul (12 September 2012). "Made in Manchester: University Challenge celebrates 50 years on our screens". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  12. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, 12 Oct 1983; pg. 14;
  13. Mark Damazer (presenter); Jo Meek (producer). "Your Starter for Ten: 50 Years of University Challenge". BBC ("Radio 4 Extra"). Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  14. Gallagher, Paul (21 June 2009). "BBC tightens University Challenge rules in response to fiasco". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  15. "'University Challenge' Won By Manchester Team for Third Time". HuffPost. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  16. Nicole Martin (17 December 2007) [14 December 2007]. "University Challenge 'needs upper age limit' [print version: Your starter for 10: how old are these students?]". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 14. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  17. Paxman Slams 'Quiz Professionals'. BBC News. 5 June 1999.
  18. "How Lance Left Paxman at a Loss for Words" – Mensa Magazine, August, 1999
  19. Michael Rosser (2 March 2009). "University Challenge winners dethroned". Broadcast.
  20. "BBC in University Challenge probe". BBC. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  21. Brian Ferguson (3 March 2009). "University Challenge winners stripped of title – for having zero common sense". The Scotsman. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
  22. "University Challenge: a joint statement from the BBC and Granada". BBC Press Office (Press release). BBC. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  23. "University quiz hit by new claims". BBC. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  24. Holmwood, Leigh (3 March 2009). "Previous University Challenge winners appear to break rules". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  25. "Scholar tops university quiz". BBC. 13 April 2004. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  26. "Your starter for 10 – is University Challenge cheating us?". The Guardian. 5 October 2016. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  27. "BBC Two – Not the Nine O'Clock News, Series 3, Episode 8". BBC. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  28. Jess Denham. "Rik Mayall death anniversary: Funniest moments from Blackadder to The Young Ones | Features | Culture". The Independent. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  29. Universe Challenge (1998) at IMDb
  30. deadmonger (11 April 2011) [12 February 2013]. "The BFI TV 100 (2000) – a list". IMDb. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  31. "The Story So Far, University Challenge – BBC Two". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  32. "University Challenge criticised for Oxbridge bias". 14 July 2014. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  33. "Monkman Vs Seagull: A Potted History of the University Challenge Captains' Bromance". 27 March 2017.
  34. "Eric Monkman belted out the Imperial March on The One Show, because Monkman".
  35. "Monkman and Seagull on 'divine inspiration' for puzzles, Today – BBC Radio 4". BBC.
  36. "University Challenge stars get own show". BBC News. 3 August 2017.
  37. Bradley, Wendy (15 September 2014). "I'm gutted about University Challenge. And it's got nothing to do with Paxman". Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  38. "Most Appearances (1994–2015)". University Challenge Fansite. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  39. On University Challenge (Illustrated). Jacob Funnell. Archived from the original on 20 August 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  40. Bentley, Paul; Kathryn Faulkner (4 February 2010). "Blind Rachael's new Challenge". South Manchester Reporter. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  41. James, Clive (10 December 2016). "Clive James: 'At 16, my dress sense was in the first full flower of its baroque glory'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  42. Brandreth, Gyles (2018). Have You Eaten Grandma?. Penguin. p. 135. ISBN 978-0241352656. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  43. Granada TV's "University Challenge" 1962/3 on YouTube
  44. Blake Morrison I contain multitudes, The Guardian, 29 May 2010
  45. "Meet the Chasers: Mark Labbett". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  46. Sean Blanchflower. University Challenge Series Champions. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  47. Sean Blanchflower. "University Challenge – Lowest Scores". Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  48. Paul Gallagher. "BBC tightens University Challenge rules in response to fiasco | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  49. Holmwood, Leigh (2 March 2009). Gail Trimble's Corpus Christi stripped of University Challenge title. The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  50. Sean Blanchflower. University Challenge – lowest scores. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  51. On the TV programme The 100 Most Embarrassing TV Moments Ever, the New Hall performance was repeated and a member of the team said that they stopped losing points.
  52. Sean Blanchflower. "University Challenge – Statistics". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  53. This was played under College Bowl rules, with Art Fleming hosting
  54. "Christmas University Challenge announces line up".
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  58. "University Challenge - 1977". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
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  60. "University Challenge - 1978". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  61. "University Challenge - 1980". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  62. "University Challenge - 1981". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  63. "University Challenge - 1982". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  64. "University Challenge - 1983". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  65. "University Challenge - 1984". Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  66. University Challenge Australian Grand Final 1988 NSW v Melbourne Part 1 on YouTube
  67. "Siddhartha Basu: The quizmaster on his latest programme on BBC, the University Challenge (UC)". Outlook. 18 August 2003.
  68. "De Universiteitsstrijd gemist? Start met kijken op NPO Start". (in Dutch). Retrieved 27 March 2021.
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