University Challenge Broadcaster BBC 2 Producer Granada TV Program History 2004-2005 2005-2006

Programme Info

University Challenge is the British version of College Bowl. ITV Plc. licenses the rights from the College Bowl Company and produces the program.

Broadcast History

University Challenge first aired on television throughout the U.K. from 1962-1987. Airing 23 "series" (equivalent to seasons in the U.S.) over 25 years, the program was a popular institution on the ITV network. The original presenter (equivalent to the host in the U.S.) was broadcaster and scholar, Bamber Gascoigne. In those years, 6 leagues of 4 teams each competed in the preliminaries. Then the top 8 teams played off in the "knockout stage" (a single-elimination format) for the Championship.

Current Programme

University Challenge began airing again in 1994-95 on BBC channel 2. The presenter is Jeremy Paxman, one of Britain's most distinguished television journalists. In addition to presenting University Challenge, he is the main presenter for BBC2's news programme Newsnight.

The current series format involves 24 teams per year. Those 24 teams compete in twelve preliminary matches, taped in June each year. Then, the top 16 teams from the preliminaries (the 12 winners plus the top 4 losers) compete in a single-elimination tournament for the U.K. Championship, taped in December of each year.

University and University Colleges apply to compete in the series. After an initial written application, a team of University Challenge staff tours the U.K. to interview and test the applicant teams. In all, teams representing approximately 250 universities or university colleges are seen annually. In each of those cases, a standardized quiz and personal interviews are used. Following that "road trip", the average team score on the quiz and the interviews are used to select the 24 teams for the year's series. While Universities and University Colleges may apply in successive seasons, teams are new each year, as students are not allowed to take part in consecutive series representing the same Institution.

The University Challenge programme follows the quintessential College Bowl toss-up and bonus format, but with a number of twists. Toss-ups are called starters. Bonuses are all 15 points and usually (but not always) contain three 5 point questions. The length of the game is not fixed. Of the available broadcast time (usually 29 minutes and 15 seconds), after deducting the actual opening and "chat" preceding the game and the standard time for the closing/credits, the balance of time (usually 26 to 27 minutes) is allocated to the game. As no commercials are aired, the game is played in its entirety from start to finish. Unlike play in the U.S., the time a team is given to respond to a starter or bonus is not timed, it is at the discretion of the presenter.

The University Challenge programme is taped at ITV Plc. facilities, a state of the art broadcast centre in Manchester, England.


Page Last Updated 6/7/07
© 2005, College Bowl Company. All Rights Reserved.

Home | Contact Us