The toughest quiz on television

About University Challenge

First appearing on our screens in 1962, University Challenge is one of the world’s longest-running television quiz programmes – and certainly the UK’s oldest!

Renowned for having the toughest questions of any television quiz, over the decades the competition has seen the youthful first screen appearances of many students who went on to greater fame, including Stephen Fry, Miriam Margolyes, Sebastian Faulkes, John Simpson, Clive James, John Sessions, Julian Fellowes, Christopher Hitchens and the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

Based on the College Bowl quiz format which has run in the US on both radio and television, the show is entering its seventh decade having had only three hosts: Bamber Gascoigne, Jeremy Paxman and now Amol Rajan, who took over the presenter’s role in the summer of 2023.

In addition to the students’ competition, each year now features a ten-episode Christmas series for distinguished alumni.

The experience of appearing on the programme has been fictionalised in David Nicholl’s novel ‘Starter for Ten’, which in turn inspired the film of the same name starring James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch, with Mark Gatiss playing Bamber Gascoigne.

About series 53

The current series began screening in July 2023, and will see the final match in the competition transmit in the late spring of 2024. Twenty-eight teams of students have qualified to appear, and they will compete over thirty-seven matches. Out of the twenty-eight, sixteen will make it through to the second round, then the best eight will be whittled down in the quarter-finals until only the top four remain to play in the semi-finals for the two places in the final match.

This is the first series to see Amol Rajan in the presenter’s chair, as well as an updated set that nevertheless retains the show’s signature split shot that appears to place on team on top of the other.

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