For decades, Oxford and Cambridge have been allowed to dominate the quiz by entering individual colleges. Here’s why we need to end this unfair advantage
If the rules of University Challenge are as constant as the North Star, so is the format. Every series since time immemorial has featured an array of questionable knitwear, a student who can correctly identify Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in E Minor but go blank at George Michael’s Faith, and a seemingly endless barrage of Oxford and Cambridge teams.
While the predictability of contestants floundering in the face of pop music will forever prove entertaining, the domination of various Oxbridge colleges is anything but. And dominate they do: across the show’s 48 series finals, only 10 have been between two non-Oxbridge institutions, most recently Manchester’s victory over UCL in 2013. Last series, 11 of the 28 teams were Oxbridge colleges. Thankfully, due to clever match scheduling, it has been 32 years since we’ve had a single institution final (Oxford-only finals occurred in 1965, 1972 and 1987, and Cambridge-only finals in 1970, 1973, 1978). So, fingers on buzzers: is it time we stopped Oxbridge colleges competing individually?
The Oxbridge problem: is it time to shake up University Challenge?