UCL News


UCL success on University Challenge

9 March 2012

A UCL team has made it to the semi-finals of BBC Two's University Challenge 2011-2012.

University Challenge team The team is made up of Captain Jamie Karran (UCL Medicine), Tom Andrews (UCL Genetics), Hywel Carver (UCL CoMPLEX) and Patrick Cook (UCL History).

The team was successful in winning their first two rounds. In the quarter-finals they won and lost a match, but proceeded to the semi-finals after beating Balliol College, Oxford.

UCL will meet Pembroke College, Cambridge in the semi-final to battle over a place in the final with University of Manchester.

Here, team captain Jamie Karran explains how the journey began:

"I'd been wanting to apply for the UCL University Challenge team pretty much every year I was at UCL, but was so disorganised that I never got around to it. The UCL Union organises the teams and would send out an email asking for applications each year, at which point I'd always think: "Oh yeah! I should do that…" and then promptly forget. The team was selected quite thoroughly and took the form of a quiz, consisting of three rounds. The first two rounds were written tests that whittled down the hopefuls to around 10 and then the third round was a buzzer-based quiz, which was pretty exciting. The four of us who scored highest on this round made the team.

We couldn't really see a good way to settle it so agreed to toss a coin - that's how close we were to having someone respectable as captain!

A lot of people ask how on earth I ended up captain, given what an imbecile I seem. As it happens, I very nearly wasn't! The first time we met up as a team we needed to pick a captain. Patrick and Tom said they weren't interested, whilst Hywel and I were. We couldn't really see a good way to settle it so agreed to toss a coin - that's how close we were to having someone respectable as captain!

To get on the show we had to go to an audition, shortly after that we were told we'd made the televised stages of the show, and that's when the 'serious training' began. I say serious, we just went to Phineas once a week and read questions from the University Challenge quiz book whilst drinking too much cider.

It was a really good way to get to know the team and, more importantly, know where our strengths and weaknesses lay. For instance, we worked out fairly quickly that Tom's hunches were usually right and worth a guess - something that has definitely bagged us more than a few points on the show.

The show is recorded a surprisingly long time in advance, beginning before the previous series of University Challenge has finished being televised. Whilst the first show was an understandably nervy affair, the fact we'd got to know each other pretty well really helped us be a bit more relaxed. I think this comes through on screen. Jeremy Paxman seemed to like us, at any rate. It's hard to pick out any highlights - I do enjoy making Jeremy splutter though."

The UCL semi-final episode is being aired on Monday 12 March on BBC Two at 8pm. Tune in to find out how Jamie and the team get on.

Images from top:  UCL team on University Challenge and Jamie Karran (Captain)

Related links:

BBC University Challenge