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University Challenge Team

Our University Challenge team were victorious in the 2023 Grand Final, winning by 35 points (155 points to 120) against Bristol University. Opponents, Bristol, were in their first University Challenge final and kept the pressure on right up until the end.

Student with cakeThe exciting final was watched with bated breath in our colleges. At the College of St Hild and St Bede, students celebrated the win of three of their own, Harry, Alex and Bea – and at Josephine Butler College, Chloe was presented with a fabulous bouquet of cupcakes (left).  



Our Vice-Chancellor, having watched the final with some of our students, said “I had the nail-biting excitement of watching University Challenge with the students at Collingwood (College) - I am thrilled and delighted! I am overawed by your brilliance and extremely pleased for Durham.” Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden 

This is Durham’s first win since 2000 with the team of consisted of Colin Telfer, Nick Ledger, John Stewart and Nick Allan and before that, in 1977 – it seems the phenomenon reoccurs every 23 years! The victorious team were presented with the stainless steel book award by the author Jung Chang.  

The Final rounded off Jeremy Paxman’s tenure of the show, as he bowed out after almost 30 years. The BBC's media editor Amol Rajan is taking over the coveted role, making him only the third host in University Challenge's 60-year run. Jeremy Paxman signed off by telling the two competing teams: "Well, you're all old hands at this now, so just get on with it." 

At Durham, we are very much looking forward to the next series! 

Huge congratulations from all at Durham to Harry, Bea, Alex and Chloe on their stellar performance last night and throughout the competition.  

Purple Line Separator SlimThe team

Our team is made up of:

  • Harry Scully (Hild Bede), studying Physics and Chemistry in his final year
  • Chloe Margaux (Josephine Butler), studying Sociology in her final year
  • Alex Radcliffe (Hild Bede), graduated with a Masters in Maths last year (now doing PhD at King's College London)
  • Bea Bennett (Hild Bede), studying English in her final year
  • and reserve Tom Haines-Matos (Trevs), studying PPE in his second year

Their mascot is a stuffed toy of Badger, the Cathedral cat. In memory of Durham's greatly-missed feline friend.

They have an average score of 170 and an average age of 21 (not including Badger). 

The team originally came together after responding to Facebook posts and a series of tests to make it on to their respective college teams before taking part in an inter-college competition.

Final year sociology student, Chloe was selected as one of the highest individual scorers, despite being knocked out in the first round playing for her Josephine Butler College team.

Following their selection, they had an intense two-month period of preparation before their first round of filming, with the first task to choose their captain. As neither Bea nor Chloe wanted the role, a coin-flip resulted in Alex, who has since gone on to complete his Masters in maths, taking on the role and bringing with him the experience of being reserve the previous year.

The team spent time together watching previous episodes and studying books of past questions from the show, getting to know each others’ strengths, filling the gaps in their collective knowledge, and as final year English student from Hild Bede, Bea explains, ‘getting our heads into the style of questions they ask and being able to make split second decisions on whether to buzz early.’

Harry, also from Hild Bede studying physics and chemistry, made excellent use of flash cards especially as he was tasked with addressing the team’s weakness on anatomy and the human body, whilst Bea found a set of playing cards featuring all of the UK prime ministers.

They all describe the joy of being able to dredge up nuggets of niche information or things they’d studied at school but never imagined would be useful, and equally the frustration of wading through hundreds of psychological experiments and never being asked a single related question.

It’s clear that the five students, who hadn’t met before, have built a strong friendship and as Chloe explains about the time they spent across at the BBC in Manchester, ‘it was really like a friendship holiday with some quizzing on the side'.

Purple Line Separator SlimThe journey to the final

The team’s success demonstrates the academic excellence offered by Durham and the importance of our Wider Student Experience here at Durham. 

We take a look back at their journey.

Monday 24 April 2023, 9pm (BST): Quarter-finals

After winning their first quarter-final match but being narrowly beaten in another, University Challenge's round-robin format pitted Durham against UCL in a must-win game.

A nail-biting finish saw Harry, Bea, Alex, Chloe and Tom win with just 10 points to spare and a couple of minutes on the clock.

Monday 15 May 2023, 8.30pm (BST): Semi-finals

After claiming victory in the quarter-finals, all eyes were fixed on the semi-finals, with Durham vs. Royal Holloway. The team performed superbly, sailing through to the finals with an impressive 160 points. 

The second semi-finals on Monday 22 May saw the University of Bristol face off against the University of Southampton. Victory by the University of Bristol means that our team returned to face their round 1 opponents - Bristol was the first team that we played against on Monday 29 August 2022.

Unusually this is the first final (and also semi-finals) since the 2006-07 series that have not featured any Oxbridge teams. 


Watch on the BBC