University Challenge is a long-running British television quiz show. The format is based on quiz bowl or College Bowl and is licensed and produced by Granada Television.
At its inception in 1962 it was hosted by Bamber Gascoigne. When audience figures began to fall, changes to the long-standing format of the programme only made things worse and it was taken off the air in 1987. It was eventually revived in 1994 by the BBC (although still produced by Granada), using the original format (with minor differences) and presented by Jeremy Paxman.
Teams consist of four members and represent a single university or Oxford, Cambridge or London college. "Starter" questions are answered individually "on the buzzer", and are worth 10 points. The team answering a starter correctly gets a set of "bonus" questions worth a potential fifteen points, over which they can confer. An incorrect interruption of a starter results in a five point penalty. In the course of a game there are two "picture rounds" and one "music round"; if a picture or music starter is not correctly answered, the accompanying bonus questions are held back until a normal starter is correctly answered. The pace of questioning gradually increases through the show, becoming almost frantic in the last minute or so before the "gong" which signals the end of the game.
Since the revival of the programme, an increasing number of teams have featured mature students, who are thought to have the advantage of a greater breadth of general knowledge. The Open University won the 1999 series with a team whose age averaged 46, and included one member who had only applied to study for his distance-learning degree in order to appear on the show. The 2003 final was contested between two teams of mature students, with Birkbeck College, London, defeating Cranfield University. The producers of the programme have taken this development to its logical conclusion by making two series without any student participants: University Challenge Reunited (2002) brought former teams back together, while University Challenge: The Professionals (2003) matched occupational groups such as civil servants, architects and doctors against each other. The former was won by the 1979 team from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, the latter by a team from the UK tax office (the Inland Revenue).