Wednesday 4 March 2009

Not That Much of a Challenge

I have to start by confessing that I was at university during those dark days of the late 1980s when University Challenge was not on the air. Bambi had left Granada to work on the Babycham commercials and the Disney Nasties, and most people would be more likely to look for Paxo in the body cavity of a chicken than on BBC2, and certainly not on a quiz show.

Thus, with no prospect of ever having been on the show, I can bask in the illusion that if only it had been running then my college would have won the series, probably three years running, with 'Trinity Hall, Kent' captaining his team to victory week after week.

As it is, I was denied the opportunity, and so no one can deny the possibility of my fantasy scenario, even though in reality, I probably would never have made the team, not even as the nerdy bloke who sits to the left of the captain and was only there because the other three contestants (reading classics, history and classics respectively) didn't know the first thing about science.

For a few brief moments this week my hopes of perhaps still representing my alma mater were raised, with the news that one of the members of Corpus Christi's winning team, Sam Kay, was no longer studying at the college when the final was recorded. If he could still represent his college months after leaving it then could not I represent mine, two decades on?

The answer came quickly from the BBC - before I'd even had time to fill in my application form. It was a resounding 'no', as Corpus Christi was disqualified and Manchester became victor by default.

An isolated incident, you might think - a blip. But no! Further news came in today that one of the members of last year's winning team, Christ Church, had also fielded a player, Charles Markland, was no longer a member of that college by the time the final was recorded, having moved to Balliol to study for his PhD. In this case, the victory has been allowed to stand.

Of course, it would be very easy for you just to say, 'Well, that's Oxford for you, isn't it? Typical of the underhand, oar-clashing, wrong-end-of the-punt-standing behaviour you'd expect from the institution that brought us Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.' And for the most part you'd be right. But I can't help feeling that the BBC and Granada, who actually make the programme, are also to blame.

The real problem is that the series begins recording in May and ends in November. Now, it's been a while since I graduated, but I still feel that I may be able to give the BBC some insight into university life. Unless things have changed without my being informed, the academic year runs roughly from October to July. Anyone see what I'm getting at? By having the end of the academic year slap bang in the middle of the recording schedule, the producers are virtually guaranteeing that final year students will have left their institution before the end of the series, or that they will be forced to throw the competition at the second round. I would be surprised if there weren't far more cases than these two out there, waiting to be exposed by the diligent journalists of our laudable Sunday papers.

So come on BBC, solve this problem once and for all. Don't disqualify the teams; change the recording schedule. Simples.

1 comment:

  1. "The nerdy bloke to the left of the captain" - it's good to know your place in life.