UK (Oxford Brookes University) Oxford Brookes University featuring on BBC quiz show University Challenge

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Oxford Brookes students on the set of University Challenge, with host Amol Rajan.
Oxford Brookes University’s team on the University Challenge filming set with quiz master Amol Rajan. Image credited to Lifted Entertainment.

A team of Oxford Brookes University students will be testing their general knowledge on one of television’s toughest quiz shows, University Challenge.

The team will be competing against Birkbeck, University of London, in the episode which will air on BBC Two on Monday 31 July at 8.30pm in the 2023/24 series of the popular show, the first for new quiz master Amol Rajan, who replaced Jeremy Paxman after his retirement in May 2023.

Oxford Brookes is represented by team captain and masters student John Manton, alongside undergraduates Lara Gardner, James Broadbent and David Caldecott. The fifth team member, Ciara Fagan, is in reserve. The team was coached by Dr Ian Bayley from the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics.

The Oxford Brookes team was chosen after auditions were held by Dr Bayley at Oxford Brookes University Quiz Society. The top five performing students were put forward and after being interviewed by the show’s producers, confirmed as participants in the programme. The team prepared by watching previous episodes of the show and by answering quick fire questions from Dr Bayley.

The team travelled from Oxford to Media City in Manchester to take part in the filming in February this year.

Members of the team following filming in February. From left to right: Ciara Fagan, Lara Gardner, David Caldecott, James Broadbent, and John Manton. Image credited to James Broadbent.

Meet the team

John Manton

Team Captain John Manton is from County Tipperary in Ireland and is currently studying a Masters in Fine Art after previously working as a historian.

John said: “I haven’t had much experience in competitive quizzing before coming to Oxford Brookes, but University Challenge was a lot of fun and a great experience. The production team made us feel welcome instantly, and it was great to meet Amol Rajan and the voice of University Challenge, Roger Tilling.”

Lara Gardner

The youngest member of the team, Lara is from Ledbury in Herefordshire and studies Bsc Human Biosciences.
Lara said: “Ever since I was little, watching University Challenge – as well as other TV quiz shows – was a tradition in my family, so when I made the team for Oxford Brookes it was surreal, especially in my first year of studying. The entire experience was amazing, and definitely a milestone achievement in my life so far.”

James Broadbent

James is a BA International Relations and Politics student, from Wallingford in Oxfordshire. He follows in his grandfather’s footsteps by appearing on a TV quiz show.

James said of his involvement: “My love affair with University Challenge started when I was five or six. My grandmother was an enormous fan of it, and when she looked after me I would watch it alongside her. I found myself captivated by it, despite being so young that I could not make heads or tails of what was going on.

“When the day came that we heard our team was successful in making it on, I was ecstatic to say the least. As I was later to learn, I would be carrying on a family tradition in that my grandfather appeared on a similar quiz-style show back in the 1960s called . I was honoured to be carrying his mantle.”

David Caldecott

David from Henley-on-Thames is a Bsc Biology student. He described the experience as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.

David said: “Upon entering Media City in Manchester, the surrealness of the situation set in. Never before had I shared the same space as so many television titans like Hacker T Dog and the cast of Coronation Street!

“I still don’t quite think the situation has sunk in fully yet, and only will do when I see the episode on TV,  despite how much I hate watching recordings of myself. The experience was literally a once in a lifetime experience, and I thank everybody who was a part of it, my team included.”

Ciara Fagan

Ciara, from Bath in Somerset, is studying a Graduate Diploma in Law, and was the  reserve player for the Oxford Brookes team.

Ciara said: “It was my job to provide snacks for the long journey from Oxford to Manchester, and also to look after our mascot, a duck named Deuteronomy! I’ve been watching University Challenge with my family since I was a young child, so being on the set, and meeting Roger Tilling was a dream come true.
“Despite not actually appearing on camera, I was probably more nervous than the rest of the team!”

University Challenge first aired in 1962, and ran on ITV until 1987. It was then revived by the BBC in 1994, and has been broadcasting ever since and produced by Lifted Entertainment. Earlier this year, long-serving host Jeremy Paxman announced he was leaving the show after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Journalist, broadcaster and writer Amol Rajan takes over as host.

Following broadcast on 31 July, the episode featuring Oxford Brookes will be available to view on the BBC iPlayer website.