University Challenged

_45523112_challI must admit to feeling a sense of schadenfreude on hearing that Corpus Christi College, Oxford had been stripped of their University Challenge title for fielding an illegible team member.  Much has been written about Gail Trimble the knowledgable team captain (and a lot of it quite unjustifiably derisory), but very little has been said about the real villain of the piece, Sam Kay, who was no longer a student at the college at the time the final was recorded.  It was for this very reason that I missed out on appearing on University Challenge for Sheffield back in the summer of 1999.  As I was a postgrad student at the time doing a 1-year masters course due to end in September of that year, I was ineligible as you had to be enrolled at the university for the next academic year.  This was made clear in the instructions the union received from Granada TV.  As no-one else seemed terribly interested, I was put in charge by the union officer and ended up as team selector/manager.  A job which generally involved doing as many pub quizzes as posible – or at least that was our excuse.  Ironically it would’t have mattered if I tried to cheat the system as we were eliminated in the second round at a time when I was still a registered student.  But as Jeremy Paxman says “rules is rules”. 

Being a champion of the underdog and with an anti-elitist streak runnng through me, I always tend to support the other team on UC, whenever a team from Oxford or Cambridge is playing.  So naturally my sympathies lay with Manchester rather than Oxford during the final.  There’s a great deal of snobbery about universities, particularly in the UK.  But the fact is that a degree’s a degree, no matter where it comes from.  A graduate of Boatrace College, Oxbridge may be in a better position on the employment market than a graduate of the University of Barrow-in -Furness (formerly Barrow-in-Furness College of knitting and upholstery), but it’s the talents of the individual tht matter nowadays, and what that individual does with those talents.

I look forward to the day that the University Challege trophy comes to Barrow-in-Furness.



  1. I definitely don’t think that a degree is a degree.If degrees were granted by a central body you would have a quality control but that’s not the case.

  2. True, Aidan, but my point is that if an individual who graduates from one of the less prestiguious universities and is determined to succeed in life on their own personal merits they can do so – ie emphasis should be placed on the abilities of the individual with the degree rather than on the instititution from which they acquired it.

  3. Like any other quality filter it facilitates the process of selecting candidates. If you went to Oxbridge, Harvard, Tokyo etc. it says something about you. Of course most jobs nowadays don’t involve very much academic intelligence so it is a useless filter if you are more interested in people skills, having a degree says nothing about your ability to get on with people.

  4. My sentiments exactly Aidan – which illustrates the wider point that academic ability isn’t neccessarily a guarantee of success in life.

  5. Coffee up the nose, Chekov? Well, I suppose in these tough economic times, the price of cocaine is prohibitively expensive, so some of us just have to make do with the next best Colombian caffeine-based product as a substitute.

  6. You can always tell a Harvard graduate but you cannot tell them anything.
    A degree is only as good as what you put it to use.

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