Oxford college stripped of 'University Challenge' victory

The Manchester University students handed victory in BBC’s University Challenge after their rivals from Oxford were disqualified…

The Manchester University students handed victory in BBC’s University Challenge after their rivals from Oxford were disqualified for fielding an ineligible candidate have branded their triumph “hollow”.

Corpus Christi College - who beat Manchester 275 to 190 in the long-running quiz show’s grand final - were dramatically stripped of the title by the BBC last night after it emerged team member Sam Kay had already graduated and was in full-time employment.

Manchester contestant Henry Pertinez (27) said their rivals “beat us fair and square” and that his team had been awarded the series title “on a technicality”.

“It’s a hollow victory,” he added. More than 5.3 million, a record audience, tuned in to see last week’s final which featured Corpus Christi’s contestant Gail Trimble. The 26-year-old Latin scholar scored two-thirds of her team’s 1,200 points before the final and has been described as the “best contestant ever”.


Manchester’s team captain, Phd student Matthew Yeo (25) said of last night’s disqualification: “We abide by the decision of the judges. We are obviously saddened by the whole experience of the last 48 hours.

“This is certainly not how we wanted to be awarded the trophy and to be crowned champions of University Challenge.

“We feel not only has this detracted from the award but also detracted from the enormous fun of being on University Challenge.”

Mr Yeo added that he and the team wanted to send their “best wishes” to all of the Corpus Christi team at an “undeniably difficult time for them”.

Corpus Christi’s Mr Kay took a job with accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers after graduating with a first in Chemistry last June. He then travelled to the Granada TV studios to join his teammates for filming in Manchester during the latter stages of the competition.

He said last night: “I hugely regret not confirming my change of status to the University Challenge programme makers before the final rounds.

“I had honestly believed I was eligible as I had indicated my course dates when I applied.

“I can only apologise to the other competitors and especially to my team as it was never my intention to mislead anyone.”

Corpus Christi College added in a statement: “Our students entered University Challenge in good faith. The team had a wonderful run and we are, of course, disappointed to be losing the title.”

The BBC launched an investigation after reports of Mr Kay’s status emerged at the weekend.

A BBC statement said: “The University Challenge rules on student eligibility are that students taking part must be registered at their university or college for the duration of the recording of the series.

“Whilst obviously not intending to, Corpus Christi broke this important rule where other universities and colleges taking part adhered to it. We therefore find ourselves in the regrettable position of having no choice but to disqualify Corpus Christi from the final.

“This means they forfeit their hard-fought title which now goes to the Manchester University team.”

University Challenge quizmaster Jeremy Paxman said: “I suppose it is mildly embarrassing but I do feel sorry for the Corpus Christi team — I mean they were all legitimate students when it started.

“But rules are rules, and they had to be stuck to.”