University Challenge (partially lost episodes of British quiz show; 1962-1987)

From The Lost Media Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The show's logo in the 1960s.

Status: Partially Lost

University Challenge is a long-running British quiz television show. It was originally broadcast on ITV from 1962 to 1987, and currently airs on BBC channels from 1994 to the present day. The premise involves two teams consisting of four students representing British universities, who answer complex quiz questions to outscore outscore their opponents within a knockout tournament. While the BBC episodes survive intact, many ITV episodes from 1962 to 1971 are confirmed to no longer exist within any known archives.


University Challenge was conceptualised from Granada Television, an ITV franchise, whose officials believed a British adaptation of American quiz show College Bowl could prove viable.[1][2] With its first episode having aired on 21st September 1962, the format has seldom changed.[3][4][2] Two teams, both consisting of four students representing a single university, aim to outscore the other by successfully answer quiz questions.[3][2] Initially, a "Starter for Ten" round commences, where one must buzz-in to answer the question read out by the host, scoring ten points for their team if they are correct.[5][3][2] Players are forbidden to confer with one another during this round, but can prematurely answer before the host has finished reading the question to quickly earn the ten points.[5][3] However, an incorrect answer during an interruption will result in their team losing five points, in addition to allowing the other team to freely answer.[5][3]

For every starter question successfully answered, the team will answer three bonus questions centred around a given topic.[5][3] This time, the team can confer with each other, with every correct answer worth five points.[5][3] This repeats for the episode's with a few starter and bonus questions also being Picture or Music rounds, where the teams will see or hear their clues respectively.[5][3] Whichever team has scored the most once the gong is heard moves onto to the next round.[3][2][5] Each series consists of a knockout tournament, with teams competing for the coveted University Challenge trophy.[2][3]

All episodes of ITV's University Challenge were hosted by Bamber Gascoigne.[3][2] The ITV show proved a ratings success in its early years, with it peaking at around 12 million viewers.[3] However, the show suffered a ratings fall in the mid-1980s as it received a negative reputation of being "snobbish".[2] This, combined with ill-fated format changes like the introduction of Pass the Baton, led to the show's cancellation in 1987 after attracting an average of only 1 million viewers per episode.[3][2] Nevertheless, it would return in 1994, being produced by ITV for BBC television with Jeremy Paxman as host.[3] Under Paxman, the show has again generated high ratings for an evening quiz show.[2] Paxman is set to be replaced by Amol Rajan in 2023 as the former battles Parkinson's disease.[6] To date, University Challenge is the longest-running British quiz show, and is also considered "TV's toughest quiz show".[2][4][1][3]


According to Kaleidoscope, all BBC episodes of University Challenge have been preserved, in addition to every episode of the original ITV show from 1981 onwards.[7] In total, 992 ITV episodes were produced; thanks to Granada Television's archiving policy, which saw the near-full preservation of shows like Coronation Street, over half the episodes remain intact.[8][3][7] However, the majority of episodes from the show's first ten series no longer exist within any known archives, having most likely been wiped.[7] Aside from these, the 1975 Christmas special, and three consecutive episodes in 1980 are also missing.[7] Further, an episode recorded in 1975 featuring a University of Manchester team deliberately throwing their match to protest over-representation of Cambridge and Oxford teams on the show, is also missing from the archives.[9][10] Kaleidoscope states that in total, over 340 episodes are missing.[7]



Surviving fragment of an early episode featuring Leeds University vs University of Manchester.

Surviving audio track of Series 1, Episode 6, featuring London School of Economics vs Edinburgh University.

University Challenge at 60 documentary.

See Also