University Challenge final is a starter for men: BBC criticised for not ensuring a minimum of female competitors in the TV quiz

 

Your starter for 10. Which academic quiz show will stage a final between two all-male teams after a series which has delivered a massive fail for female students?

Politicians have ordered University Challenge to take a course in gender equality after an investigation found that competing teams are consistently failing to find a place for female competitors.

Monday night's final of the long-running BBC2 quiz series will feature teams of four men from Trinity College, Cambridge, and Somerville College, Oxford, competing to become champions.

The absence of any female students prompted unrest at Somerville, which was one of the first women's only colleges in Oxford and admitted its first male students only in 1994.

An analysis uncovered a consistent male bias throughout the current series. Out of 112 contestants across 28 university teams, only 18 have been females.

The 84 per cent male dominance in a flagship series which regularly enjoys BBC2's highest ratings of three million viewers, is an embarrassment for the corporation which recently banned "all-male" panels on comedy shows in an effort to counter female underrepresentation on screen.

The gender disparity has become so great on University Challenge that the BBC is facing calls to introduce a minimum "quota" of female students in competing teams. Gloria De Piero MP, shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said the BBC must do better. "It's a pity universities are picking all-male teams to represent them, particularly when more women than men are going to university and they are outperforming boys at school," she said. "The BBC also has a responsibility for the shows it screens and it should take action to ensure there are more women competitors."

Mary Beard was saddened by the lack of women Mary Beard was saddened by the lack of women During the semi-final, Professor Mary Beard, the Cambridge academic and BBC presenter, tweeted: "Oh dear Somerville College Oxford on University Challenge is all men! O tempora o mores." She later explained: "I was so surprised (and a bit saddened) to see that Somerville (a bastion of women's achievements) was being represented by four men."

Somerville previously won University Challenge in 2002 with a gender-balanced team. This year's team was selected by tests organised by its Junior Common Room, with men scoring the highest results. They considered allocating places to women after alumni wrote expressing their disappointment but decided against as it would "communicate the wrong message about women, and therefore chose to offer a level playing field".

Marsha Sudar, JCR president during the selection process, said: "Everyone agrees that it is unfortunate that we didn't have any women on our team. We would have loved for there to have been a few. It just so happens that this year the best four candidates were men, but this should not be allowed to overshadow the many other fronts on which Somerville women are taking the lead."

The BBC said it was reluctant to interfere with team selection. A University Challenge spokesperson said: "Every university has their own team selection process and we do encourage them to reflect the diversity of their student population. However, the make-up of each team is determined by the universities."

Some have questioned whether women are put off by the high-pressure atmosphere of the series, which first launched on ITV in 1962 – or may even be intimidated by the prospect of a withering put-down for giving an incorrect answer from Jeremy Paxman.

Elizabeth Mitchell, captain of defeated semi-finalists the University of Manchester, and one of the few female stars to emerge during the series, dismissed the notion.

"Before every match, [Jeremy] talks to the teams and he spends time in the green room with you after," the politics, philosophy and economics student said: "He really tries to put you at your ease in what's a nerve-racking situation. However, his quips when you get an answer wrong really do put you in your place."

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears