Paxman graduates to university quiz

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YOUR STARTER for ten. Which Cambridge undergraduate failed to make his college's University Challenge team because he didn't have an anorak? Yes, correct, Jeremy Paxman.

The BBC television Newsnight presenter was confirmed yesterday as the successor to the legendary quizmaster, Bamber Gascoigne, in the revival of the classic student quiz.

The Granada-produced programme was axed in 1987. But after continued demand for its revival, the BBC will now broadcast 27 episodes. As it does with the newspaper review show, What the Papers Say, Granada will still make University Challenge, but the show will be broadcast on BBC 2 this autumn.

Mr Paxman, 43, was considered the ideal presenter by Granada's director of programmes, Andrea Winfor, but there had been an uncomfortable delay in signing him. This was partly because he had been covering the South African elections.

A graduate of St Catherine's College, Cambridge, Mr Paxman revealed last night that he once tried to take part in University Challenge, but had been rejected. 'The last time I tried to take part I was kept out of the team by a lot of people in anoraks,' he said.

A source involved in the negotiations said that Mr Paxman, known for his savaging of politicians, liked students and spent some of his spare time attending their debating societies.

The criticism once levelled against the student scarf-waving programme - that it was too elitist - is likely to be lessened with the expansion in the number of universities.

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