Manchester wins University Challenge for third time


Anthony Barnes
Tuesday 20 March 2012 08:18

The University of Manchester became champions of University Challenge for the third time in just seven years.

The team - led by English literature student Tristan Burke - rounded off the 37-week series by triumphing over Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Last night BBC2 viewers saw the Manchester students collect their trophy from the Duchess of Cornwall, who said she was the show's "greatest fan".

The team won the final with its lowest score of the series, scoring 180 points against Pembroke's 135.

But the four members had set high standards throughout the competition. Their 330 points against Newcastle University in the quarter finals was the highest tally of this season of the contest.

The University of Manchester last took the title in 2009 after it emerged that the winning team Corpus Christi, Oxford, had fielded an ineligible contestant.

Manchester landed its first win in 2006 against Trinity Hall, Cambridge. It has now become only the second institution to have won the contest more than twice - last year's winner Magdalen College has won the competition a total of four times since the series began in 1962.

Manchester beat colleges from Oxford or Cambridge in every round of the 2011/12 series, which saw 120 teams apply.

Burke, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, was joined by Michael McKenna, from Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, Luke Kelly, from Ashford in Kent, and Paul Joyce, from Chorley, Lancashire, who travelled to Clarence House in London to collect their trophy.

They were joined by the runners-up and question-master Jeremy Paxman.

The Duchess revealed she had been a fan since the series launched. And she often tries to answer questions at home - first with her parents and then with her children, including son Tom Parker-Bowles.

She told Paxman: "I watched the first programme; I watched it all the way through with Bamber Gascoigne and I remember sitting there with my father and he always got the questions - he got more questions right than anybody else.

"And then when you came on the scene I used to sit with my children and there were a lot of arguments. But Tom did answer a few - he could answer some of the ones I couldn't. So I've seen it for years. And I'm its greatest fan."

She added: "I think it's a family programme. I think all ages can watch it.

"I think everybody can join together, answer the questions and I also think it shows how wonderful a lot of the youth are today and how many clever people there are out there and I think they give young people a very good name."

Bibek Mukherjee of the Pembroke team confessed to the Duchess that he won his position as captain by flipping a coin.

Manchester was barred from the competition for a number of years following an appearance in the mid-1970s. The team - including journalist David Aaronovitch - gave the name of a figure associated with revolution to every question in protest about elitism.

Since 2005, Manchester has made it to at least the semi-finals each year.


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