University Challenge 2008–09

Series 38 of the quiz show University Challenge began on 7 July 2008[1] and was broadcast on BBC Two. This is a list of the matches played, their scores, and outcomes.

Main drawEdit

  • Winning teams are highlighted in bold.
  • Teams with green scores (winners) returned in the next round, while those with red scores (losers) were eliminated.
  • Teams with orange scores have lost, but survived as highest scoring losers.
  • Teams with black scores have been disqualified.

First roundEdit

Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
University of Hull 140 230 City University, London 7 July 2008
Corpus Christi College, Oxford 330 95 Durham University 14 July 2008
Royal Veterinary College 95 215 University of York 21 July 2008
University of Surrey 170 185 University of Warwick 28 July 2008
Queens' College, Cambridge 205 115 St George's, University of London 4 August 2008
University of Exeter 195 150 Pembroke College, Oxford 11 August 2008
Selwyn College, Cambridge 180 115 St Anne's College, Oxford 18 August 2008
London School of Economics 220 85 University of Bath 25 August 2008
St John's College, Cambridge 185 220 Lincoln College, Oxford 1 September 2008
Murray Edwards College, Cambridge 65 260 University of Sheffield 8 September 2008
University of Southampton 135 190 University of Brighton 15 September 2008
King's College, Cambridge 180 190 University of Edinburgh 22 September 2008
University of Bristol 70 285 University of Manchester 29 September 2008
Exeter College, Oxford 135 190 University of St Andrews 6 October 2008

Highest scoring losers playoffsEdit

Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
St John's College, Cambridge 325 110 Pembroke College, Oxford 13 October 2008
King's College, Cambridge 225 150 University of Surrey 20 October 2008

Second roundEdit

Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
London School of Economics 270 135 Selwyn College, Cambridge 10 November 2008
University of Manchester 280 80 University of York 17 November 2008
St John's College, Cambridge 345 125 King's College, Cambridge 24 November 2008
Corpus Christi College, Oxford 295 85 University of Edinburgh 1 December 2008
Queens' College, Cambridge 205 125 University of Warwick 8 December 2008
Lincoln College, Oxford 280 120 University of St Andrews 15 December 2008
City University, London 185 115 University of Brighton 22 December 2008
University of Sheffield 170 175 University of Exeter 5 January 2009


Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
University of Manchester 210 165 London School of Economics 12 January 2009
Lincoln College, Oxford 335 50 Queens' College, Cambridge 19 January 2009
Corpus Christi College, Oxford 350 15 University of Exeter 26 January 2009
St John's College, Cambridge 265 135 City University, London 2 February 2009


Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
University of Manchester 345 30 Lincoln College, Oxford 9 February 2009
Corpus Christi College, Oxford 260 150 St John's College, Cambridge 16 February 2009


Team 1 Score Team 2 Broadcast Date
University of Manchester 190 275 Corpus Christi College, Oxford * 23 February 2009
  • The trophy and title were originally awarded to the Corpus Christi team comprising Gail Trimble, Sam Kay, Lauren Schwartzman and James Marsden, but on 2 March 2009, the BBC in a joint statement with Granada announced that they had disqualified the team for "breaking the series rules.”

[2] The title was therefore retrospectively awarded to the Manchester team consisting of Matthew Yeo, Henry Pertinez, Reuben Roy and Simon Baker.

Notable events and press coverageEdit

The 2009 series produced the two lowest team scores since the programme was revived by the BBC in 1994. 15 points were achieved by the University of Exeter in the third quarter-final against the later disqualified Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and 30 points were scored by Lincoln College, Oxford in a semi-final against University of Manchester. In the Exeter v. Corpus Christi match, Corpus Christi captain Gail Trimble answered a record fifteen starters correctly[citation needed], leading to much interest on internet forums and in the popular press.

James Archer of King's College, Cambridge was questioned by police after wearing an RAF surplus jacket on the show—in combination with a dyed red mohican haircut—had prompted several complaints from viewers. Archer had obtained the jacket legally, and no further action was taken.[3]

The finalEdit

The final, between Corpus Christi College and Manchester, was broadcast on 23 February 2009. Before the final, press coverage focused on the Corpus Christi captain, Gail Trimble, who had gained an exceptionally high proportion of her team's points. In the final, which was watched by more than 5 million viewers, the show's highest audience share since at least 2001,[4][5] Trimble scored 125 points in the last four minutes to lead her team to what appeared at the time to be a clear victory.[6] She was described in the British press as the "human Google",[7] and by a defeated contestant as a "relentless juggernaut of intellectual Blitzkrieg".[8]

A few days after the final was broadcast the BBC undertook an investigation into the eligibility of Corpus Christi team member Sam Kay, after it became evident that he had graduated in June 2008, before the filming of the quarter, semi-final and final matches, despite telling viewers he was studying chemistry.[9] Kay left Corpus Christi after failing to get funding for his PhD and at the time of the final was working as an accountant.[10] The captain of the Manchester team, Matthew Yeo, rejected calls for a rematch of the final.[11] However, in a statement on 2 March 2009, the BBC and the programme's makers, Granada, stated that:[2]

"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."

Another member of the Corpus Christi team, James Marsden, criticised the BBC decision. He stated that the rules were ambiguous and did not state that students had to be registered at their college for the duration of filming.[12] Gail Trimble was subsequently reported as saying that Corpus Christi, rather than Manchester, still had the trophy, "gathering dust somewhere".[13]


  1. ^ "BBC Programme Information". BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2008.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b "University Challenge: a joint statement from the BBC and Granada". BBC Press Office (Press release). BBC. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  3. ^ Wardrop, Murray (25 November 2008). "Police quiz University Challenge contestant over RAF jacket". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  4. ^ Rogers, Jon (24 February 2009). "University Challenge final scores 5.3m". Broadcastnow. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  5. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (24 February 2009). "TV ratings: British Law & Order debut arrests 6m viewers". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  6. ^ Gallagher, Paul (1 March 2009). "Gail Trimble's University Challenge winning teammate is not a student". The Observer. London. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  7. ^ Mansey, Kate (1 March 2009). "University Challenge champions investigated over ineligible player". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2 March 2009.
  8. ^ Funnell, Jacob (28 January 2009). "On University Challenge (Illustrated)". Archived from the original on 20 August 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  9. ^ Gallagher, Paul (1 March 2009). "Gail Trimble's University Challenge winning teammate is not a student | Media | The Observer". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Entertainment | BBC in University Challenge probe". BBC News. 2 March 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  11. ^ "Manchester team accept defeat". BBC News. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  12. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (4 March 2009). "Disqualified University Challenge contestant criticises 'ambiguous' rules". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  13. ^ Simon Hoggart, "Control freaks, phone throwing, and Northern Rock", The Guardian, 27 June 2009

External linksEdit