Older UEL students throw gauntlet down to youngsters in BBC2’s University Challenge

Jeremy Paxman and the University Challenge team from UEL

Jeremy Paxman and the University Challenge team from UEL - Credit: UEL

Four mature students challenge the younger generation tonight when they become the first-ever University of East London team to appear on BBC TV’s long-running University Challenge.

The four go head-to-head against a team from Glasgow University in the last of the first-round matches of the 2016-17 series of Jeremy Paxman’s show on BBC2.

The UEL team have an average age of 41, all hoping that life experience might just tip the scales against their young opponents.

Team captain is Jerushah Jardine, studying for a PhD in Peatland Ecology, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of her husband Peter who was on Dundee University’s team that won University Challenge way back in 1983.

“We’ve found a few areas that we’re not too sure about,” she admits.

“None of us is competent at classical music, so we’ve divided the subject up into European, British and American composers and opera.”

The other team members are Research Masters’ student Kelly Travers, Civil Engineering student Christopher Ducklin and English Literature undergraduate Rachel Evans.

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Rachel, a mother-of-three from Tilbury in Essex who began her UEL English degree last year, said: “We watch the show religiously as a family and it’s always about trying to beat our family score from the previous week.”

Her family will be glued to the screen at 8pm tonight.

Team-mate Kelly, from Westcliffe-on-sea, further along the Estuary, is only a part-time student in the evening who still qualifies to take part—the rest of the time she actually works as a business subject librarian at UEL itself.

Meanwhile, fourth member Chris from Tunbridge Wells in Kent is the first in his family to go to university, so just making it onto tonight’s show is an extra achievement for them.

He said: “We’ve already shown we can succeed by being one of the teams to qualify to get onto the show, so we must have something.”

UEL was one of 28 teams selected for this year’s series out of 130 universities that applied. The 28 included six Cambridge and five Oxford colleges, while UEL was the only post-1992 university to make it.