Imperial College London

Imperial wins University Challenge

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Students on University Challenge table with Jeremy Paxman

Imperial College London have been crowned this year's champions of the BBC quiz show University Challenge.

The team, led by captain Caleb Rich and made up of members Brandon Blackwell, Richard Brooks and Conor McMeel, beat Corpus Christi, Cambridge, by 275 points to 105. They are the third Imperial team to win since 1996. 

Caleb praised his team after winning the coveted prize. He said: “Our win has been the culmination of many months of practice and hard work, and I am so pleased to have played with an amazing team of quizzers. 

“Brandon really came into his own and shone in the last couple of episodes, but in the final, we all played to our strengths and demonstrated a really good team effort. 

“It takes a lot to trust one another when you can’t confer about the answers, and I think the confidence we had in each other helped us to get this far and ultimately, to win.” 

Sharp minds

“It was a great team effort and I’m really happy that we managed to win and bring the University Challenge title home." Richard Brooks

Imperial’s Provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, said: “I’m thrilled that our students Caleb, Brandon, Richard and Conor won University Challenge. It’s one of the most challenging and prestigious quiz shows on TV, and the Imperial team did a spectacular job in beating some very tough competitors.

"We are really proud of their achievements, and I know everyone at Imperial joins me in congratulating them on their win. Well done UC2020 Champions." 

"To win feels really surreal"

Team members Conor and Richard also shared their reflections on winning. “This was the second time I’ve tried to be part of University Challenge, so it was already amazing to be on the show, but to win feels really surreal,” Conor said. 

“I remember during the final I kept looking at our score increasing and remember thinking ‘wow, are we actually going to win this?’ By the time we were in the second picture round and had just one quarter to go, I saw the score going in our favour and I thought to myself ‘yes, we’re going to win!’” 

Richard tells me that it was an exciting but nerve-wracking final: “It was a great team effort and I’m really happy that we managed to win and bring the University Challenge title home. 

“I don’t think any of us expected this as we were initially quite worried about going up against Corpus Christi Cambridge – they looked unbeatable. We are just so happy.” 

“Speed is of the essence”

Five men pose for a photo smiling at camera
The team pictured together after winning University Challenge. (Left to right: Brandon Blackwell, Conor McMeel, Richard Brooks, Caleb Rich and Jonghyeon Lee in reserve.)
“It’s important to me that everyone feels like they can apply to shows like University Challenge – especially women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds." Caleb Rich

Caleb says that the rush of adrenaline in the final – and Imperial’s mounting score – kept him motivated until the gong marking the end of the match was hit. “Speed is of the essence and we were really going for it in the final. 

“I remember a question on postcolonial literature came up in the final. My mum has a PhD in children’s literature and I got one of the questions right because of her! I looked at her as she sat in the audience as if to say ‘I know this one!’ before buzzing in. I got it right, thankfully.” 

And what about their lucky charm – the bowl of aquafaba? “Usually after each match we would make the person who answered the most questions take a sip from it,” Richard laughs. “So at the end, we all had a celebratory sip of aquafaba when we won!” 

The need for more diverse teams

Looking ahead, team captain Caleb says he is excited for other Imperial students to make their mark on the show. “Preparation is so important. Anyone can do it, there isn’t a secret technique to this – we worked really hard and kept on practising by taking part in quizzes. 

“It’s important to me that everyone feels like they can apply to shows like University Challenge – especially women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds. We do need more diverse teams and for people to be kinder to participants as well. I really hope we see people from all kinds of backgrounds take part in quizzing and applying to be on the show.” 

The next team to represent Imperial on University Challenge are currently in training, and are preparing with help from Imperial College Quiz Society and this year’s winning team.

Reporter

Martha Nahar

Martha Nahar
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6708
Email: m.nahar@imperial.ac.uk

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