Imperial wins University Challenge for historic fourth time


Imperial's University Challenge team outside the Students' Union

Max Zeng, Fatima Sheriff, Michael Mays and Gilbert Jackson (left to right)

Imperial’s team are this year’s winners of the TV quiz programme for the fourth time.

Imperial’s student team, made up of captain Michael Mays, Fatima Sheriff, Gilbert Jackson and Max Zeng, defeated the University of Reading by ten points. The final aired last night on BBC Two. The team was supported by reserve Felix Swift Roberts.  

It’s been an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be on University Challenge Michael Mays Captain, Imperial University Challenge team

After wins in 1996, 2001 and 2020, Imperial now ranks with Magdalen College, Oxford and the University of Manchester as the jointly most successful teams in the quiz tournament’s history – each holding four crowns. 

Team captain Michael, a PhD student in Computational Fluid Dynamics in the Department of Aeronautics, said: "It’s been an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be on University Challenge. And to have won the competition this year is truly unbelievable.  

“More than that, to have found four close friends in my amazingly talented teammates Fatima, Max and Gilbert and reserve Felix is something for which I’ll be eternally thankful. I’d also like to thank the family, friends and fans who’ve supported our team throughout - you all helped to get us there in the end!"  

A journey 

To reach this year’s finals, the team beat Emmanuel College, Cambridge in the semi-finals and overcame other teams including University of Exeter and St John's College, Cambridge.  

Commending the team, Imperial’s Provost Professor Ian Walmsley said: “We are incredibly proud of our Imperial team and congratulate them on this historic victory.   

“Collaboration, creative thinking and deep knowledge are all part of our commitment to excellence at Imperial, and the team has all of these qualities in abundance.”

"Months of training” 

In preparation for University Challenge, the team spent months revising their specialist subjects and practising quizzes as a close-knit group. MSc Science Communication student Fatima specialised in literature, while Gilbert, who is studying a MSci in Chemistry, focused on music and art. Michael’s specialist subjects were history and philosophy and Max, a Biochemistry undergraduate, impressed audiences with his geography knowledge.  

After winning this year’s show, the team hope that they can inspire future Imperial teams who take part in University Challenge. “I really hope that we can foster the same level of commitment and enthusiasm for quizzing,” Fatima said.   

“The real gift is the team camaraderie, the bonding over stupid facts at silly hours and the in-jokes we have. The months of training together are the most fun I've ever had.” 

Find out more about Fatima, Michael, Gilbert and Max in our Imperial Stories piece, Speedy buzzing, bonus rounds and Buffy the bat


Nikita Rathod

Nikita Rathod
Communications Division

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