Monday 23rd April will see the long awaited climax of this year’s series of University Challenge, and it promises to be a hotly contested showdown.
In his 24th final as host, Jeremy Paxman will test the knowledge of teams from St John’s College, Cambridge and Merton College, Oxford, both of whom were comfortably victorious in their respective semi-finals.
It is the fifth straight year in which the final has been contested by two teams from Oxbridge, although neither of this year’s finalists have won the top prize since Merton College defeated Queen’s College, Cambridge, in the 1980 final.
As usual this series has thrown up a host of interesting participants. And while perhaps no one has set the Twittersphere alight quite like Eric Monkman did last year, we thought the finalists were more than worthy of a brief introduction here…
St John’s College Cambridge
American post-graduate student Levin studies Politics and International Studies, and has attracted attention both for his impressive knowledge – he has answered 16 starter questions correctly – and for his collection of turtle-neck jumpers. University Challenge is not Levin’s first experience of television quizzing, he previously appeared on classic US gameshow Jeopardy.
Originally from Kingston-upon-Thames, McKeown is an undergraduate studying French and German. She has been her team’s top performer as far as starter questions are concerned, with 25 buzzes. McKeown writes in her Twitter bio that “my life revolves around books and University Challenge” and claims to have been a devotee of the show since she was just eleven years old.
St John’s captain, Devine-Stoneman is from Southall in London and studies Superconducting Spintronics no less. Appearing on the show had been a long term ambition for Devine-Stoneman, who has applied every year since first matriculating at Cambridge in 2012. Winning the final as captain would no doubt be a very special moment for him.
A veterinary medicine student from Ringwood in Hampshire, Hazell was described by his team captain as being able to “rival current supercomputers at quick calculations.” And as well as a great skill for sums, Hazell clearly as a good sense of humour – he recently re-tweeted a post claiming that he “looks like the reluctant MI6 handler of a bunch of East European Analysts who live at home with their parents.”
Merton College, Oxford
Captaining the Merton team is Physics undergraduate Leonie Woodland, who is originally from Cambridge and has consistently impressed throughout the series. The semi-final – a commanding win against Newcastle – saw Woodland answer three rounds of bonus questions without any input from her team-mates. She’ll definitely be one to watch in the final!
Now graduated, Edward Thomas from Kent was an Ancient and Modern History Student during his time at Oxford. Twitter users have compared Thomas’s appearance to both classic sci-fi puppet Joe 90 and Conservative politician Jacob Rees-Mogg.
A history post-graduate student from Buckinghamshire, Peplow’s research topic is Political Ecclesiology: Ockham, Ludwig IV, and Anti-Papal Imperialism. While it seems unlikely that a question relating to that particular topic will come up in the final, Peplow has shown an impressive breadth of knowledge and is Merton’s best buzzer so far, answering 26 starter questions correctly.
A former medicine student, Wiberg, who is part Japanese and part Swedish, is now studying towards a DPhil. Whilst an undergraduate, Wiberg was awarded the Martin Wronker Prize, which is handed out to the top student in the Medical Sciences BA degree at Oxford, so he’s clearly a man of supreme intelligence. It should come as no surprise, then, that he was labelled by The Spectator as “this year’s human Google”.
Where can I watch the University Challenge 2018 final?
The final is on BBC2 tonight, Monday 23rd April, at 8:30pm and will be available on iPlayer short after broadcast.