Current students at SAS could be making TV history soon – by being the very first team to represent the School of Advanced Study on University Challenge!

SASiety founder Hari Mountford revealed in early October that the show’s production company had asked whether SAS would be interested in participating in the long-running TV quiz. Despite being founded in the same year that University Challenge was revived with Jeremy Paxman as the quizmaster, SAS has never had a team on the show. A fact which SASiety is eager to change!

Try-outs are currently underway to select five quiz whizzes (four players plus one reserve) from across the SAS member institutes who have what it takes to face the UK’s other universities in a battle of the minds. After a first virtual test quiz on 19th October, IMLR’s Zak Eastop was named SAS team captain. University Challenge is a notoriously high-brow quiz, with questions often including academic trivia from such diverse fields as history, technology, chemistry, languages, literature, geography, and classical music, among others. Zak is therefore looking for a team that covers a broad range of general knowledge, as well as more obscure interests and trivia.

Team members must be current students enrolled at SAS while the show is being filmed. In 2009, a contestant dropped out of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and caused the entire team to be disqualified. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 rules, a few further restrictions have been put in place by the production company, mainly that contestants need to reside in the UK at the time of filming. That’s disappointing news for IMLR’s Conny Kaufmann, who scored highest on the first test quiz but studies by distance learning from her base in Germany.

Each University Challenge show runs for 30 minutes. The show’s catchphrase “your starter for ten” refers to the 10 points individual players can score for their teams on the starter question. The team that answers the starter correctly gets three bonus questions, usually worth a total of 15 points. While the bonus questions are thematically-linked sets, they usually don’t correspond to the topic of the starter. The team is allowed to confer on the bonus questions, but the team captain is responsible for answering unless another player is nominated. Each show also includes two picture rounds, as well as a music round.

If questions like: “Which 18th-century figure was a writer, a scientist, a printer, an inventor, a statesman, and ambassador and the oldest signatory of the American declaration of independence?” or “A regular dodecahedron has twelve faces, each face having how many edges?” are child’s play for you, you could be part of our University Challenge team!

The next practice quiz will be held on 12th November at 8pm. If you’d like to join and try out for the SAS University Challenge team, email for the link.

There has already been a bit of banter concerning a dress-code for the show. The overall consensus is that we should be aiming to dress at least as snazzy as the (fictional) contestants in the movie Starter for Ten, which was set in the 80s during Bamber Gascoigne’s time as quizmaster.

Still from Starter for Ten, Playtone/BBC Films/HBO Films © 2006

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