Updated: Friday, 3rd July 2020 @ 7:20am

Manchester romp home to victory on University Challenge – making them joint most successful team of all time

Manchester romp home to victory on University Challenge – making them joint most successful team of all time

By Sarah Hodgson

Manchester University students secured their place in history last night, winning BBC University Challenge for the fourth time.

The victory was the fourth in eight years for Manchester who became only the second team in the show’s 52-year history to win two years running, equalling the record set by Oxford’s Magdalen College.

Viewers saw the three-man, one-woman team – led by captain Richard Gilbert, a linguistics student from Solihull – beat University College London by 190 points to 140.

Mr Gilbert said: “I think we did well because we had the perfect broad range of knowledge across the team.”

He was joined by economics student, David Brice from Kingston-upon-Thames, Adam Barr from North London, studying physics with astrophysics and Debbie Brown from Buxton, studying for a PhD in pain epidemiology.

Mr Gilbert said: "David is very strong on maths and science, I am a bit of a Jack of all trades, Debbie is great on biology and Adam is a scientist, so we had a good mix of skills.”

Despite going in as favourites the squad had a shaky start to the season when halfway into their first-round match against Lincoln College, Oxford, they were on minus 10.

Mr Gilbert said: “We just froze for the first 20 minutes and the questions didn't land kindly for us at all, so we were really lucky to scrape through the opening match."

The quartet had already faced UCL once during the series and lost by 80 points, Mr Gilbert says his team went into the final feeling relaxed and as if they had nothing to lose.

The President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said:  “There is a real buzz around the campus today, having seen our team win University Challenge yet again. 

“We are going to hold a celebration dinner for the team in June and I am particularly pleased for their coach Stephen Pearson who deserves great credit for these four victories in just eight years.”

The four were mentored by university librarian, Stephen Pearson, who captained the team himself in 1996.

The long-serving coach has been dubbed the ‘Alex Ferguson’ of the quiz world, but the modest librarian isn’t so sure.

He said: "I don't know about that – I've been doing this for 15 years whereas he's been in the job for at least 25, but I may end up doing it for that long.”

Mr Pearson says that he will mentor future teams for as long as it stays fun and hopes to carry on until his retirement.

Team member, David Brice, says he was destined to join the quiz team after meeting a former contestant, who reached the semi-finals in 2010, when he first arrived in Manchester.

He said: "I remember getting off the train for the open day and meeting Rachael Neiman and thinking 'Wow'.”

“I put down Manchester on my UCAS form, thinking 'it must be a very good university if they are so good at University Challenge'."

Manchester first lifted the cup in 2006, and took the title in 2009 after it emerged that the winning team Corpus Christi, Oxford, had fielded an ineligible contestant. They won again last year.

This is not the only controversy to have rocked Manchester – in 1975 the team were famously barred from the competition for a number of years.

The team staged a protest against what they saw as elitist bias towards Oxbridge, which allows separate colleges to enter – they answered every question with ‘Marx’ or ‘Trotsky.’

More than 120 universities enter the show every year, and it remains the UK’s longest-running quiz show.

The only other team to land four wins, Magdalen, took the title in 1997, 1998, 2004 and 2011.

Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.