Reigning champions Manchester face tricky test against Imperial College for University Challenge semi-final spot

By Dean Wilkins

Reigning champions the University of Manchester will continue their fight to defend their University Challenge crown in the quarterfinals next Monday.

After last year’s quartet fended off stiff competition from Pembroke College, Cambridge, in the final watched by three million people, the class of 2013 are just three victories away from emulating their success.

And having already dispatched Lincoln College, Oxford and Magdalen College, the Manchester team must overcome two-time winners Imperial College, London, for a place in the BBC Two show’s last four.

Manchester foursome of Richard Gilbert, the team captain (BA in Linguistics), Adam Barr (MSc in Physics with Astrophysics) David Brice (BA in Economics), and graduate student Debbie Brown (PhD in Pain Epidemiology) are coached by Stephen Pearson, a university librarian, who has enjoyed considerable success with University Challenge, having captained the team himself in 1996.

Under Mr Pearson Manchester teams have regularly tasted success, and have reached at least the semifinals for seven consecutive years.

Each year he selects the best candidates to put together a new team.

He said: “There is always a lot of enthusiasm every year, we have at least 50 people each year who compete to join the team.”

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More than 120 universities enter the show every year, with the top 28 appearing on TV, and it remains the UK’s longest-running quiz.

But Manchester’s history in the quiz has not been without controversy – in 1975 the Manchester team staged a protest against what they saw as the show’s elitist bias towards Oxbridge, which allows separate colleges to enter.

They answered ‘Marx’ or ‘Trotsky’ to everything.

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