A turbulent few days for quiz-heads is about to come to a close, as BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan will be stepping up to steer the good ship University Challenge this autumn, with his first episodes as host due to air in late 2023.
Current presenter Jeremy Paxman, who took over the show in 1994, announced his departure on Tuesday, leaving after almost 29 years in the long-running quiz show’s chair.
Rajan will step down as Media Editor later this year, recording his first episodes in early 2023 ready for broadcast in the autumn. He will continue to present BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, along with his personal interview series, Amol Rajan Interviews.
“Being asked to host my favourite TV programme is dream-come-true territory,” Rajan said in a statement. “I have watched ‘University Challenge’ obsessively for years, addicted to its high standards, glorious title music, and inspirational contestants. It’s the best possible antidote to cynicism about young people, allowing millions of us to test our wits against the best minds of a new generation, and annoy and impress our families by barking answers from the sofa.”
“I am very conscious that in the late, great Bamber [Gascoigne, who presented the show in its original form], and that giant of British culture, Jeremy, I have vast shoes to fill,” Rajan continued. “With his immense intellect, authority, and respect from students and viewers alike, Jeremy hands over a format, and show, as strong as ever.”
“I won’t stop thinking today about my late, beloved Dad, whose devotion to education brought him to England, whose love of knowledge I imbibed as a kid, and whose belief in the noble challenge of university so shaped my life. I’ll devote my first ‘Starter for 10’ to him – and to the millions of quiz fiends who, like me, love those rare occasions when they know the answer before the students do.”
The BBC’s director of unscripted Kate Phillips said: “’University Challenge’ is an incredibly important staple of our entertainment slate as it continues to entertain, challenge and educate audiences. We’re delighted that Amol has agreed to be the new host. Jeremy leaves a very big chair to fill but Amol’s experience, expertise and sense of humour makes him the perfect fit for one of Britain’s longest running and toughest quiz shows. If future student contestants think they’ll get an easier ride with Amol taking over, they can think again!”